May 11, 2006

Doctoral student wins grant for geology research

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A doctoral candidate in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's geology department is using advanced computer modeling and other methods to create a 3-D model of a gold deposit in Nevada.

Abani Ranjan Samal hopes his methods are readily applicable to mineral deposits of all sorts, improving mining techniques and efficiency in the process.

The Geological Society of America recently awarded Samal a $1,700 grant to pursue his research, which centers on the Florida Canyon gold deposit in northwest Nevada. He uses powerful industry standard software coupled with data from some 3,000 drill holes around the site and his own samples to build the simulation.

"The grant will help pay for the chemical analysis of the samples I collect," said Samal, who joined SIUC's geology department, part of the College of Science, in 2002 and earned a master of science degree in mineral exploration from the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of London. "The analysis helps us learn the different physical conditions under which the sample formed."

The site he is studying has been an operating gold mine for some 30 years. Samal's research, however, will help mining companies find the best way to approach such mineral despots, which could reduce environmental impacts while making the operation more efficient.

But the approach he is using is far from simple.

"It's a very complex, new type of process we're using and trying to understand better," he said. "This particular deposit is known for its highly complex systems. So it's all highly challenging."

Samal's expertise includes field geology, software applications, geochemistry and modeling. He previously worked as a consultant and geologist in various mining operations and data services.

Samal was one of just 17 (out of 555 applicants) who received such a grant from the GSA, which invited him to its annual meeting in October in Philadelphia. The society also will publish his name along with the other winners in GSA Today, its monthly magazine.

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.