Samuel Frimpong has vivid memories of his first day at work in an underground gold mine in his native Ghana. Just as unforgettable are his memories of stepping into an environment that for him was equally alien: Edmonton in mid-winter.
Frimpong, who recently returned to Edmonton to accept a faculty position at the University of Alberta, is a veteran of eight Canadian winters now, but when he first set foot in the city on 27 December 1988 to begin a PhD in mining engineering he had never before experienced anything like it. "It was a shock. There had been an orientation at the Canadian high commission in Zambia for students coming to Canada to study, and I had received some brochures telling international students what to expect, but it's something you just cannot imagine."
After completing his degree in 1992, Frimpong spent another year at the U of A as a sessional lecturer before accepting a faculty appointment at the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Now he's back in Alberta, having been named an associate professor of mining engineering effective 1 July 1996.
He brings a store of practical experience as well as his academic background. It was his experience as an underground miner —"I was amazed at the engineering feats that were involved in such a big venture"— that led Frimpong to pursue a career in mining engineering. He did undergraduate work at the University of Science and Technology in Ghana and then, following a postgraduate internship, he accepted a UNESCO scholarship to complete his master's degree at the University of Zambia. In addition to his academic credentials, he has first-hand experience of both surface and underground hard rock mining operations and offshore crude oil operations.
Hands-on experience is invaluable, says the new U of A faculty member. "In any mining engineering curriculum, it is important to be able to provide students the practical experience that will help them in the classroom."
Frimpong, who specializes in mine design, mineral economics, modelling methods, and operations research, says he returned to the U of A for the same reason he first went underground: for the challenge. "I saw it as an opportunity to advance in my career and to contribute to the advancement of mining engineering."
"The University of Alberta has a strong base of industry support, thanks to the hard work of its faculty and the members of the Industry Advisory Committee," says Frimpong. "The challenge now is to build on this good work."
Published Autumn 1996.