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Prepared to launch: geology major looks back as he prepares to graduate

| Alex Hutter

A big thanks to busy senior Alex Hutter, who took some time to tell us about his life-changing internship at Teck Resources. As he prepares to graduate in May and begin his graduate studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland, he has some pretty fantastic insights for fellow and future Blugolds.


Tell us a little about Teck Resources, what the company/agency is and how your role as an intern fit in their process.

Teck Resources is Canada’s largest Diversified Resource Company with operations in throughout Canada and the United States, as well as projects in Chile and Peru.  Teck Resources focuses on four main resources: Zinc, Copper, Steelmaking Coal and Energy. 

I both lived and worked in Arctic Alaska near Teck’s Red Dog Mine in the DeLong Mountains of the western Brooks Range.  I was brought on as a field assistant for the mineral exploration team, which meant I had a diverse set of tasks.  For the first three weeks I assisted staff geophysicists in conducting ground surveys, with the hope of better constraining the location of subsurface metallic bodies. 

After completion of these geophysical surveys, my duties shifted to the role of mapping assistant.  I assisted the staff geologists in bedrock mapping of the geological units in the area, which serves as an initial step for further mineral exploration.  I was responsible for recording all data at each station on a tablet, as well as recording all relevant data on to the map.  I then transferred data from the field map to our large scale compilation map. 

Due to the extremely remote location, both the geophysics and mapping projects were entirely helicopter supported.  We flew to our sites in the morning, traversed for roughly 8 hours, and were picked up at our ending location. 

As the mapping season concluded, largely due to the rapidly approaching winter, I was trained to create written and graphical logs of explorative drill cores.  Core logging is an extremely important part of mineral exploration, as it gets geologists actually looking at the rocks and determining if there is a minable deposit.  

How did you find out about the internship?

 I found out about the internship through my advisor, Dr. J. Brian Mahoney.  The senior geologist with Teck’s Alaska mineral exploration team is a UWEC alumnus who worked with Dr. Mahoney, and he was looking to hire a UWEC geology student for the position.

What made you want to do this particular internship?

The opportunity to better myself as a geologist through working with a high profile resource company like Teck was immediately enticing.  Teck is a great company, not only because they are one of the largest resource companies in North America, but because they are also committed to responsible and sustainable resource extraction, something very important to me.  I knew it was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about both mineral exploration and metallic mining, two prevalent industries for geologists to work in.  On top of that, it just sounded like an amazing adventure; working 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle in remote Alaska, flying to work every morning in a helicopter, and spending all day outside in the Alaskan tundra and mountains? Sign me up.  I quickly found the expression, “Land of the midnight sun,” is no exaggeration. 

How do you see this experience impacting your career/job hunt after graduation?

Through my experience with Teck I gained highly valuable insight in to what it is like to actually be a geologist in the mineral exploration industry.  I learned new skills like core logging, conducting down-hole surveys, and a variety of geophysical techniques; I also improved greatly on other important geological skills like mapping and detailed, concise scientific writing.

I believe this experience played a large role in receiving a fellowship to pursue my Master’s degree with full funding at memorial University (Newfoundland).

On top of that, I met a lot of new friends and colleagues to add to my professional network.  I also found that I learned a lot about myself and a lot about different parts of the world by working and living with people from all corners of the globe, and from all walks of life.

What advice would you give to new students in geology about going after internship opportunities?

My advice to new students in the geology department is work hard, challenge yourself, conduct yourself as a professional, and have fun.  As with so many things in life, with geology, you get out what you put in.  This program can be challenging, often demanding very long hours and good time management skills, but always push yourself to do the absolute best job you can.  The harder you work, the more you will learn. 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to act professionally in the way you conduct yourself, and in the products you create for assignments and projects.  This department has the benefit of being relatively small and quite closely knit, meaning that if you work hard, the professors will notice and reach out to you.  As a student, you’re surrounded by faculty that have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and vast professional networks.  In my experience, the best way to get your foot in the door with a company is by recommendation from our professors.  Work hard to show your professors that you mean business, that you take your work seriously, and that you can create professional quality assignments. 

I have had countless outstanding opportunities with this department, and many of them came directly from our professors, or at the recommendation of our professors to their colleagues in industry.  In 2014, I had the chance to work on a USGS sponsored project in Montana, a private mine consulting job in Idaho, and do research at University of Colorado – Boulder.  I also spent a month in Argentina working on a collaborative research project.  I then attended a national conference in Vancouver, Canada to present that research.  In 2015, I spent the summer in Alaska working for Teck.  All of these opportunities came from lots of hard work on my end, but they would not have been possible without the support and recommendations of the professors and support staff in our department. 

If you had to describe your geology experience at UWEC in a few words, what would they be?

I really couldn’t be happier with my experience in the geology department at UWEC.  I’ve met many amazing people, and have gained life-long friends.  The quality of education offered in this department is top notch.  It really focuses on the invaluable experience gained from taking field trips and getting out and looking at the rocks.  Looking back at my time at UWEC, I simply can’t see myself in any other major.