Dr. Erik Westman’s commitment to mining engineering education has likely been influenced by his diverse experiences in the corporate, government and academic sectors.
Dr. Westman earned a B.S. degree in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 1986 and M.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 1994. He joined the Mining & Minerals Engineering Program at Virginia Tech as a Research Associate. He defended his Ph.D. degree in 1999 and was immediately hired by the department. While at Virginia Tech, Dr. Westman progressed through several academic positions including Assistant Professor (1999-2005), Associate Professor (2005-2013) and Professor (2014-present). In 2013, Dr. Westman was asked to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering, a position he held for two years. During this time, he worked with more than 7,500 undergraduate students enrolled in Virginia Tech’s engineering programs. Then, in 2015, Dr. Westman returned to the Department of Mining & Minerals Engineering as Interim Department Head (2015-2016). He was eventually offered and accepted the permanent position of Department Head in 2016. As such, Dr. Westman currently oversees twelve full-time faculty members, six administrative/support personnel, approximately 100 undergraduate students and more than 40 graduate students. Since joining the faculty at Virginia Tech, 8 Ph.D. candidates and 20 M.S. students have received advanced degrees under his supervision.
Despite the heavy administrative load demanded by the position of Department Head, Dr. Westman has continued to maintain a large and active research program focused on developing novel methods for geotechnical monitoring. Together with his students, Dr. Westman pioneered the use of passive seismic tomography to image time-lapse stress-induced changes near longwall faces in underground coal mines.
Dr. Westman has established an impressive record as a teacher, advisor and mentor to undergraduate students enrolled in mining engineering. As a result of his dedication to high-quality instruction, he is routinely cited by the Dean’s office as one of the top instructors in the College of Engineering. In 2001, he was voted as Outstanding Faculty Member by the undergraduate student body. He also received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence in 2007 from Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, an honor bestowed to only the top 1% of university instructors.
Dr. Westman has established a strong track record in mining education excellence. He excels in the classroom and is an outstanding researcher and scholar. He values the importance of good teaching and is committed to making the time necessary to take on the most difficult and time-consuming teaching assignments. He truly cares about his students and their academic and professional successes. There is little doubt that his career has positively impacted the educational mission that is so important to the mining industry of the future.
Dr. Westman has demonstrated the ability to be an effective educator, mentor, researcher and scholar and the PCMIA is pleased to present him with the 2018 Stephen McCann Award for Excellence in Education.