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Mining engineering student receives prestigious fellowship

Christopher Vass

Christopher Vass.

Christopher Vass, a mining engineering master’s student at West Virginia University, has received the James and Betty Hall Doctoral Fellowship to continue his education and research.


Vass earned his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from WVU in 2001 before embarking on a 13-year long career in industry. He held an array of positions including plant foreman, quality control engineer and chief engineer with Florida Rock Industries, North American Coal, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy and Alpha Natural Resources.

While working on his master’s in business administration, Vass realized there was more he wanted to learn.

“While getting my MBA, I decided I really enjoyed learning,” said Vass. “I liked it so much that I quit my job in industry so I could return full-time to receive advanced engineering degrees.”

​Vass’ current research focuses on the feasibility of implementing machine-learning algorithms to control chemical treatment of mine water discharge outlets.

“Any water that touches the surface of a mining property must meet strict effluent limits before being released from the premises,” said Vass. “Current practices at central Appalachian coal mines involve labor intensive methods of physically testing and treating this water. Using algorithms and modern sensor packages to automate these procedures would allow companies to minimize this time consuming practice, while more effectively using manpower and resources.” 

​Vass’ research is funded by the Coal Energy Research Bureau. He hopes to use the outcomes of this research as he moves into his doctoral research on mine-to-mill optimization with big data analytics in August.

“Big data is used in many industries to create more efficient and cost-effective operations,” said Vass. “It’s time for the mining industry to take advantage of the benefits of big data.”

Aaron Noble, assistant professor of mining engineering and Vass’ advisor, is proud of his work and accomplishments as a graduate student thus far.

“While his wealth of industrial experience is an asset to our research group, I believe Chris's perseverance and desire to learn are even more valuable,” said Noble. “I have no doubt that he will make substantial and meaningful research contributions in his doctoral program."



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