May 2010

Probing research

Chilean grad student interested in oil sands

By M. Eisner

Leopoldo Gutierrez, a mining engineering graduate student at the University of British Columbia (UBC), is the 2009 recipient of the CIM Vancouver Branch $4,000 Graduate Research Award for his paper on “Probing Mineral-Bitumen Liberation through Rheological Measurements.” Submissions are voted upon by a sub-committee which looks at criteria such as originality, clarity of research, technical merit and relevance to the industry and CIM.

“Students submit an application in the form of a short research proposal or technical paper, typically three pages, outlining the research the candidate is proposing or has undertaken,” explains Alex Doll, CIM Vancouver Branch’s past chair.

The 32 year-old Gutierrez, a metallurgical engineer from the University of Concepcion, Chile, says he did not know if he would win or not, but was confident he had submitted a well-written piece of work. “I was very happy because this is the first award I’ve received,” he says. “I think that there are a lot of very good grad students here, very smart people from all over the world. So, the fact that I had received this award made me feel very proud.”

He credits the support of his supervisor and the co-author of the paper, Dr. Marek Pawlik, for his success. “His help was very significant and he has been a great and reliable support, giving me all the assistance I needed to make me feel comfortable at UBC,”says Gutierrez.

Gutierrez’s field of study is mineral processing, so when  Pawlik informed him of a project about the rheology of oil sands, he jumped at the chance to study at UBC. “The topic was very interesting to me because rheology has applications in many areas,” Gutierrez explains, “but the most interesting thing was that I was going to work with oil sands, which a young Chilean engineer like me knows little about.”

His PhD research is related to the study of the rheology of oil sands slurries and its relationship with the performance of these slurries in the concentration (flotation) stage.

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