WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
DR. CATHARINE FARROW
Each year we ask a graduate to write an article on his/her past and current activities since leaving Acadia. This year we invited Catharine Farrow, who frequented Huggins halls in the late 80's, and went on to complete her Ph.D. at Carleton University. She now works as a mineralogy/petrology specialist for INCO Technical Services Ltd., in Sudbury and is an adjunct professor at Laurentian University. She was the 2000 winner of the William Harvey Gross Medal of the Mineral Deposits Division of the Geological Association of Canada, in recognition of her work in economic geology.
Last month Dr. Barr asked if I would make a contribution to the newsletter that summarized my career, among other things. I have taken the liberty of modifying this request slightly for a number of reasons. First, I like to think that my career has only just begun and that I really don't have that much to say, and secondly, the little there is would be absolutely tedious and boring as a chronicle. The result is a brief synopsis of some of more important influences in my career. The most important influences are the people I have been associated with, especially family, professors and colleagues. But in this case, I'd like to focus more on the situational side of the geosciences. I hope this doesn't appear too self indulgent - here goes!
Many parents and students agonize routinely over which university is the best for their particular interests. Commonly the importance of the small university is overlooked in favour of the lure of the 'Big School'. Small universities and their small departments, including those that cater to the geosciences, are under huge pressure to survive under difficult fiscal times. However, the broad base of the fundamental 'building blocks' of a geoscience career served me extremely well. It is this broad base of knowledge that has provided me with the confidence, flexibility and creativity to move quickly in the rapidly changing real world. THE MESSAGE: Embrace the opportunity to gain a broad background in the geosciences offered by small universities like Acadia.
For more than four years I have worked as the Mineralogy/Petrology Specialist for Inco Technical Services Ltd. (Exploration). Inco is the western world's largest Ni supplier and the largest platinum group element (PGE) producer outside South Africa and Russia. My argument is that by working as a mineralogist I can work on almost any problem, since most of our exploration, ore and processing products contain minerals that must be understood to ensure Inco's continued success. The interesting thing is that I have no formal training as a mineralogist, but this takes me back to the 'broad base' argument I proposed above. The opportunities provided by working for a major company are huge. I have worked on grassroots exploration, mining/production, metallurgical and environmental projects. I have worked on Ni-Cu-PGE, Ni laterite, Cu-Zn, Pb-Zn, Cu-Au, Au and PGE projects. I have particularly enjoyed the niche I have started to fill by bridging the gap between geological/mineralogical issues and metallurgical engineering. I am fortunate to work in a highly talented and intellectual group that provides geologically technical support to other parts of Inco. At the same time management has allowed me to continue my association with Laurentian University as an Adjunct Professor and maintain a modest publication record. It has truly been an exciting set of relationships. THE MESSAGE: Major companies (ranging from mining to environmental industries) have the technology and wide range of career opportunities that cannot be matched anywhere else, especially in a world where universities are fighting so intensely for research financing.
I began my PhD on aspects of Sudbury geology in 1989. Since then I have been more or less involved with this 'World Class' environment. Many students tend to look beyond Canadian borders for thesis opportunities in more exotic locations than Sudbury. However, there is little that can prepare a geoscientist, from a mineral deposits specialist to environmental geologist to a production geologist, for the reality of the geological world like the experience of working in a world-class camp. The fact that so many critical questions remain in Sudbury is evidence alone that the factors that influence the development of a world-class mineral camp are chaotic - to linear-thinking geologists anyway! THE MESSAGE: World-class deposits remain to be found. We must continue to look at the rocks in world class deposits to find more.
I am writing this from South America where I am spending a month of travel while working on a variety of Inco projects with a structural geologist colleague of mine. Indeed, travel is exciting, but it is a strain on family relationships if not handled well. It can also be a physical strain, more so in some places than others. However, it is a wonderful way to learn, not only about the rocks, but personal adaptation skills such as the powerlessness of being unable to communicate. The drive from the airport to downtown Sao Paulo, or many towns or cities of any size in this part of the world, can wind through the edges of large shantytowns of horrendous poverty. Look into the eyes of the children who live there. Reality check. Do we really have such a hard life? Our freedoms, standard of living and opportunities are not matched anywhere. This is not to say that we don't have any work to do with respect to government bureaucracy, health and education funding, poverty, and the treatment of women, visible minorities or aboriginal people. As Canadians we need to learn from travel and multi-national interaction, to make our country, and the rest of the world, a better, fairer place to live. THE MESSAGE: Canada is the best country in the world. See for yourself!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Work hard and expose yourself to luck.