Student Profile: Emily Erhart

Emily Erhart (BGeoE 2017) has been a rock hound since childhood. When she learned she could combine her interests in engineering and geology, she was all in! She will complete her Bachelor in Geoengineering with minors in chemistry and geology. She plans to continue into the Master’s program and graduate Spring 2018.


Erhart is effusive when she talks about her projects and field camps. In 2015 she completed the basic field camp and a second one in hydrogeology. “I learned so much and really enjoyed the hands-on experiences and being outside.” She says those intense experiences drew her and her classmates together. Her enthusiasm has been persuading her friends and even her younger brother, Ryan, to commit to geoengineering.

Last summer, Erhart completed an internship with Northern Technologies (NTI). She tested concrete, soil, and water—gathering samples, running tests, and delivering results. The work was 70% in the field and physically demanding. She admits, “The first week was scary, but after driving to a job site, introducing myself to strangers, meeting with contractors, and presenting results—sometimes 8 times a day—I became pretty confident.”

Emily Erhart Caricature
Caricature of Emily Erhart as Rock Girl (Done at the 2017 SME Convention)

Scholarships helped Erhart finish school with no outstanding loans. Upon her mother’s urging, she applied for all available scholarships. She didn’t win big scholarships, but pulled together multiple small and medium scholarships. Her first semester, she earned a UMN Presidential Scholarship; that pays about half of her tuition if she keeps her GPA up, which also increases her motivation. Her senior year she was awarded the Gene Pfleider Award from the Society for Mining Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) Twin Cities, which covered the rest of the amount due for her spring semester. “My scholarships have been such a great help! My whole family is grateful. My parents have always said, ‘Do your best. If it doesn’t work out, you can still say you tried your best.’ But my mom is an accountant at a bank, so she is really into the money stuff and encouraged me to apply for every opportunity. She was really excited when I got the Pfleider Scholarship!”

Erhart got involved in SME right away after being admitted to the Geoengineering program and was elected as the outreach coordinator. “This year I’m President of the student chapter. I organize activities, handle expenses, and help my officers. Motivating people has proven to be a challenge of leadership. I’ve learned to stay positive! If I’m really excited, then they will be, too.”

Erhart and two officers from SME, Justin Bernabas and Zachary Eckstrom, are working together on a Capstone project. Their case involves the Fundão Tailings Dam Failure of 2015, which resulted in environmental impacts, billions of dollars of damage, and the deaths of 19 people. “Earthen dams are less regulated than concrete dams. In the last 55 years, only five have not seen the failure of an earthen dam. Our mentors, Raul Velasquez and Matt Walker from Barr Engineering, are looking for some new ideas for regulations and policies to limit earthen dam failures.”

Erhart’s enthusiasm for the program makes her a great ambassador. She wants to continue to spread the word about geoengineering and the possibilities it holds for upcoming students.