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Nigel Kelly

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Written by Elizabeth Starbuck

Posted on 02 March 2014

nigel-kellyLike many Mines students, Professor Nigel Kelly began his time in college knowing he was good at science but not knowing what direction to take from there. Originally Professor Kelly did not even want to go to college, as he was more interested in music, but with a little encouragement from his mother he applied and was accepted into the University of Sydney. He then took a gap year and traveled. Upon reflection during his year off from school Kelly realized he was "really really good at science," always getting his best grades in these classes. But during high school his "passion was always ancient history and politics and music, but science was actually more what [he] was able to do." When choosing his freshman courses, a friend of Professor Kelly's brother suggested he take geology, which ended up being a very beneficial suggestion. Dr. Kelly went in thinking he would pursue marine biology or marine geology, but after taking a class in marine biology his second year, he realized it was incredibly boring to him, making him change his track to focus solely on geology. Dr. Kelly said, "Geology has been a passion ever since." Dr. Kelly graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelors of Science with First Class Honors in Geology and shortly after decided to get his PhD as well.

For his PhD, Dr. Kelly did research in Antarctica. In the four years of his PhD he was lucky enough to get in three field seasons. His experience in Antarctica from the lethargic seals and inquisitive penguins and the incredible silence and isolation made Antarctica Dr. Kelly's favorite place. He described a day out in the field saying, "You could spend the entire day not seeing or hearing anyone else and knowing that the nearest person was a couple kilometers away," like being on another planet almost. He enjoyed the incredibly unique environment and team aspect of the research trips. Between seasons in Antarctica, Dr. Kelly helped a man in Edinburgh, Scotland who was also working on the project. Dr. Kelly's time in Edinburgh really opened his mind to different possibilities for post graduate work, and from there he decided to do postdoctoral research.

There was a gap of time between finishing his PhD and the start of the post doctoral research position, so Dr. Kelly took a break from geology and worked in Finance. When looked at linearly, this may seem like a big jump in interest, but surprisingly geology and finance go hand in hand. Dr. Kelly explained why geologists often get hired in finance: "First off, geologists tend to be numerate, and therefore not afraid of numbers. And two, geologists are used to dealing with incomplete information." Geologists are able to make confident interpretations on incomplete data, which is a very important skill set in finance and other similar fields. After this, Dr. Kelly worked in the post doctoral research position for six years, getting a chance to do a lot of diverse work, more research in Antarctica, two summers in Greenland, as well as his main research in Scotland. Once he finished there, he applied to several professorial positions and ended up here at Colorado School of Mines.

Although Dr. Kelly had a wonderful time in Edinburgh, which has easy access to the Highlands and travel to other European countries, he has grown to love Colorado as well. At Mines, Professor Kelly has had the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate classes from Earth Materials to Applied Geochronology, along with assisting students with their research projects. Most recently Dr. Kelly has worked on research in South Africa. Just three weeks ago, Dr. Kelly went to Zambia to do research on abnormalities in the Central African Copper Belt, which will help with mining the area in the most efficient way possible.

One of the benefits of Professor Kelly's job is the many opportunities to travel, and he enjoys traveling for recreation as well. When Dr. Kelly is not teaching or traveling the world he loves to ski, road bike, hike and "professes to play guitar.". Along with these activities Dr. Kelly also finds time to run with his german shorthaired pointer, who "keeps him fit and is [his] running companion," and goes upland bird hunting with her.

Dr. Kelly is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about geology. It is evident that geology, and teaching students about it, are very important to him. Not only is his favorite book a geology textbook (commonly referred to as the "Blue Bible,") but his best compliments relate to teaching geology also. Dr. Kelly loves to hear from students that have graduated and come back to thank him for teaching. Dr. Kelly recalls on one evaluation a student commented "give him a raise," and on another, a student said that they had "learned more in his field methods class than any other class." Dr. Nigel Kelly is an amazing teacher and geologist and a valuable fixture in the Colorado School of Mines' Geology department.
Colorado School of Mines

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