Michael Karmis, the Stonie Barker Chair of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech, has received the first Gunter Fettweis Award from the international Society of Mining Professors (SOMP). This award recognizes active SOMP members for accomplishments in education, research, and professional service.

Karmis, world-renowned for his achievements in the interests of mine safety and health, joined the Virginia Tech Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering in 1978. He is a past head of the program.

Earlier this year, Alpha Natural Resources, a leading U.S. coal producer, named Karmis as one of three directors to administer its new foundation to improve mine health and safety.

Currently, Karmis serves as the director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, and is managing some $33 million in research projects. One of his most recent projects is a U.S. Department of Energy project to test the ability to inject carbon dioxide into coal seams that cannot be mined, documenting in a best practices manual how to best capture carbon dioxide and its storage. This $11.5 million project is also researching how to best enhance coal bed methane recovery.

Karmis is also the founder of a consortium of major research universities, called the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES), to address the environmental impacts of the discovery, development, production and use of energy resources in Appalachia.

The Society of Mining Engineers or as it was first known, Societät der Berbaukunde, was formed in 1762, making it the first international scientific society on record. The society was founded in Schemnitz, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now Slovakia. The society had as members most of the well-known scientists of the day.

In 1990, a group of Mining Engineering Professors, under the leadership of Professor Gunter Fettweis, gathered at the Montanuniversitat in Leoben, Austria, and reconstituted the Society of Mining Professors. Professor Fettweis became the first president of the newly formed society. Today, SOMP is a vibrant society representing 72 universities, in more than 40 countries and all continents.

Its mission is to promote mining engineering as an engineering discipline, and to facilitate information exchange, research and teaching collaboration and other joint activities among its members.

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