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A rock solid career

Dr. Heather Jamieson (middle) working at her first geological job in 1971.

At a time when women didn’t often work in the engineering field, a teenage Heather Jamieson was already working as geological field assistant for Noranda Inc. back in 1971. It’s pioneering efforts like these that earned Dr. Jamieson the Peacock Medal from the Mineralogical Association of Canada.

She’s only the third woman to receive this honour from the professional society. The medal is awarded to a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the mineral sciences in Canada.

“I knew both of the other women, so being named in the same category as them is very meaningful,” says Dr. Jamieson (Environmental Studies, Geological Sciences). “I’m honoured by this award.”

Born and raised in the mining town of Rouyn-Noranda, Dr. Jamieson had an early interest in geology. In 1971, as a high school student, she was hired to work as an assistant to Susan Atkinson, one of the first women hired by the local mineral exploration company. She did her undergraduate work in geology at the University of Toronto when only five to 10 per cent of her class were female.

“A lack of women in our discipline was always a topic of discussion and there were also practical issues when it came to field trips,” says Dr. Jamieson. “There were some barriers but it was also fun to be a pioneer. We opened doors for other female students and Queen’s undergraduate numbers in my discipline are now split about 50/50.”

Over the years, Dr. Jamieson has developed into a world leader in environmental mineralogy when it comes to trace elements at active or abandoned mines. She has advanced and redefined the sub discipline of mineralogy by incorporating cutting-edge analytical techniques. The impact of her science is truly international - spanning academia, industry, government and First Nations. She and her graduate students are currently working at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife on arsenic contamination of soils, lake sediments and dust.

And involving her students in her work has been a key to her success, she says.

“I like working with young people and challenging them in their research,” says Dr. Jamieson. “I’ve had about 50 students graduate that I supervised that are now working in their fields. They are all contributing to the solution for environmental problems and environmental contamination. I also appreciate all my colleagues and collaborators that helped me earn this award.”

For more information visit the Mineralogical Association of Canada website.