Melanie Mackay

Melanie is a member of the Neskonlith Indian Band, of the Secwepemc Nation.

Critical elements in the coalfields of British Columbia
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree because I love research. I chose a PhD in Applied Science - Mining Engineering - because I love to apply technology from other industries to solve mining related problems.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I graduated from UBC Geological Sciences and so I was aware that UBC is one of the best universities in Canada for research in geoscience and mining engineering. The smaller department sizes allow for rich collaboration among professors and graduate students.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

In mining engineering I have the freedom to pursue all of my research interests. I have a PhD thesis to complete but I've also been able to research critical metals in steelmaking slag, Indigenous uses of rocks and minerals and the beginning of mining in British Columbia, plastic contamination in agricultural soils and maceral reactivity in metallurgical coal.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The rich smaller communities within the large UBC campus. Within the Geology department during my undergraduate degree and the Mining Engineering department during my PhD, the community is smaller and close knit making it a fun, safe and rich environment to explore science.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

There are two things I'm most excited about with respect to my thesis: understanding how Indigenous knowledge can contribute to research and mining waste management both from a scientific and socioeconomic perspective, and the circular economy of coal mine waste.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

The career change from industry to academic will be a big change.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

The independance that Mining Engineering promotes in our research prepares students for thinking independently which is what is needed for academic careers. We have one of the richest facilities in terms of equipment in North America and students have unlimited access to experiment with the equipment. There are also plenty of teaching assistant positions to start building teaching experience.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Working in the mining industry for 15-20 years has allowed me to identify industry relevant topics. I've been able to design my own research programs because of this.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Because I have worked in industry for over 15 years my hobby is research. I also love to spend time with my daughters, take my dog for walks and go to the gym.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Get to know your professors and fellow graduate students. My research group talks constantly on a group chat and we brain storm all of the time. Someone is sharing papers or internet links or planning something almost daily in our chat. We take advantage of coffee time to ask each other advice and we drive our advisor nuts with new research ideas!

Outside of your academic work, what are the ways that you engage with your local or global community? Are there projects in particular that you are proud of?

I am volunteering in several capacities in the mining industry. I am co-founder and the president of the Western Canadian Coal Society. I am also the Chair of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, subcommittee on Coal Mineral Resources and Reserves. I am a technical researcher with the Canadian Carbonization Research Association and I am a member of the following committees: the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Committee on Sustainable Energy/Coal Mine Methane and Just Transition/Methane Emissions Reduction Task Force, ISO Canadian Committee 298 Rare Earths, ISO Canadian Committee 333 Lithium, and ASTM – Committee D05 Coal & Coke,


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