From Data to Drill Sites: The Journey of Rahul Jadhav in Sustainable Mining and Computer Science

May 10, 2024
Student with college deans receiving scholarship

In November, computer science major Rahul Jadhav was one of five hard-working students to receive a $2K scholarship to pursue a minor in sustainable mineral resources from the University of Arizona School of Mining & Mineral Resources. Provided by school industry partner Freeport-McMoRan, the scholarships are available to degree-seeking undergraduates with a minimum 3.0 GPA, enabling them to work with students and faculty from across colleges to learn about the skills needed in the mining industry.

An international freshman from India, Jadhav is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in computer science. With a secondary focus on sustainable mineral resources, he hopes to head toward a career that utilizes cutting-edge technology to promote sustainable mining practices. Aware of the critical need for sustainable mining practices that use advanced technologies to ensure a reliable future supply of minerals, Jadhav is passionate about his academic pursuits and looking forward to a bright future.

We caught up with Jadhav recently to hear more about his academic journey and why he’s passionate about a future career in mining engineering.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I'm an international freshman at the University of Arizona majoring in computer science with a minor in sustainable mineral resources focused on data analytics and automation. The reason I moved to the United States was because of the high academic research and high advanced curriculum, which really allows me to focus on my prospect and career narrative.

What sparked your passion for the subjects you're pursuing?

I was fascinated by computer science and the idea of working on large language models. When it came to mining, I met with the campus outreach coordinator Mario Munoz, and he told me about the opportunities available in the mining field. We discussed the curriculum and the opportunities available to me as a computer science student. Mario told me about all the tracks, and the curriculum. That's why I also got an opportunity as an undergraduate assistant, which I'm working on right now at the Technological Center of Excellence. I also got my undergrad research assistantship in the mining department along with the SME scholarship.

How did it feel to receive that Freeport McMoRan scholarship?

It was great, because as an international student, you never expect to gain any kind of additional scholarship. I had received a Wildcat Award Scholarship, but I never expected that I would gain an extra scholarship. It's very rare. But when I met with Mario Munoz, he sent me to apply for this scholarship. I didn't know that I would get it, because there were only three people up for it. I'm so fortunate and thankful for the mining department that they considered me for this opportunity.

Before you got enrolled in the sustainable mineral resources minor, what were your thoughts about mining?

I took a particular interest in petroleum engineering because it’s a very broad and diverse field that’s very in demand. The reason I shifted to the mining minor is that it is a different type of job role. You don't have to sit in a nine-to-five office and you have the opportunity to work in natural surroundings. Also, you have the opportunity to travel all around the world. Plus, working on those top tech machines and cutting-edge technology is what fascinated me to pursue this minor.

What do you think is the importance of mineral resources for our future society and economies?

Minerals are the backbone that runs society. Even if you take a simple thing like lightning, it's composed of copper cables. Batteries in electric vehicles run on minerals like aluminum. You need minerals to continuously support the future and technology. It's very important to dig into those resources. As we know, these resources are getting exploited, and there will be a lot of shortages in the future. That means we need to advance to make a sustainable future.

What has been your favorite part about this minor?

My favorite time in the minor has been my undergrad research assistantship at the Technological Center of Excellence. With my computer science background, I'm developing a Python script to help with automated rockfall detection. My work is to detect rock fall from over 45 pounds. We use live thermal imaging videos and integrating scripts to target and analyze how rock falls occur.

How do you envision that the skills you’re learning will help you in your future career?

For my undergraduate assistantship, I have gotten various concepts and concerns related to mining field. As a computer science student, and being part of a moon mining mission led by Professor Tenario, I'm trying to get equipped with the latest technologies and robotics and integrating those into machine learning. In the future, I hope to enhance the

sustainability of the industry by reducing the labor human workers need to engage in. In the future, a lot of the industry will be dependent on machinery.

What are your post-graduation plans?

Mining companies need computer science professionals skilled in AI technology. Even though I’m pursuing a bachelor's in computer science, I can definitely get a good job as a software engineer in a big mining company, and I can help them elevate robotics and machinery by integrating AI into those.