Diane Cheung-Harris

Diane Cheung-Harris

Member Biography I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Chinese immigrant parents who had fled Mao's Cultural Revolution. At the age of 10 we moved to the rolling hills of southern Illinois. To geologists it was coal country and also the southern extent of the glaciers. At that time my outdoor exposure was limited to my yard and the local city park. After observing the struggles and hardships and that my parents faced and encountered, I learned that through persistence, patience, perseverance and hard work I could contribute my heritage to this melting pot known as America. As a kid my dream was to ‘grow-up’ as a pediatrician.

I enlisted in the United States Army (92G) immediately after high school graduation in hopes of using the Montgomery GI Bill to pay for medical school. I was stationed at Ft Eustis, Virginia. My immediate thought was, “Wow, I can work. I can be my own woman. I control my destiny.” In 2003, I had a wake- up call when my boots hit the grounds of a combat zone in Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I got to travel, meet all walks of life and “camp” for the first time. Traveling has spurred my curiosity and the need to explore and discover new things, cultures and ideas. I left the battlefield and my focused my sights on finally getting my degree and helping others. This was the first of many adventures.

After Ft. Eustis, I returned to Southern Illinois University and then transferred to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to pursue a Pre-Med curriculum. I was active in neuroscience, childhood development research, and went on a medical mission to Peru. Along the way I took geology courses as an elective. During a field trip, led by Professor Michael Stewart to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, my passion for field geology started to bloom. My fascination with geology only grew with subsequent structural geology classes and field trips with Professor Stephen Marshak. Soon, I realized that I was a few classes away from a geology degree. So, I quickly and excitedly changed my degree and eventually got a B.S. in Geology from UIUC in 2010.

Shortly after graduation, I was fortunate to obtain my first full-time geology job with Newmont Mining Corporation in 2012 at the Cu-Au-Ag Copper Basin project in Battle Mountain, Nevada. It was also the first time I discovered GSN and the wonders of Nevada geology. It was a great opportunity to be exposed to project development and RC chip logging. It was an exciting time, but unfortunately gold was bearish and I was laid-off. I soon found work with Klondex Mining to aid in logging a quarter of a million feet of historical core for the Fire Creek project in Lander County, Nevada. That work didn’t last long, so I moved onto a core logging assignment with Newmont’s Leeville mine in Eureka County, Nevada. My luck had run out and I was laid-off again. However, through this work I became very interested in ore deposits and decided I needed to know more about “hard rocks.” So the reorganization was a fortuitous event that gave me an opportunity go back to school.

The next adventure took me to San Diego State University (SDSU) for my M.S. degree in geology (2013-2017) under Dr. David Kimbrough.  My thesis focused on dating and resolving the Truckhaven Rhyolite in the Cahuilla gold-silver deposit. Additionally, I taught the geology 101 laboratory on the fundamentals of geology. Furthermore, I was a teaching associate for the geochemistry lab, which entailed setting up lab experiments and grading papers. During my MS studies, I participated in AAPG's Imperial Barrel Award Program (IBA), an annual prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students from universities around the world. That year (2014) our team captured first place in the Pacific Section and we got to go onto the international stage. Coincidentally, during this time the price per barrel of oil plummeted and this meant that petroleum geology jobs were scarce.

So I adapted, and in 2015 I got an opportunity to work in Washington D.C. to be a Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program-Environmental Protection Agency Scholar. I worked on initiatives for Executive Orders 13690 and 13693. This included revising guidelines for natural hazards, floodplains, seismicity and climate change adaptation and resilience. The internship highlights included a National Renewable Laboratory tour in Golden, CO and discussions of how the Federal government manages agencies to implement innovative energy research, design, applications, and policies across the departments.

The following summer (2016), I had the good fortune to work in the “oil patch” as an exploration petroleum geologist for Aera Energy in Bakersfield California. I worked with a talented and motivated team to evaluate and redevelop a Miocene reservoir in the San Joaquin Basin. I also had the great honor to name the prospects, which were adopted into the play evaluation.

After I received my MS from SDSU in 2017, I took a job doing ore control at Phoenix surface mine for Newmont. Currently, I manage the day-to-day duties of ore control geology. Additionally, I get to work with a cross functional team to design and execute infill RC drill holes, 3-D model, and log RC-chips.

Despite my short career in geology, I’m lucky to be able to work with and for some of the best in the business. I’m always grateful for those that have developed my skill set and encouraged me to keep on discovering. I can’t believe that I get to be a part of a profession that draws from all the other grand sciences, I get to use my imagination and infer paleo environments, and I get to synthesize a myriad of sources of information from the nanometric to the galactic. How cool is that? I have the great pleasure and honor to be a member of the GSN and serve as the Elko membership chair (2018-2019). Looking forward, I’m excited and humbled to serve as the 2019-2020 Elko president. I hope to continue to be a part of this community and explore for many more years in this extraordinary, mysterious, and exciting profession. There is yet more to discover and learn on this great blue dot of an “office”.


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