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Mining and minerals engineering students and faculty attend the 2024 Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Conference and Expo

Industry Engagement
  • Mining and minerals engineering students and faculty actively participate in the 2024 Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) Conference and Expo, showcasing their dedication to staying abreast of the latest developments and trends in the field.

Every year, the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) unites dedicated professionals in the mining and minerals industry at their annual MINEXCHANGE Conference and Expo. With over 13,000 members globally, SME inspires and connects mining experts worldwide. MINEXCHANGE serves as a platform to celebrate the industry’s achievements and recognize the remarkable innovators, leaders, and experts in mining. 

This year’s conference and expo was held in Phoenix, Arizona, where the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech sent 41 students and faculty to partake in the event. They were able to interact with over 140 Virginia Tech alumni who are now professionals in the field, along with other peers in the industry.

Wencai Zhang, assistant professor in mining and minerals engineering, was honored as the Mineral and Metallurgical Processing Division (MPD) Outstanding Young Engineer. Established in 1984, this award recognizes a young engineer’s significant contribution within the Mineral Processing/Extractive discipline.

“Winning this award is great encouragement for me to keep pushing forward in the critical mineral industry,” said Zhang. “I’m committed to developing more efficient technologies and processes to contribute to the industry further.”

Aaron Noble, head of the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering, understands the honor of this award. He was recognized as the MPD Outstanding Young Engineer in 2017.

“The MPD Outstanding Young Engineer Award recognizes exceptional young professionals who are rising stars in the field of mineral processing and metallurgy. I am delighted to see that Dr. Zhang received this prestigious award this year,” Noble said.  “He is a skilled researcher and passionate mentor, who is well deserving of this accolade. We are thankful to the MPD and to SME for providing such a platform for professional recognition.” 

Virginia Tech mining and minerals engineering students also presented their research and received honors and scholarships. These awards will support them in their educational career as they work toward a bright future in the mining industry.

Full list of Virginia Tech SME award recipients:

  • Wencai Zhang – MPD Outstanding Young Engineer
  • Ben Ji – MPD Rong Yu Wan Outstanding Dissertation Award
  • Kathleen Troy – MPD Poster Contest, First Place UG Division
  • Kathleen Troy – MPD Outstanding Jr Scholarship
  • Kathleen Troy – Mining & Exploration Division Scholarship
  • Jordan Gillis – MPD Klimpel Scholarship Recipient
  • Adam Tesch – Mining & Exploration Division Scholarship
  • Adam Tesch – Coal & Energy Division Scholarship
  • Colby McGrady – J.H. Fletcher & Co Scholarship
  • Colby McGrady – John Sidney Marshall Memorial Scholarship
  • Abduljeleel Ajibona – Syd and Felicia Peng Ground Control in Mining Scholarship
  • NSSGA/SME Design Team – 3rd Place
  • Zhongqing Xiao – 6th place in the MPD poster contest
  • Yi Wang – 3rd place in the MPD poster contest


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