Mining Feature: NIOSH Welcomes its New Associate Director for Mining

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dr. Jessica Elzea Kogel

Dr. Jessica Elzea Kogel

 On February 8, Dr. Jessica Elzea Kogel became the new Associate Director for Mining (ADM) in the Office of the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Dr. Kogel is “extremely honored to serve at the helm of one of the world’s leading organizations for mine worker health and safety research.” In her new position, Dr. Kogel intends to “build on NIOSH’s existing research legacy while growing the mining program towards a new future. That future holds new realities for a rapidly evolving industry that is now characterized by deeper and more remote mines, an increase in automation, a younger workforce, and more contractors, among other ongoing and emerging trends.”

Dr. Kogel’s overarching professional goal is to contribute to a sustainable future for the mining industry and its communities by driving positive change in operations management, health and safety practices, environmental stewardship, and mineral resource utilization. Her position as ADM gives her a unique opportunity to focus on mine worker health and safety. “What has motivated me for most of my career is a commitment to achieve a sustainable future for the mining industry, its workers, and its communities.”

On the impact of NIOSH’s mining program, Dr. Kogel says, “we must look beyond the statistics and think in terms of entire communities instead. Every individual has a connection to mining either directly or indirectly—through a friend or relative who works in the mining industry or in an industry that serves the mining sector. Or, that connection may be through a product or service that is derived from minerals. Once we cast the net this wide, mostly everyone is a part of the mining community, making it a vitally important industry. Making mines safer improves communities and people’s lives.”

As NIOSH’s Associate Director for Mining, Dr. Kogel’s top priorities are to invest in collaborative partnerships within NIOSH as well as with external stakeholders, well-equipped facilities, talented people, professional development and training for the current workforce, and unbiased outcomes-based research. To accomplish these initiatives, Dr. Kogel feels that NIOSH must “strategically align OMSHR’s research goals with stakeholder goals and produce innovative, science-driven research outcomes, always with the ultimate goal of saving miners’ lives.” She further states that, “My job is to be a leader as well as a facilitator and supporter. I have a deep interest in and strong track record of working with people to inspire them to achieve their highest potential and a strong drive to guide organizations to success.”

Another primary goal of Dr. Kogel’s is to obtain more access for researchers to operating mines, and to develop facilities that fully support the NIOSH Mining program research agenda. To that end, a top priority is to secure a replacement for the Lake Lynn Laboratory in Fairchance, PA, a mining research laboratory that was formerly operated by the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) and was for a time under the direction of NIOSH. Lake Lynn was designed to provide a modern, full-scale environment for the evaluation of mine safety and health technology.

Dr. Kogel will lead NIOSH’s Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR), which coordinates the work of two NIOSH divisions: the Pittsburgh Mining Research Division (PMRD) and the Spokane Mining Research Division (SMRD). OMSHR’s ultimate mission is to eliminate mining fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through research and prevention.

Dr. Kogel began her college career at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, then went on to the University of California at Berkeley where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Paleontology. She received a Master of Science degree in Geology from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geology also from Indiana University.

After obtaining her doctorate, Dr. Kogel began a 25-year career in the private sector where she held positions in research and development and mining operations management. From 1990 through 1993, Dr. Kogel was a senior research scientist and manager of the Industrial Mineral Group at McCrone Research Associates in Westmont, Illinois. From 1993 through 2004, she served in a number of positions at Thiele Kaolin Company in Sandersville, Georgia, culminating in her position as Principal Research Clay Mineralogist and Group Leader from 1998 through 2004.

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Dr. Kogel (far right) with two geologists and a mining engineer, discussing  a mine plan while she was employed by Imerys.

 Beginning in 2004, Dr. Kogel worked for Imerys S.A., a French multinational company, founded in 1880 and headquartered in Paris, France, which specializes in the production and processing of industrial materials. Imerys has operations in 50 countries at 250 industrial locations, and has more than 16,000 employees. Beginning in 2011, Dr. Kogel was the Senior Manager for Mining and Geology at Imerys.

Dr. Kogel’s love of geology started early in her life. She grew up on the banks of the White Clay Creek in eastern Pennsylvania near a small, but once larger and thriving, clay mining town, aptly named Kaolin. Located in Chester County, Kaolin was once home to one of the first underground kaolin mines in the United States. Clay was mined from the area during the late 19th and into the early 20th centuries. As a young child, Dr. Kogel delighted in digging clay and making objects out of clay. She says, “these hands-on experiences shaped my understanding of clay as a material and contributed to my growing interest in science.” At a young age, she was already fascinated with fossils, rocks, minerals, mud, and anything that had to do with the earth. 

As Dr. Kogel moved through high school and into college, her interests were focused on biology and natural science. While signing up for courses freshman year at Smith College, a friend suggested that she take a geology class. Following this suggestion took her down the path that would eventually lead her into the mining field. 


Dr. Kogel and her husband at the start of the Kumano Kudo Pilgrimage route in Japan.

Dr. Kogel has been actively involved in professional organizations, serving as President of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) in 2013 and President of the Clay Minerals Society (CMS) in 2003. She continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the SME Foundation. She is also Vice-Chairman of the Board of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. She is actively engaged in capacity building and sustainable development for the global mining industry through the World Federation of Engineering Organization's Task Force on Sustainable Mining, which she chairs. She served as a delegate to the United Nations in 2011, led workshops on stakeholder engagement, and lectured on sustainable development at national and international conferences. Dr. Kogel has also been generous in volunteering her time on the NORA Mining Sector Council. In addition, she has served on the editorial board of several international peer-reviewed journals, including Clays and Clay Minerals and Minerals & Metallurgical Processing Journal. She is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles in minerals research and holds four patents in the field of mineral processing. She was Senior Editor for the 7th Edition of Industrial Minerals & Rocks, the go-to technical reference book on industrial mineral geology, mineralogy, processing, and marketing.

 Married with three grown children, Dr. Kogel pursues several personal passions outside of the world of mining. She loves travelling, both personally and professionally, enjoying discovery of the larger world through immersive travel experiences that have taken her to all seven continents. She also enjoys kayaking, gardening, and yoga.  Another passion is her love of painting and drawing, a talent and interest passed down in her family. As many members of her family are professional artists, she jokingly claims that she “rebelled” by going into science. Still, Dr. Kogel enjoys artistic expression, saying, “Nature first attracted me to science, but I now paint and draw landscapes to express my love of nature.”

Page last reviewed: August 10, 2016
Page last updated: February 8, 2016