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Jeffery Kohler

Professor of Mining Engineering

Undergraduate Program Chair of Mining Engineering

George H. Jr. and Anne B. Deike Endowed Chair in Mining Engineering

155 Hosler Building

814-865-9834

Biographical Sketch: 

Jeffery L. Kohler is Professor and Chair of Mining Engineering, and holder of the George H. Jr. and Anne B. Deike Endowed Chair in Mining Engineering in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State. Dr. Kohler earned the Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering-Science, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mining Engineering from Penn State. His career, which spans more than four decades, has included positions in industry, government, and academia.
 
Prior to joining Penn State in September 2014, he was CDC-NIOSH Associate Director for Mining, and the Director of the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In this position he was responsible for developing and managing a research portfolio with a $54 million annual budget, providing technical and policy guidance to Congress, national labor and industry organizations, and other federal agencies. His personal technical contributions at NIOSH led to the roadmap that defined international safety technology developments and applications after the Sago Mine Disaster of 2006 as well as advances in noise controls, refuge alternatives, and human systems integration in mining safety. He is widely credited with developing an internationally renowned research program that addressed the full spectrum of mining safety and health topics, and delivered useful and timely research products to the mining community.
 
Dr. Kohler was on the faculty at Penn State from 1983 to 1998, and was Associate Professor of Mining Engineering with a specialty in mine electrical systems including power, monitoring and control, and communications. During this period, he taught courses in mining methods, materials handling, ventilation, and electrical engineering. He developed new courses in mine power systems design and analysis, mine monitoring and control, and mine communications. His research focused on electrical safety, the application of artificial intelligence and expert systems to mining safety, and robotic applications for mining. Near the end of this time period he conducted sponsored research in noise control and ventilation.
 
Prior to returning to Penn State in 1981 to finish his doctoral research, he served as manager of Mine Systems at Ketron, Inc., where he performed consulting engineering studies for mining companies, and conducted contract research for the Bureau of Mines and Department of Energy. The consulting engineering work focused primarily on improving productivity in underground coal mines through industrial engineering-type studies, and also included some ventilation studies. Contract research projects included electrical safety, characterization of diesel equipment duty cycles, oil shale mining (in-situ retorting), study of outby haulage delays, and air velocity measurement techniques.
He held a variety part-time and trainee positions in industry between 1970 and 1974; and was a graduate research assistant from 1975-1976 and an Instructor from 1977-1978 at Penn State. During this period he gained experience in open pit copper, underground stone, and underground coal mining.
 
National and International Service 
 
Dr. Kohler is a Senior Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and a Distinguished Member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), and he has chaired or served on many of their committees. He is an MSHA certified instructor; and is a past member of the board of directors for the National Mine Rescue Association and the Pittsburgh Coal Mining Institute of America, and a past member of the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals.
 
He serves as a reviewer for several journals in mining and electrical engineering.
 
He has served as an invited reviewer of graduate degree programs in mining engineering at U.S. universities, and served briefly as an ABET reviewer. He serves on department and college committees at Penn State.
 
He has formed numerous national, and international partnerships related to mining safety and health, and has consulted to the governments of Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Germany, Spain, and Vietnam on mining safety topics. The following activities are of special note.
 
Governor’s Commission on the Quecreek Mine Inundation (2000): a tripartite commission charged with investigating the circumstances leading to the inundation and making recommendations regarding: technical measures to prevent inundations; improved access to historical mine maps, and site management during emergency operations.
 
International Commission on Coal Research (2000 – 2004): a multinational commission representing the major coal producing nations, constituted to coordinate research activities that addressed the full lifecycle of coal utilization and the consequences of coal combustion.
 
National Commission on Mine Safety, Technology, and Training (2006): a tripartite commission formed after the disasters at the Sago and Darby Mines, and charged with developing recommendations to prevent such disasters in the future, through changes to safety practices, the use of technology, and improved training.
 
Asia-Pacific Partnership on Coal Utilization (2006-2009): a commission of Pacific- Rim coal-producing nations to coordinate research and workshops to further sustainable mining and utilization processes.
 
U.S. – Government of Colombia High-Level Dialog Partnership (2010-2012): a panel of government executives from both countries, formed by U.S. State Department and Colombian Ministry of foreign Relations, to address a range of issues associated with energy – coal, oil, and gas production, electricity generation and distribution, social and environmental issues, and economic topics.
 
Secretary’s Independent Panel to Review MSHA’s Performance in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster (2010-2011): A panel of experts appointed by the Secretary of Labor to review MSHA’s activities as they related to the UBB disaster investigation, and to make recommendations to improve future performance.
 
Pan American Health Organization – Elimination of Silicosis in the Americas Initiative (2008-2013): Dr. Kohler served as a technical expert for PAHO in Colombia, but this initial assignment quickly developed into a five-year major collaboration between the U.S. and Colombia to improve mine safety and health. He formed a partnership among government (3 ministries, 1 standards institute), labor (2 unions), industry (1 trade association & 3 companies), and academia (3 universities); and through this partnership, a variety of outcomes were realized, including: train-the-trainer courses on mine safety, workshops on best practices, technical assistance on mine explosions, technology transfer, and review of proposed legislation. Dr. Kohler’s work was instrumental in the creation of a new mine safety agency at the national level in Colombia, and his technical and policy work enabled several technical and legislative improvements.

Research Interests: 
  • Mine safety and health
  • Development, application, and evaluation of technologies to improve mine safety, health, and productivity
  • Mine monitoring and control, and mine power systems
  • Quantitative policy analysis of mining regulations and practices

Dr. Kohler’s earliest research interests focused on electrical engineering applications in mining and mineral processing, and he still maintains an interest in power system topics, monitoring and control, and so on. Over the years, however, these interests have grown more generally to include the development, application, and assessment of technology to improve mining productivity, safety, and health.
 
Throughout his career, many of his research projects have focused on improving safety through design, improved practice, or the use of new technologies. Safety and health topics continue to be of high interest, and again the interest has broadened over the years to include intervention effectiveness, occupational health and safety management systems, and human systems integration.
 
Potentially the most significant gains will be achieved by working at multidisciplinary interfaces, and he maintains a strong interest in conducting research in these areas. A good example of this type of research is a National Research Council study on self-escape during mine emergencies, commissioned by Dr. Kohler, which effectively brought the engineering, social, and behavioral sciences to bear on this difficult problem. A free copy of the study report can be downloaded at the following link: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18300/improving-self-escape-from-underground-...
 
Finally, Dr. Kohler has an interest in the policy-science interface, and quantifying the positive, negative, and often unintended consequences of policy and legislative actions.

Active Research Projects: 
  1. Development of Guidance for the Selection and Use of Atmospheric Monitoring Systems to Improve Decision-Making During Routine and Post-Accident Operations
  2. Sampling Strategies for Silica Exposures in Surface Mines – Efficacy for Compliance and Assignment of Engineering Interventions
  3. Determination of Critical Parameters and Performance Characterization of Proximity Warning Systems in Underground Mining
  4. A model for sustainable mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Selected Publications: 
  1. Kohler, J.L. Looking ahead to significant improvements in mining safety and health through innovative research and effective diffusion into the industry. International Journal of Mining Science and Technology, v 25, pp. 325-332. (2015).
  2. Moore, SM, Kohler, J.L., and G.R. Wagner. Chapter 14 - Safety and Health in Mining in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health in Mining. Edited by Elgstrand/Vingard. University of Gothenburg, pp 137-149. (2013).
  3. Novak T, Snyder D, Kohler J. Post-accident mine communications and tracking systems. IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, March/April 2010, Volume 46, Number 2, pp. 712-719. (2010)
  4. Kohler JL. Integrating technology to improve mine safety in the wake of recent mine disasters. West Virginia Law Review. Issue One of Volume 111, Fall 2008, pp. 149-168.
  5. Kohler J.L. Chapter 13 - Mining. Textbook of Clinical Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2ed. Edited by Rosenstock/Cullen. Elsevier, pp. 201-214. (2004)