Dec '09/Jan '10

Student Life

Rising stars of the mining industry: CMMF scholarships awarded

By M. Eisner

The Canadian Mining and Metallurgical Foundation’s two scholarship programs — the Scotiabank and Scotia Capital Markets Scholarship and the Caterpillar and its Canadian Dealers Scholarship — were established to support people pursuing careers in the minerals industry. This year’s deserving industry hopefuls quickly discovered that being chained to a desk is not something they foresee in their futures.

Working in the mines lit a fire

Maegan Ayotte, this year’s winner of the $2,000 Caterpillar and its Canadian Dealers Scholarship, is a 22-year-old fourth-year mining engineering student at Queen’s University.  Ayotte says her academic path began in life sciences, but a summer job with Cementation working at a mine changed her career choice.

“I wanted to go to medical school. But after I had worked for a summer in mining, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying my program. Getting into medical school was no longer what I wanted.”  Working at the Nickel Rim mine in Sudbury opened up a new world for Ayotte. “I thought it was so interesting. There were so many problems to solve and every day there was something different going on.”

One of her best memories was her second summer working underground shifts with Cementation as they were sinking a shaft. “They put us on 12-hour shifts and that was a lot of fun. I was given quite a lot of responsibility and got to do a lot of hands-on work. I think that’s what a lot of engineering students should do.”

The biggest challenge for Ayotte will be the transition from school to the real work environment. “When you come out of university, you have been taught the ‘book-form’ of engineering; it’s completely different once you get on site. There’s also a huge age difference among the mining engineers out there. Most of them are older and have a ton of knowledge and experience — it’s kind of intimidating.”

Ayotte plans to go on for her master’s degree in mineral economics and says the scholarship money will help pay for tuition.

Life behind a computer desk not her cup of tea

Melissa Anderson, a 23-year-old honours geology student at Manitoba’s Brandon University, is this year’s winner of the Scotiabank and Scotia Capital Markets $2,000 scholarship. Anderson was in first-year engineering when she realized it wasn’t for her. “I decided that a life behind a computer desk wasn’t as interesting as getting out into the field, so I switched to geology,” says the straight-A student.

Once in geology, Anderson turned her attention to mineral exploration. Part of that interest stems from her love of camping and hiking, but she says it’s more than that. “There is something about being with nature and problem solving,” she explains. “I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ve been lucky enough to find my passion at a very young age.”

Her goal of grassroots exploration in remote areas was solidified after she worked during a summer for Alberta Star Development Corp in the Northwest Territories on uranium and IOCG exploration. "One of the best parts of that job was being able to take a helicopter to work every morning,” Anderson says. Remote areas, however, do present challenges. “Being in a remote camp where you are often the only female is a situation that has gotten better with time, but it’s something you have to be able deal with.”

Next fall she will begin a master’s in exploration geochemistry. “I’d like to work in Canada,” she says, “probably in exploration, most likely in remote areas in camp settings, and maybe eventually internationally.”

Anderson says winning the scholarship will help with tuition and living expenses. “The scholarship money gives me time to work on my thesis.”

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