The cover design of this issue was partly inspired by a presentation in the Arthur Lakes Library by Associate Professor John Spear MS ’94, PhD ’99, delivered long after Lisa Marshall wrote the article, ‘Engineering on a Grand Scale with the Smallest of the Small.’ If you like Marshall’s story, you’ll find the talk an entertaining and informative follow-up.

To me, listening to Spear is a little like taking a ride on Ms. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus. A microbiologist, he describes microscopes as inverted telescopes, windows onto the cosmos of microscopic organisms that make up the greater part of life on earth. Careening through the human body, he challenges basic ideas of self. “I used to think of ‘me’ as me,” he says, “but now I think of ‘me’ as a community. I’m a big, complex ecosystem.” Elaborating, he explains that many of the microbes that live on and in each one of us (which far outnumber our own cells) aren’t just along for the ride. They are vital to health. “Without them,” he says, “I wouldn’t be alive.”

Speaking along similar lines, but shifting to a very different scale, Spear says that many scientists choose to think of the Earth as divided into separate spheres,the lithosphere, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere, but he doesn’t. He thinks of it as one thing. “To me, the entire globe is an organism,” he says. It’s not a new idea, but coming from a practical environmental engineer and scientist like Spear, it’s particularly compelling, which is why it came to mind during discussions about the cover.

If the cover design caught your attention, check out our feature, which explores the idea that organisms capable of turning a lump of hot, inanimate rock into the vibrant planet we inhabit today probably have more to offer, and not just in the area of environmental engineering. It’s an interesting field, and a story we’ll keep our eye on for future issues.

Beyond the cover story, there’s lots more for you to dig into in this issue: vignettes from the Peace Corps, innovations in hydraulic fracturing technology, advice on leadership from Newmont Mining’s CEO (including his predictions for the price of gold), tales of Wild Women, bridge-building in the developing world, and plenty of sporting achievements from the fall season.

I wish we could report more about winter sports, in particular men’s basketball. However, as I write this, the #1 ranked Orediggers (29-2 for the season) are preparing for the Central Region Championship game tonight, so it all still hangs in the balance. But no matter the outcome, it’ll make a great story for the next issue.

Nick Sutcliffe
Editor and Director of Communications
Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association

P.S. One gem not to be missed is ‘The Gift of El Tio’ by geologist Larry Buchanan ’73, PhD ’79 and his wife, Karen Gans. You’ll find a synopsis on this site and plenty of glowing reviews online. Be warned: It’ll keep you up late!