Graduate Spotlight: Nicholas Joyce

Nicholas Joyce at the top of a mountain

Hometown: North Vancouver, BC

Graduate Research Focus:

Economic geology and exploration geochemistry: characterizing the alteration mineralogy of the McArthur River uranium deposit, Saskatchewan, Canada. As part of the NSERC-CMIC Exploration Footprints Project, I am working with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers to build a common earth model of the footprint of an unconformity-related uranium deposit. My work is focused on characterizing the major and trace element variability of alteration minerals that occur in the distal reaches of the deposit footprint, using a combination of petrographic, SWIR, electron microprobe, and laser ablation ICP-MS techniques.

Why I chose to do graduate studies:

My undergraduate education at the University of British Columbia gave me a strong appreciation for the fundamentals of geology and economics, which I was able to apply in my summers of exploration work in the Yukon and northern Saskatchewan. I increasingly found, however, that my education had involved a lot of model-based memorization and repetition at the expense of deeper understanding. Graduate studies gave me the opportunity to take a step back and build a much more robust understanding of economic geology and exploration geochemistry from the ground up, through first principles and experimentation.

Why Queen’s?:

Kingston is an ideal student town, which makes Queen’s a very attractive place to study as a graduate student. From the top-notch athletic facilities at the ARC, to the abundance of coffee shops and brew pubs downtown, the community is set up to provide everything I need as a graduate student to succeed, with none of the distractions of a bigger city. Additionally, the school’s proximity to Toronto gives me the opportunity to easily commute to CIM meetings and conferences like the PDAC.

Student involvement/extracurricular activities I am involved with:

My first task upon my arrival at Queen’s was to re-establish the student chapter of the Society of Economic Geologists with the help of some of the other graduate students in the department. Over the past two years we have grown our membership to over 50 graduate and undergraduate students, and organized several field trips to northern Ontario and Quebec. My greatest success in this endeavour is in having now passed off the active management of the chapter to a new executive council that I am confident will continue to build upon the success of the chapter.

I was also very fortunate to TA several undergraduate courses where I had the opportunity to pass on my enthusiasm for the broad study of geology and engineering.

The course which has influenced me the most:

In my first year of graduate studies I embarked on an independent directed study of porphyry Cu-Au-Mo deposits in the western Americas. With funding support from an SEG Graduate Student Fellowship and the opportunity to participate on SEG SFT-12, I toured 13 different porphyry systems from central British Columbia, to Arizona, and down through Chile and Bolivia. From my field observations and countless discussions with researchers and industry experts, I was able to gain a solid understanding not only of porphyry deposit models, but also of their real world variability. The experience taught me how to ask questions that reveal the pertinent features of complex systems, and how to transfer those observations into logical and consistent frameworks.

After I graduate, I plan to:

After graduation, I plan to work towards my P.Geo accreditation with APEGBC with a mining and mineral exploration firm. With that milestone achieved, I plan to explore options for studying an MBA or an advanced degree in economics, focusing on commodity price cycles and exploration investment. When the exploration markets turn upwards in a few years, I plan to position myself such that I can work with the management of junior exploration companies to conduct intelligently designed, science-based and responsible exploration programs for mineral deposits.

One big goal I’d like to accomplish during my lifetime:

In time I hope to achieve a degree of fluency in the resource business such that I can discuss, with relevance (and capitalize upon), many aspects of the industry; from the day-to-day on the drill rig, to isotope geochemistry, to capital market strategies, and multi-generational environmental management. With that, I hope to be able to significantly improve upon the public’s perception of the mining industry and of the contributions that geologist and engineers make to our society.