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Alumni: Nate Toll, Class of 1999

Current Employment
Hydrogeologist, Rio Tinto Corporation, Utah

Nate's Story

After leaving Tufts University in 1999 with a BS in geologic sciences I started work as an environmental geologist working on contaminated site characterization for department of defense facilities. Over 5 years in that role I focused more and more on hydrogeologic characterization. I earned my Masters in Hydrogeology in 2005 from the University of Georgia. Following graduation I took a position at Sandia National Laboratories as a senior hydrogeologist working on aquifer characterization for nuclear waste programs, mining, and domestic agriculture. I left Sandia in May 2008 to work at Rio Tinto, a large mining company. At Rio Tinto I am responsible for the Hydrogeology at the world’s largest open pit mine, Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah.

Hydrogeology is a field that tends to be multidiscipline. To complete my investigation and analysis I’ve done my own engineering and programming of subsurface equipment, managed field programs, undertaken research and development of new techniques, and networked with peers from all over the world and across disciplines. My work is to develop an understanding of the properties of groundwater flow and characteristics in geologic media. I use a suite of information including water level data, stratigraphy/geologic modeling, age dating, and aquifer test results to infer properties of an aquifer. I then take those properties and answer "what if" type questions using analytical or numerical models. Although my focus is in hydrogeology I also apply my knowledge and skills to other geologic problems such as seismic monitoring and analysis, geotechnical stability, geologic mapping, and time-series analysis. My career has offered enough variety to keep me interested.

One benefit of my career has always been the ability to spend time outside. I’ve never felt compelled to spend more time in a desk to succeed in my career. This has given me the opportunity to work in the pristine deserts of the Mojave, on the beach in Oahu, in the Jungles of the Northern Territory of Australia, and in the mountains of Utah. In short variety is what keeps me in this field. Outside of academia travel is almost always required in the Geosciences. This offers an incredible opportunity for the right individual to gain experience quickly and command a relatively high salary a few years out of school.

My best advice for someone considering a career in geologic sciences is to make sure you are passionate about the field firstly. Secondly branch out from geology and take engineering classes and several computer science classes. The relationship between the department of geology at Tufts and the engineering school presents a unique opportunity for a structured curriculum in the two departments.