Mary Poulton headshot


Mary Poulton


Professor Emeritus at University of Arizona

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Years in SME:


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What is your background in the industry? What started you on your career path?

My dad was a geography teacher and he got me interested in geology at a very young age (like 4 years old). So I always wanted to do something with geology. In high school a teacher suggested I look into engineering. A summer camp for women in engineering at Michigan Tech my junior year of high school convinced me I could do engineering and combine it with geology. I got my degrees in geological engineering but with an emphasis in mining and have spent my career working on mining and mineral resources issues as well as oil and gas, water, environmental and health and safety.

What led you to join SME?

I joined as a member of the student chapter and then as a faculty member.

How long have you been a member?

I joined the student chapter in 1982 and as a faculty member in 1990 or there about.

What do you like most about the industry?

The challenges in the industry are fundamental to civilization. The issues are very diverse. Mining towns have strong family values and people really bond with each other.

What do you find most challenging about your job?

Convincing people that mining is a noble profession and we are not Fred Flintstone. Mining does take environmental stewardship and safety very seriously. People have a negative stereotypical image of mining and it is challenging to overcome the misperceptions.

What do you find most rewarding?

Finding new ways to do things – being entrepreneurial.

When was a time during your SME membership that you felt was enhanced your career in some way?

Meeting people through committees.

Favorite benefits of SME?


What would tell your younger self about the industry or your career path that you know now?

It takes a long time to implement new technologies. Be patient and persistent.

Who has been someone that has been key in shaping your career and why?

Mark Baker. He is an entrepreneur and an out of box thinker. He started Modular Mining Systems Inc which has arguably been one of the biggest step changes in surface metal mining in the 20th century.

Where do you think the industry will take you in the next decade?

AI-enabled technologies for health and safety and for water and energy management; running start up companies with those technologies and having an impact on the industry.