Erik Westman has been named interim head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering in the College of Engineering.

Westman will lead the department of 10 faculty members and administrative and support personnel, which enrolls about 100 undergraduate and nearly 30 graduate students. The college will soon begin a search for a new permanent department head.

Westman has held a range of leadership positions. He previously served as department head from 2016-20 and before that was the interim associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Engineering. He has served as the faculty advisor for his department's senior design project that is submitted annually to the Carlson Software Senior Design Competition. Under Westman’s leadership, nine teams have garnered national championship first-place victories.

Westman replaces Kray Luxbacher, former C.T. Holland Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech. She was recently named head of the mining and geological engineering department at the University of Arizona, where she will also serve as the inaugural Gregory H. and Lisa S. Boyce Leadership Chair. 

Luxbacher was the first female head of the department in its long history. She has been a member of the mining faculty since 2008 and formerly served as director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, as well as associate department head.

In recent years, Westman has grown his interaction with the mining industry. He serves as Virginia Tech’s site director for the Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models (CASERM), which is part of the National Science Foundation’s Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers Program (IUCRC), with more than 20 corporate members and nearly $1 million in annual industry funding. 

Additionally, he leads the Built for the Mine academic-industry partnership that includes Caterpillar, Carter Machinery, Luck Stone, Vulcan Materials, and other companies. Both CASERM and Built for the Mine focus on using data analytics to optimize mine production and reduce environmental impact.

Westman has been an invited speaker to numerous symposiums and conferences, including as the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Henry Krumb Lecturer. In 2002, he won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to develop a practical method for predicting failures in rock masses. Westman worked for the U.S. Bureau of Mines from 1991 to 1996. Prior to becoming a faculty member at Virginia Tech in 1999, he spent five years in consulting engineering and five years in government research.

Westman earned a bachelor’s degree from the Colorado School of Mines, a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in mining and minerals engineering from Virginia Tech.