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Geology alumni give back to current students through industry software training

November 19, 2013
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Anne Gauer, 2008 geology graduate, instructs geology students in Dr. Geoff Pignotta's economic geology course on how to use Maptek's Vulcan software.
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Dr. Geoff Pignotta, field geology coordinator at UW-Eau Claire.

EAU CLAIRE — Soon after Anne Gauer began her career as a geologist in the technical services department at Maptek, a leading provider of innovative software, hardware and services for the global mining industry, the 2008 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire geology graduate knew she wanted to give back to the geology department through industry software training.

Understanding the value of hands-on experiences as an undergraduate student and knowing the prestige of Maptek software in the industry, Gauer worked with the company to provide an educational license for the Vulcan software to the geology department at UW-Eau Claire, along with training and support services.

Currently, more than 200 schools in the world have an educational license for the Vulcan software, but UW-Eau Claire is only one of the few that also have the formal Maptek training and support to accompany it.

Gauer and fellow Blugold Kate Smith, a 2007 geology graduate and technical sales engineer at Maptek, return to campus each spring and fall semesters to conduct training seminars. Maptek also employs two other UW-Eau Claire geology graduates at its Denver, Colo., location.

Gauer said she came up with the idea to provide Vulcan software to UW-Eau Claire geology students after a new economic geology course was added to the geology curriculum after she graduated. The course focuses on the mining process and ore bodies.

"The Vulcan seminar is an introductory and block modeling course that teaches about the geologic side to mining and how to model economic deposits," Gauer said. "I thought it would be a great idea to get our technology available to students. The Vulcan software is a very important tool to employers in the mining industry and is impressive to have on a resume, especially as an undergraduate student."

The Vulcan software is one of the world's longest standing three-dimensional mine planning and modeling packages which is used in more than 1,700 sites and at least 65 countries. Vulcan is used by mining engineers, geologists and mine surveyors. Applications include three-dimensional geological mapping and modeling, surveying tools, mine design, mine planning, geotechnical analysis, mine scheduling and optimization, and reclamation.

Smith said she became involved in the training because of her experience as an undergraduate in the geology department.

"I absolutely love UW-Eau Claire," Smith said. "I am happy to do anything I can to help my fellow Blugolds with their future careers. My education at UW-Eau Claire made all the difference in the world when it came to finding my career. The geology department really gets students prepared to enter the work force. Now I get to return the favor."

Dr. Geoff Pignotta, a field geology coordinator in the UW-Eau Claire geology department, has hosted the Vulcan training in his economic geology course since it began in fall 2011. Nineteen students participated in this semester's training seminar over the course of four days.

"This software is used in a large number of mining companies around the world and having the training before entering the workplace gives our students an advantage over other job candidates," Pignotta said. "Every mining company is so different when it comes to certain procedures and protocols. Familiarity with an industry-wide software program is critical."

Senior geology majors Roger Schulz, from Kenosha, and Scott Wipperfurth, from Sauk City, were two of the students who participated in the recent training seminars.

Schulz, who graduated with a previous degree in geography in 2012, said his geography background enhanced his training experience and he feels he will have an advantage when looking for employment in the field after he graduates in December. He said he is even considering applying for a position at Maptek.

"I am very familiar with geospatial technology that creates two-dimensional interpretations of spreadsheets, so seeing three-dimensional interpretations in the Maptek technology really displayed how powerful a tool Vulcan is," Schulz said. "Having this training will put me on the top of the stack of resumes. Employers will see that I have experience with this program and won't need to invest extra time and money in training me as they would with someone who has never used the software."

Wipperfurth said he plans to attend graduate school after he graduates in 2014 and then pursue a position in academia. He said that although he has no plans to go into the mining industry, he can see other applications for the software.

"This software is a great teaching tool," Wipperfurth said. "It lets you see and manipulate ore bodies in a three-dimensional image so you can really study and learn the structure of a mine. This training gave me an idea of the specialized software that is used in the industry and will even give me an advantage on my graduate school applications."

Pignotta said it's been very fulfilling to see UW-Eau Claire graduates giving back and making a difference for current students.

"Maptek, Anne and Kate have gone out of their way to provide tangible training to help our students become effective and employable members of the work force," Pignotta said. "It has been great to watch them transition into professionals in the industry."

For more information on the Maptek Vulcan software training, contact Dr. Geoff Pignotta at pignotgs@uwec.edu or 715-836-4982.

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