Sept/Oct 2009

Supporting science and young scientists

Student award sustains knowledge-sharing in geological sciences

By R. Pillo

Eric Hoffman, the founder of Activation Laboratories (ACTLABS), knows the recipe for success in industry research and development. Providing contract analytical testing and development services to the mining and mineral exploration industries, ACTLABS has become a name to reckon with in all aspects of analysis, from academic research applications to quality control functions. Not content to rest on its success, ACTLABS is hard at work developing new methodologies and innovative techniques. The company has recently expanded the range of services it offers to cater to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, forensic, material and environment markets.

One indicator of ACTLABS’s commitment to advancing scientific research is its generous sponsorship  of the CIM Geological Society’s ACTLABS Best Student Paper Award since 2005. This $1,000 prize rewards student authors for research publications in the peer-reviewed Exploration and Mining Geology (EMG) journal.

Hoffman viewed the twin problems of an aging population of geologists and the relative scarcity of new talent entering the field as a call to action, which he felt compelled to answer. “If we do not invest in the industry’s future, we risk losing the standing the Canadian minerals industry has gained over the past several years,” he cautions.

While research and development are widely recognized as important factors in the advancement of any industry, the fact that the transfer of new knowledge is equally vital is often overlooked. According to Hoffman, the goal of this award is to “entice students to publish their research theses and consequently advance mineral exploration and technology by contributing to the reserve of geological information.”

As the learned journal published by CIM through its Geological Society, EMG was the obvious choice. “We wanted to increase the geological content offered by CIM by promoting the publication of mineral deposit- and exploration geology-related papers,” explains Hoffman.

Hoffman has made it company policy to give back to an industry which, he feels, has been instrumental in his own success. In addition to sponsoring this award, ACTLABS has provided direct aid for research projects through the Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization (CAMIRO), with a $10,000 donation to Lakehead University for the purchase of new microscopes, and several grants to universities in support of geological science research.

Once a PhD student himself, Hoffman received numerous awards and scholarship funding, including the NSERC Postdoctoral Industrial Fellowship, which helped him commercialize the technology he had employed for his doctoral research thesis.

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