Erik Westman, professor of mining and minerals engineering, has been named head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering in the College of Engineering.

“Erik and his students have conducted groundbreaking research — literally — using novel techniques to map and image stress-induced changes in mines that are more than a mile-and-a-half deep, thus increasing safety and efficiency for workers,” said Don Taylor, acting dean of the College of Engineering. “He has worked hard to attract new, young talent to our mining department and diligently prepare them for career success.”

Westman will lead the department of 11 faculty members, which includes two National Academy of Engineering members, and administrative and support personnel. The department enrolls approximately 150 undergraduate and more than 35 graduate students.

Westman had served as interim department head since fall 2015, and during the two years prior to that was the interim associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Engineering. He has served as the faculty advisor for his department's senior design project that is submitted annually to the Carlson Software Senior Design Competition. Under Westman’s leadership, nine teams have garnered national championship first-place victories.

Westman’s research efforts have focused on developing novel methods for geotechnical monitoring of the entire rock mass volume rather than only point locations.

Togther with his students, Westman's most significant accomplishment was pioneering the use of passive seismic tomography to image time-lapse, stress-induced changes near the face of a longwall coal mine. The National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the U.S. Department of Energy have supported Westman’s work in this area.

Westman has been an invited speaker to numerous symposiums and conferences, including as the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Henry Krumb Lecturer. In 2002, he won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to develop a practical method for predicting failures in rock masses. Westman worked for the U.S. Bureau of Mines from 1991 to 1996. Prior to becoming a faculty member at Virginia Tech in 1999, Westman also spent five years in consulting engineering in addition to five years in government research.

Westman earned a bachelor’s from the Colorado School of Mines, a master’s from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in mining and minerals engineering from Virginia Tech.