My path to Mines I was a doctoral student working with Frank Incropera and Ray Viskanta in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Purdue on a contract from the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), now known as the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). There was some money left in a Basic Science grant from the DOE and I was asked by Federica Zangrando — the PI from SERI — to come to Golden and do the research for my Ph.D. in absentia on an experiment located there. I accepted the opportunity. While working in Golden, I contacted Rich Passamaneck — one of my professors in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Mexico, from where had I earlier completed a BSME. Rich had moved to Golden for a new job at SERI. After contacting Rich, I learned that he had suddenly taken a position at Mines to get back into teaching. Before returning to Purdue, Rich organized an interview for me to fill an open position in the Engineering Division at Mines. I received an offer for that job later that summer.
My career at Mines My first position at Mines was as an instructor because I left Purdue before defending my Ph.D. I had completed my dissertation during the summer of 1986 but I could not find a date to schedule my Ph.D. committee. I returned to Purdue in December 1986 to defend my dissertation and upon completing my oral defense, getting all of the appropriate paperwork signed, and depositing my dissertation at the library, I returned to Golden and was immediately promoted to a tenure-track assistant professor. Five years later I was promoted to associate professor with tenure. In 2000, Joan Gosink took a sabbatical and Bob King became the interim Engineering Division Director for that year. Bob asked me to serve as Assistant Director to help him with course scheduling.
In 2003, I took a sabbatical to work as a technical analyst with the Intermountain Fixed Guideway Authority on a feasibility study for an advanced elevated guideway mass transit system for the I-70 corridor from the Denver International Airport to the Eagle County airport. While I was on sabbatical there was a search to replace Joan Gosink, who was retiring. The search failed and I was asked to serve as Interim Division Director. I served as Interim Division Director from Fall 2003 to Spring 2006. I returned to the faculty in 2006 and stayed until I retired in December of 2010.
When I started working at Mines there was no seed funding readily available for young faculty so I had to write unsolicited proposals or team up with established researchers on campus. The department with the most research activity at that time was the Metallurgy and Materials Engineering Department (MME), so I developed ties with that department early on in my career. The Engineering Division was largely engaged in undergraduate education. The Engineering Division was the largest program on campus with ~600 undergraduates. At that time, the Division offered a M.S. degree in Applied Mechanics, but did not offer Ph.D. degrees. There were only a handful of graduate students, but there was a desire for change.
A passion for Humanitarian Engineering While I was serving as the Engineering Division Director, I became involved with the Humanitarian Engineering minor program and ended up directing the program after Joan retired. It was an exciting program that took Mines faculty and students into a different realm of thinking — toward ideas of human development, the challenges of helping people, and the pedagogy of the oppressed. We ended up starting a program that now exists on university campuses across the globe. I am still periodically asked to give talks and serve as a scholar in residence on this concept of humanitarian engineering.
Research interests My passion in research lies with energy; my research has always had a component of energy associated with it. My first major project as a Co-PI was on a DOE-funded materials-related project to improve the performance of refractory fibers that are used to insulate high temperature furnaces. I worked with Gerry DePoorter from MME and Phil Martin of Johns-Manville research. It was on this project that I advised my first M.S. student (Yifang Cai) in Materials Science — an interdisciplinary program at that time. She later decided to continue as a Ph.D. student in Engineering Systems, the general graduate program that Mines developed to cover the broad range of interest of faculty and students in Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.
My second quasi-research project involved the initiation of the High Altitude Heavy Duty Engine Lab. Initially located at Mines, this lab was installed in a more permanent facility after the then-new Denver RTD maintenance facility was completed at the southeast corner of I-25 and I-70. I spent the summer of 1990 at the EPA Emissions Lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan learning about the Federal engine emissions test procedure for heavy-duty engines. While there I secured the donation of a dual-axle large-roll chassis dynamometer for the carbon monoxide emissions lab and coordinated its installation in Colorado. NREL has since taken ownership of that lab facility. Around that same time, I became involved with the Ford-sponsored hybrid electric vehicle competition, which was a project mainly involving undergraduate senior design students. The team competed in Detroit for two phases of that competition in 2003 and 2004. That team project consumed a good amount of my time available for research but engaged perhaps 100 undergraduate engineering students over the three of four years that it lasted. I collaborated with Chris Braun — an Electrical Engineering Department faculty member with a background in power electronics.
Other research projects included physical a theoretical modeling the wire feeding in a gas metal arc welding (GMAW) process and modeling of the fluid mechanics of glass fiber manufacturing. I also did numerous small projects that started as senior design projects and led to research or consulting projects. A number of projects were unfunded and I worked with students who had scholarships or brought in a small amount of funding from consulting contracts to help provide additional support the students.
My last research project was related to initiating a computational capability in mining ventilation. This entailed modeling complex flows within long-wall coal mines to predict regions in the mine that were susceptible to explosive mixtures of methane and air.
Teaching at Mines I started out teaching the first course in undergraduate Thermodynamics and then moved on to teach Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, Field Session, Mechanical Engineering Lab, and Senior Design. I developed lectures for the new graduate program in Engineering Systems entitled “Modern Engineering Design and Project Management” and taught the course after Nigel Middleton moved to Academic Affairs. Later, I developed a course entitled “Sustainable Engineering Design” that included an element of Lifecycle Assessment (LCA). I believe it was the first class on campus to introduce students to LCA analysis. The course was quite broad and usually included a good deal of discussion that at times veered into the political arena.
If I were still at Mines I would be working with the power electronics faculty on microgrid technology development. Since photovoltaic (PV) and batteries are getting so cheap and we have a wicked climate change problem, I think we will be moving to local power generation and storage, and to get to 100% renewables, we will have to control demand and share power between these microgrids. Since our transportation will also be electric, the magnitude of electric power production will necessarily increase, but car batteries will also play a role by providing added storage and grid interaction. Sensors and control will be a key area for the engineer.
Retirement life I live a remarkably stress-free life now, which is good because stress is a killer — so be careful managing that! I live in Taos, New Mexico which is a historically unique place in the world. It’s like living outside the U.S., but still being a part of the union. I serve as treasurer for an acequia association (Acequia de los Lovatos) for which the oldest records we have found are from 1715. Acequias are the ancient series of ditches that conduct irrigation water in agricultural communities. They have been in existence for millennia. The Taos acequias are unique because they are so extensive and in that they now flow through what has become quasi urban areas. Because of the water I have hope for a fruit orchard that I have started and the annual vegetable garden. I live in the valley between two valley watersheds. Subsurface water should be available for hundreds of years, as long as we protect the environment that supports the flows. A majority of the people living in Taos enjoy the outdoors and are bent on protecting our environment. Taos — the place of the red willow — is also the home of Taos Pueblo, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site and the home of the Tiwa people for the past 1000+ years. They are an effective model of sustainability and resilience.
The remainder of my time is spent with a nonprofit called Renewable Taos, Inc. We are a 501c3 nonprofit promoting the transition to 100% renewable energy in Taos and throughout northern New Mexico in the near future. We are a group of retired engineers, computer tech, business people and general citizens who are dedicated to achieving that mission. We work closely with Kit Carson Electric Coop and other regional activists who are also engaged in similar activities in their communities. We are hosting the second annual EV Expo this year to educate the public about the benefits and challenges of the transition to electric vehicles. The event will occur on August 24, 2019. Feel free to drive your electric vehicle down to Taos and participate in the event (EV car charging will be available!). Other local projects include investigating large-scale (~100 MW) solar for exporting power to the western grid as a way to enhance the local/regional economy and working local native Americans (Pueblos) on semi-autonomous microgrid to enhance electric power system autonomy and resilience.
I am fortunate to live in a land with a rich heritage that predates the formation of the U.S. This culture offers important societal elements of resilience that will become essential as the country transitions its energy and transportation systems in the face the existential problem that humanity is facing in anthropogenic climate change. What we decide to do today will affect humanity for generations to come.