“There’s no other place in the U.S. that’s like this.”

Sept. 13, 2022

Dean Riley, research scientist on hyperspectral and multispectral imaging

Dean Riley profile image

A new research scientist has landed at the University of Arizona! Dean Riley is now here, whose research primarily focuses on hyperspectral and multispectral imaging and its relevance in mining, mineral resources, and geological sciences and engineering. Riley first wanted to be a chemical and nuclear engineer but switched to geology during his undergraduate years at Oregon State University. After his Bachelor’s he went to The Ohio State University to pursue a Master’s and PhD in Geological Sciences while concurrently being a member of the Army Reserve. After Graduate School, he went on to work for the Department of Defense as a contractor, and eventually worked in the private sector, too, as the Vice President of Technology for a Canadian start-up. He was also deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq during his time in the Army Reserve to work in civil affairs.

Riley retired from the Army Reserve after 29 years but has continued to work in the mining and geoscience fields. Mining and mineral resources “affect every part of society and provide resources for society to function. Mining and agriculture in my view are the only two industries that are at that base level,” says Riley.

Why the University of Arizona?

Riley came to the University of Arizona to focus on several research aspects. His goal is to create a consortium of mining companies, sensor companies and service companies all focused on how to apply application of hyperspectral instruments to an open pit or mining environment which will provide students the ability to engage with new research projects in the new School of Mining and Mineral Resources. Dean Riley will be working with Dr. Isabel Barton, Assistant Professor of Mining and Geological Engineering, Dr. Kamel Didan, Associate Professor of Biosystems Engineering, and Dr. David Brady, Professor of Optical Sciences in this research.

In Riley’s view, “There’s no other place in the U.S. that’s like this.” The University is the only tier 1 research institution that has a school in mining and mineral resources, geosciences, geological and mining engineering, optical sciences and engineering, and an underground lab in the form of the San Xavier Mine. 

Hyperspectral imaging for the use of mining engineering involves using data from aircraft and satellites, and other imaging technologies such as drones to scan geographical features to map mine sites and find potential mine sites. The imaging can also be used to evaluate conditions of a mine and find specific minerals.

Hyperspectral and multispectral imaging can be used in a variety of applications, including fields in climate, geosciences, mining and mineral resources, and agriculture. Riley has interests in using hyperspectral imaging to develop methods and algorithms for finding various rocks’ physical and mechanical properties.

“I really want students to be at the forefront of developing techniques and methods with guidance from faculty here and guidance from the industry about what projects are important. I want to pass on and educate students on how to effectively process and interpret hyperspectral data right correctly, regarding your area of interest… to generate knowledge to make decisions,” says Riley.

With the improvement of technology leading to an increase of accessibility to data Riley’s research at the University of Arizona is just beginning.