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Geology student enjoys golden experience

November 11, 2020

Graduate student Lillian Lueck has struck gold.

Lueck just returned to the Nevada Gold Mines as part of an extended work opportunity. There, her days begin around 5 a.m. when she carpools with her team to an active gold mine. While other members of the exploration team create drilling plans, Lueck sorts through the drilled rock core hunting for signs of gold.

Lillian Lueck

The geology student is enjoying every minute of it.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” said Lueck, a native of Watertown, Wis. “I love being out in the field, I love working with rocks and I just love applying what I learn.”

Lueck’s internship first began this past summer, when she spent about three months at the world-famous Carlin Trend gold deposits in Nevada. The deposits consist of very small, microscopic gold found in arsenopyrite or pyrite, and are named after the Carlin Mine where they were first discovered in Carlin, Nevada.

“In the Carlin Trend, the gold is invisible so you won’t see a vein or a chunk of gold in the rock, but we know the other characteristics associated with the gold deposit so we look for those,” Lueck said.

Lueck, also a graduate assistant in the Institute for the Study of Fluids and Structures, was asked to return to the mines last week for another couple months of work.

She attributes the opportunity to “the power of alumni connections.”

NIU alum Kendle Fraley had a similar internship as a graduate student in 2012 and was hired by Barrick Gold, one of the largest gold producers in the world, after he graduated. He quickly rose to a leadership position and now leads an exploration team in Nevada.

His team at Nevada Gold Mines, a joint venture between Barrick Gold and Newmont Gold, reached back to NIU seeking recommendations for students to fill open positions.

Lueck’s advisor Mark Fischer, professor and chair of the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, recommended Lueck based on her reputation as a mature, responsible, hard-working student, someone who “represents the best kind of student that my department produces.”

“Lilly is a great team player who is constantly seeking to improve herself,” he said. “She accepts constructive criticism well and is always curious and excited to learn new things. This makes her reliable, adaptable and a valuable member of any team.”

Lueck’s experience is critical to her winning a permanent position upon graduation, expected in May of 2021.

“The experience is also valuable to Lilly because she gets the opportunity to see what the job entails on a day-to-day basis,” Fischer said.

“This is hard to understand by just reading or hearing about it. In the end, the company gets to evaluate the intern and the intern gets to see whether this is a job they would really like to have and where they can see themselves building a fulfilling career. Both of those things are invaluable.”