Queen’s professor honoured with Women in Mining award

Heather Jamieson shares her experience in male-dominated field

Heather Jamieson won a Women in Mining Canada award.
Supplied by Heather Jamieson

After a career spanning over 30 years, Queen’s professor Heather Jamieson has been recognized with a prestigious mentorship award.

On March 5, Jamieson was awarded the 2019 Rick Hutson Mentorship Award at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada annual convention in Toronto. The award was presented by Women in Mining Canada.

Jamieson is a professor and researcher in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering.

Her reputation for her mentorship during both her student’s academic and post-graduation careers led to strong support by current and former students for her to get the student-nominated award, according to The Gazette.

In an email interview with The Journal, Jamieson wrote her relationship with her graduate student mentees is “part colleague, part employer, part teacher.”

She traces the roots of this mentorship attitude to growing up in the mining town of Noranda, Quebec. When she was in high school, Jamieson became the assistant of a woman geologist who was hired for the first time by the local mineral exploration company. This inspired her to become a geologist.

Now a geologist with expertise in the area of environmental geochemistry, Jamieson conducts most of her field work in the Canadian Arctic, where she enjoys finding herself “in the quiet of a very remote landscape.” She has also researched in Nova Scotia, California, Montana, Spain, and Australia.

Queen’s has an equal gender split in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering in terms of students, graduate students, and professors. While Jamieson emphasizes how important this balanced environment is, she also acknowledges the field of mining and geology can sometimes skew towards male domination. 

In the early days of her career, Jamieson wrote she was “usually the only or one of a very few women in the classroom and on the job,” an experience she called “lonesome” and “uncomfortable.”

In the 1970s, when Jamieson was an undergrad, female students interested in mining were steered towards the newly emerging field of environmental geology.

Jamieson was turned off by the idea of pursuing something just because it was “female appropriate,” and purposefully focused on other areas of the field.

However, later in her career she circled back once she realized her interest in the subject.

Based on this experience, Jamieson wrote students should “pursue what [they] love, not what someone else thinks is suitable” and “acquire the best skills and be professional and confident wherever you are.”

The field of environmental geology isn’t large, and Jamieson reminds her students that they are likely to cross paths with the same people often. Therefore, she stresses the importance of maintaining professional and respectful relationships to her students.

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