Editor’s note: Part of The New Face of Mining celebration -- in which the University of Arizona is commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Arizona School of Mines -- this is one in a series of articles profiling mining and geological engineering interns.
See All the UA Mining Engineering Intern Stories:
Peter, a 19-year-old junior aiming for a master’s degree in business and a life abroad, and Paul, an18-year old senior planning a PhD in chemical engineering and a position in academia -- are constantly thinking ahead. Every summer they take advantage of internships and research opportunities to gain real-world experience.
The brothers took College-level classes at BASIS High School in Tucson, Arizona, and entered the University advanced in their studies. In the UA mining and geological engineering department, they have found a degree program that challenges their intellect, accommodates their drive, and allows them to pursue individual goals.
Paul Taking Road Less Traveled
Younger brother Paul, an Engineering Student Council member, is taking a road less traveled: metallurgical research and development.
“It is really neat that you can take something as boring and mundane as a rock and get valuable metals out of it,” he said. “You don’t necessarily think of research when you think of a mining engineering graduate. A lot of us go on to be mine operators or mine designers.”
Peter on Fast Track to Business
Peter, like many of his classmates, is focused on mine design and planning. But he wants to get into the business end of mining as quickly as possible.
“I like the finance, love the business management. I know that is in my future,” said Peter, president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. “I don’t want to be one of those brilliant guys who does great work but is stuck in a cubicle all day and stays there for 20 years.”
This summer, the brothers will make between $20 and $26 an hour interning in Arizona with Freeport-McMoRan, which employs the largest number of UA mining and geological engineering students. It will be Peter’s second internship and Paul’s first. They had to wait until they were 18 to work in the mining industry.
Freeport-McMoRan Internships a Win-Win
The Freeport-McMoRan internship program not only gives undergraduates practical experience and helps the company develop a pipeline of knowledgeable workers, it also draws students to mining engineering, a critical need in an industry facing a shortage of skilled workers.
“Students want the degree that’s going to get them hired,” said Jennifer Durrer, staffing analyst at Freeport-McMoRan, which employs about 230 students from throughout North America. “Having such a large internship program shows them the viability of a mining engineering career. It helps attract more students to the field.”
In turn, by providing companies with interns, the University is making an economic impact in the region, said Mary Poulton, head of mining and geological engineering and director of the UA Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.
“In many cases, student interns go on to work for the companies during the academic year and after graduation,” she said.
Journey from Research to Industry
Now that he is “of age,” Paul will join Freeport-McMoRan’s process development group in Tucson. During his first two summers at the UA, the younger Mather brother tapped into faculty research projects and solidified his interest in metallurgical engineering, which deals with extracting metal from ore, processing minerals and developing metallic alloys.
“Having a job on campus helped show me where I wanted to go,” he said. “Now I’m excited to see how corporations do research and development. And I’m looking forward to getting to know the company and the people working there better.”
Peter will work with Freeport’s long-range planning office in Oro Valley. Like the commodities research and minerals risk analysis he did for Mary Poulton his freshman year and last summer’s internship at Stantec Consulting’s mining headquarters in Phoenix, he expects the job to help him jump start his career.
“I’ve been blessed to have the best mentors out there,” he said, “people who really know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about.”
Stantec Consulting Gives Peter a Leg Up
At Stantec, Peter conducted a mine methods tradeoff study, a task for which his classes had so well prepared him that he finished the project in less than a month instead of the expected three months. Then the company flew him to Elko, Nevada, for a week of training in underground mine design software. Next he was given the task of using the software to model stopes, or the openings made to extract ore, which helped determine the amount and grade of multiple ore deposits.
“Lucky for me,” Peter said. “I landed what I considered the perfect internship. Every hour of my work was put to use to benefit a project.”
Most exciting for Peter was the opportunity to present the multimillion-dollar proposal to the firm’s clients.
“They actually had me give the first half of the presentation,” he said. “I went over my work and explained that, ‘Yes, in fact, based on the information you provided, you have 10-plus years of resource remaining.’ Then the senior guys took over the technical details.”
MGE Turning Out Work-Ready Students
Peter’s consulting job, a role most often reserved for senior engineers, was out of the ordinary, but the end-of-summer presentation was not. Most mining engineering internships culminate in a project presentation.
“I have sat through some of the project presentations that interns do at the end of the summer, and they are as good as, or better than, most master’s thesis defenses,” Poulton said.
The Mather brothers are exceptional in their high levels of achievement. But they are the norm in a department that makes job preparation a priority, supporting multiple internships, providing undergraduate research opportunities, and encouraging students to work in the UA student-run San Xavier underground mine -- academic activities well aligned with one of the UA’s top strategic objectives: graduate workforce-ready students.
“To view students’ time as preparation to be productive, working citizens, however that might get accomplished is a very important direction for the University,” said Poulton, whose department has a 100-percent job placement rate. “We are one example of how that can be accomplished.”