Think of the job “gold prospector.” The first images that come to mind likely involve a pick-ax and wide-brimmed hat. Maybe it’s more specific, like Stinky Pete from "Toy Story" or Yukon Cornelius from "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." Mining for gold in 2018 requires an advanced skill set, though: from high-level knowledge in geology and Geographic Information Systems, to the reclamation requirements to maintain and replace the integrity of land that’s mined.
No one knows that better than Nick Hermann ’13. As a geology major he racked up a huge range of research and teaching experience at St. Thomas, went on to Vanderbilt University for a master’s, worked at NASA and for the Bureau of Land Management, and now helps Pilot Gold track down gold in Utah.
“It’s challenging but fun work,” Hermann said. “It’s one of these things that you look back in history and it’s this huge tradition to go out and search for gold. I get to do that every day. Every day’s an adventure where I get to go out into the mountains, be outdoors and work this cool job. It’s very fulfilling work. Plus it’s always cool to say to friends, ‘I was out searching for gold in the mountains.’”
Hermann helps his team identify rocks that may contain trace amounts of gold and responsibly mine it. Throughout his career, he said that an openness to new experiences has driven everything he does. Hickson joked that Hermann is on pace to be “the most interesting man in the world” thanks to the eclectic start to his post-St. Thomas career, and Hermann said an openness to new experiences has driven everything he does.
That started back at St. Thomas when he made the most of his opportunities, developing in geology faculty Tom Hickson and Kevin Theisen strong mentors that helped him explore his interests.
“It’s absolutely the reason I am where I am today, is having those connections and maintaining them,” he said.
A field study trip to Nevada as a sophomore solidified his love of learning in the outdoors, and later in his undergraduate career – and several times again as an alum – he helped as a teaching assistant, and becoming a professor remains the path he hopes to pursue in his career.
“I’ve found one of my passions in teaching, that excitement I got being out in the field and learning what you can do in reading the earth’s history,” he said. “I want to share that passion I got from Tom, Kevin and the rest of the department with other students.”