Board of Visitors Approves Department Faculty Promotions

Two faculty members from the department of mining and minerals engineering were recently promoted by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors during its June 5 meeting. Dr. Kray Luxbacher has been promoted to Professor, and Dr. Emily Sarver has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. “Kray’s and Emily’s promotions are well-deserved and clearly earned,” said Erik Westman, Professor and Department Head. “Their outstanding efforts in teaching and scholarly research have provided amazing learning experiences for our students.”

Kray Luxbacher

Dr. Kray Luxbacher received her Ph.D. (2008), M.S. (2005), and B.S. (2002) in Mining Engineering from Virginia Tech. Prior to joining the department in 2008, she worked as an industrial engineer and underground production foreman for Consol Energy. She is a registered professional engineer in Virginia, and has held certification as an underground coal mine foreman.

Luxbacher currently serves as Associate Department Head and in that capacity oversees curriculum development, assessment and accreditation, the graduate program and numerous student-oriented activities. Her primary research interests are in underground mine ventilation, mine health and safety, and unconventional oil and gas reservoir engineering, with involvement in research projects totaling over $6 million. In a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-funded project, Luxbacher examines simulation of underground mine fires as well as novel fire fighting methods, along with colleagues from the Math Department and Jensen Hughes. Other projects, with more than $1 million from coal companies, examine real-time monitoring of underground atmospheres to create safer work environments.

Luxbacher currently advises 7 graduate students and has published over 50 papers. Her research sponsors include the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health, the Alpha Foundation for Improvement of Mine Safety and Health, members of the mining industry, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. She is an active member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and the Society of Mining Professors (Societät der Berbakunde). She was recognized by the VT College of Engineering in 2011 with the Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Assistant Professor, and is a recipient of SME’s J.W. Woomer Award for young engineers.

Emily Sarver

Dr. Emily Sarver has been a member of the mining and minerals engineering faculty since 2011. She holds a bachelor’s degree (2004) and master’s degree in mining engineering (2005) from Virginia Tech. In 2010 she earned her Ph.D. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech’s Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where she also currently serves as adjunct faculty. Her research interests are at the intersection of mining and the environment.

Sarver, who is one of only a handful of environmental specialists working within mining engineering programs across the U.S., has been involved in nearly $3.8 million in sponsored research, with her personal share exceeding $3 million. Her research and teaching have focused on characterization and monitoring of occupational and environmental contaminants, sustainable development of mineral and energy resources, extractive metallurgy, and corrosion. As a recognized expert on airborne particulates in mines, she is currently serving on National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee to study respirable dust monitoring in coal mines. The work of Sarver and her colleagues has spanned industry, government, and community interests. She has published 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings and has served as the major advisor for 14 graduate students. Sarver also serves as an academic and student organization advisor for undergraduates.

Among her many honors, the Burkhart Mining Society at Virginia Tech named Sarver the 2015 Teacher of the Year, and she was an invited speaker for the university's 2010 Fall Graduate Commencement Ceremony. In 2015, she was presented the Outstanding Researcher Award by the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science, and awarded one of the first two Freeport McMoRan Inc. Early Career Grants from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME). In 2016, she received the Outstanding Young Engineer Award from SME’s Mineral Processing Division, and was the 2017 recipient of the Research and Teaching Excellence Award from the Health and Safety Division. Also in 2017, Sarver was recognized with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award by the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. As a graduate researcher, she received a Charles E. Via Fellowship from 2007 until 2010, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship from 2004 until 2009. Sarver is a member of SME and the Society of Mining Professors and serves in a number of leadership and service roles for both. She recently led an effort to establish an international mentoring program for junior mining faculty. She is also a member of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.

Sarver grew up in Smithfield and Richmond, VA, and comes from a proud family of Hokies. Her father, Steve, earned a Nuclear Engineering degree from Virginia Tech in 1974; sister, Sarah, earned a Chemical Engineering degree in 2002; brother-in-law, Matt, earned an Electrical Engineering degree in 2001; and partner, Kerem, earned an MS (2004) and PhD (2009) in Mining Engineering. Her mother, Pat, is a graduate of Radford College, and a passionate Hokie sports fan.