February 19, 2023
Olin alum Claire Kincaid ’19 turned a passion for creating into an international career in mining.
As one of the relatively few women in the mining industry, Claire Kincaid ’19 has gotten familiar with using her smaller size to her advantage.
“I did a short stint as a testing engineer/mechanic, which involves rebuilding machines with new prototype parts for testing,” says Kincaid. “A lot of the time my small hands — wearing black and grey rubber-dipped safety gloves — were needed to get into tight spaces that the bigger guys couldn’t reach. That’s how I earned the shop nickname ‘racoon hands.’”
Kincaid started her path to the mining industry as a mechanical engineering major at Olin. Here, she turned a high school interest in jewelry making and other handcrafts into several artistic metal working projects in the Olin Shop. She also took many geology and geotechnical engineering courses, which helped her re-discover her passion for mining; as a child, she loved digging up gemstones in the Smoky Mountains and considered pursuing mining engineering for a time. To prepare for application to graduate school, she began a research project looking at diversity and inclusion in the mining industry.
“Diversity and inclusion in the mining industry is complex,” says Kincaid. “While many big tech fields are predominantly in White and/or Western cultures, mining is more international — the rock is there, and we have to go to it. In mining, two main things come to the forefront: How do you define or delineate racial and ethnic minorities on a global scale, and what are the developing power dynamics in an industry where expats have predominantly been the managers and locals the workers?”
Kincaid followed this line of inquiry into Colorado School of Mines (CSM), where she earned her MSc in Earth Resources Development Engineering. Here, she focused on mining engineering with an eye toward sustainability, conducting a hands-on project with Japanese equipment manufacturing company Komatsu along the way.
“Komatsu was toying with the idea of moving to fully electric or hybrid equipment, so I created a program in Excel that simulated the performance of underground LHD (load, haul, dump) machines running on these alternative energy sources,” says Kincaid. “The underground department is using it to design a minimum viable product.”
As graduation drew nearer, Kincaid knew she wanted to work abroad so she could stay on the cutting-edge of the mining industry. Leveraging a connection that she made at a graduate student seminar series she organized at CSM, Kincaid landed a job at Epiroc, a manufacturer of mining and infrastructure equipment headquartered in Sweden.
In her job as a global applications specialist in mine electrification and automation for Epiroc, Kincaid assists underground mines all over the world to increase safety, efficiency, and environmental friendliness of their design and operations. In optimizing clients’ operations for novel electric and autonomous mining equipment, she also brings a customer-focused mindset to new technology development in Epiroc’s underground division.
“I’m one of four consultants on the customer solutions team who help people understand how our equipment can be used,” says Kincaid. “Much of my work is translating things from mechanical engineering terms to mining engineering terms on issues like product development and customer needs.”
Kincaid says that her preparation at Olin has helped her succeed in her international career.
“I’m frequently told that my communication abilities set me apart from my colleagues,” says Kincaid, who is one of the only Olin graduates working in the mining industry. “People also value my flexibility and not being afraid to tackle new skills — Olin taught me that when you want to learn something new, the best way is to just dive right in.”
Kincaid lives in Örebro, Sweden, with her husband, Florian Kincaid ’19, a former Olin Study Away student who graduated from the University of Twente before acquiring his MSc in environmental engineering from University of Newcastle in the UK; he is now working as a systems engineer at european energy infrastructure group BDR Thermea.