Mining Grad Student Gets Best Student Paper Award

SOCORRO, N.M. September 12, 2012– New Mexico Tech graduate student Ali Tarokh recently won the Best Student Paper Award at the 46th annual U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium in Chicago.


 Ali Tarokh (second from right) accepts his award, along with Dr. Fakhimi, in Chicago in July. From left are Antonio Bobet of Purdue University, Joseph Labuz of the University of Minnesota, Ali Fakhimi of New Mexico Tech, Ali Tarokh of New Mexico Tech and Haiying Huang of Georgia Tech.

Ali earned his master’s in mineral engineering with emphasis in geotechnical engineering in May 2012. His research advisor at Tech was Dr. Ali Fakhimi, who was listed as one of the co-authors of the paper. The third coauthor was Dr. Joe Labuz from Civil Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota.

“In our field, this is a pretty big deal,” said Dr. Navid Mojtabai, chair of the Mineral Engineering Department at Tech. “This is a major achievement.”

Ali won the best student paper award for his paper, “Size of Process Zone in Fracture Testing of Rock.” The paper was selected from more than 350 papers submitted to the Symposium from around the world.

Ali and Dr. Fakhimi accepted a plaque commemorating the award during the Symposium banquet on June 26. They learned that they had won the award about a week before the Symposium.



Ali Tarokh, Class of 2012

“It was really exciting to hear that we had been awarded the top paper,” he said. “Especially since more than 350 papers were being considered.”

Ali said his paper tested two opposing experimental theories about whether the size of fracture process zone of a material is dependent on its size. He used discrete element simulation to run several numerical tests to solve the problem.

“We determined that both groups are right, but it depends on the material,” he said. “The size of process zone in a brittle material, such as Berea sandstone, is not practically size-dependent and could be considered as a material property whereas in more ductile materials, such as Rockville granite, the size of process zone is size dependent.”

Ali earned his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering at University of Tehran in Iran. After deciding to come to the United States for his master’s, he discovered that New Mexico Tech offered a high quality program in rock mechanics.

He is now attending University of Minnesota where he has started his doctoral work in civil engineering with emphasis on Rock Mechanics.

“University of Minnesota has one of the top programs in the U.S. in rock mechanics,” he said. “And I bought a good down jacket for the cold winters.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech