Mary Poulton, Ph.D.

Mary Poulton, Ph.D.

Director Emerita, Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, Professor Emerita, Mining & Geological Engineering, University of Arizona

Dr. Mary Poulton is Professor Emerita in Mining and Geological Engineering at the University of Arizona since May 2017 and Director Emerita of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources at the University of Arizona. Prior to this she was a University Distinguished Professor in Geosciences, Mining Engineering, Law, and Public Health.  She was the first woman to lead an engineering department in the history of the University of Arizona, serving as head of Mining and Geological Engineering from 2000 to 2014.  She co-founded and directed the interdisciplinary Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources from 2009 to 2017, continuing as Co-Director until 2021. Dr. Poulton directed the Western Mine Safety and Health Training Resource Center funded by NIOSH from 2010 to 2017.  Poulton negotiated the first dual degree program for mining engineering in Mongolia.  She created a student exchange program for mineral resources with Peru and Chile funded by Partners for the Americas and Freeport McMoRan which was recognized by US Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry; she was also involved in building a Pan American Hub for Compatible Mining.  She worked on a project to assess education capacity for minerals industries in Africa.  She has worked with leaders at universities in Mexico, Peru, Chile, and South Africa to replicate the Lowell IMR model.   She helped create, and teaches in, the Global Mining Law Center at the University of Arizona which provides education and helps inform policy related to mineral resources development. 

In her leadership roles in the university she has worked closely with legislators and legislative staffs at the state and national level.

Poulton is co-founder of 3 startup technology companies (NOAH LLC, Desert Saber LLC, and Guia LLC), working in the areas of water management, VR serious games for safety training, and advanced sensing and communications technology.  She serves as an expert consultant to the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.  Dr. Poulton was involved in creating the non-profit company Fondo Santa Barbara, which leverages its understanding of unstable Artisanal and Small Mining (ASM) communities to create pathways to sustainable livelihoods using a Social Enterprise Business Model. 

Dr. Poulton’s research background is in big data and AI/machine learning in the earth sciences.  She has more than 90 publications on the application of computational neural networks to pattern recognition problems.  She is the author of a book on the use of neural networks for geophysical data analysis.   She has led or participated in nearly $30 million in research funding.

She has served on four committees of the US National Academies including chairing the Committee on Earth Resources and serving on the report committee for the critical minerals study.  She has given congressional testimony on mining workforce shortages and helped draft the Energy and Minerals Schools Reinvestment Act which passed the US House of Representatives in 2006 with bi-partisan support.  She has chaired the Mine Safety and Health Research Advisory Committee for NIOSH following the mine disasters at Sago and Crandall Canyon which resulted in new mine safety technology and protocols.  She currently serves as a council member on the NORA Mining Sector Council (National Occupational Research Agenda).

Poulton received the National Engineering Award in 2017 by the American Association of Engineering Societies; an award first given to astronaut Neil Armstrong.  She is a distinguished member of SME and recipient of the Ivan B. Rahn award for outstanding mining educator, the AIME Industry Educator award, the Stephan McCann Award for Excellence in Mining Education, the American Mining Hall of Fame Medal of Merit, the University of Arizona Eugene Sander Fundraising Award, and the University of Arizona Research Innovation Award.  She is a member of the SME board of directors (2017-2019).