After years in the field, PhD candidate returns to the UArizona to complete her full circle
It’s funny how life works out, we seem to just follow the steps of life and all of a sudden, we realize that everything we’ve ever done is now somehow connected. That is definitely true for PhD student, Lynnette Hutson and the opportunities she’s taken throughout the course of her life to get to where she is.
Hutson graduated from the University of Arizona with a Masters in geosciences in 2007 from then she went straight into the field. This was right around a time when the mining industry was really taking off. She wanted a good job and found the subject was interesting, so she went for it. “It was really curiosity and opportunity at that time,” Hutson says. That curiosity lingered, she stayed in the field for 12 years, working in northern Nevada for Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Corporation.
Hutson began working as a geologist and eventually transitioned into geostatistics, but that wasn’t enough. “I really found that interesting, but I wanted to learn more about the business as a whole, and what it is that the engineers do,” Hutson says. “So, then I transitioned into business analyst work and got into strategic planning.” In doing this she got to see what the financial drivers were for businesses and what kind of tactical information they needed to look at to make decisions. It was this work that made her want to learn more.
Hutson came back to the University of Arizona in 2019 and completed a second master’s in Business Analytics through the MIS department. After graduation she decided to continue her studies and is currently working on her Mining Engineering PhD with professor Isabel Barton as her advisor. She had two motivations when making the decision to continue; the PhD would allow her to someday come back and teach, and she would finally have time to do research on the ideas she pondered during her time in the field.
“Her mix of background, interests and skills is very unusual and that's really something I value and respect,” says Barton. “Another thing I appreciate is that she's not at all fearful to take on new things, and that's an underappreciated quality.”
Her unique background opens different avenues for research, but right now, Hutson is interested in developing analytics tools for the mining industry. “Because my background is in a particular industry, I know the kinds of business processes that people need to do and what kind of decisions they're trying to make,” she says. “So, having that and knowing enough about how these analytics tools work, I can put that together in a way that a lot of people might not know how.”
For now, Hutson is happy doing more research in a field that she loves and playing around with the strategic aspects of deciding what’s best in a sea of a hundred options. However, moving forward she sees herself as a professor in the field, helping younger students or industry workers further explore the mining pipeline, and of course, continuing with her research. “A lot of the research ideas that I had came to me while I was working for industry, but you never have time,” Hutson says. “And before I had the business analytics degree, I didn't have the skill set either.” Now she does, and with experience under her belt and guidance from UA professors Hutson prepares for her journey ahead. She praises the help she’s received at the University of Arizona and hopes one day to return the favor to the next generation of young learners.