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He Rocks Around the World

As a teenager, Drew Lubiniecki travelled to Adelaide, Australia to visit family friends. There, he met his friend’s father, a geologist who’d travelled widely, including to the Middle East. He was impressed by the man’s experiences, but didn’t think much about it.  

More than a decade later, Lubiniecki, originally from Sturgis, Saskatchewan, is back in Adelaide completing his PhD in Structural Geology.

Before landing in Australia, Lubiniecki’s geological work took him around the world—from Peru to the Ukraine. He even spent a year as an exchange student studying lava flows in Hawaii. That’s his favourite part of the job: being out in the field and experiencing new places—often remote, rarely-visited places. 

It wasn’t until he started studying at the University of Regina as a freshman, though, that he seriously considered a future in Geology.

“I took a geology class and really liked it,” Lubiniecki said. “It all sort of started coming together.”

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Drew studying the rocks in northern Saskatchewan while on his work term with the Saskatchewan Geological Survey this summer.

He credits his experiences with the Saskatchewan Geological Survey (SGS)—his first job in geology— for his current opportunity in Australia. He spent the summer of 2012 working in Saskatchewan’s far north, near the Northwest Territories border, as a Geological Assistant with the SGS. He leveraged that initial work experience into another summer student position with AREVA Resources the following summer, and more recently, his contacts and experiences with the SGS allowed him to start a PhD at the University of Adelaide. 

The SGS and the Geological Survey of South Australia (GSSA) entered into a cooperation agreement about eight years ago, since both areas possess world-class uranium deposits. Mutually beneficial staff exchanges are part of the agreement. Two years ago, the GSSA approached SGS Chief Geologist Gary Delaney about sponsoring two Saskatchewan post-graduate students to work on PhDs in Structural Geology at the University of Adelaide.

Delaney thought Lubiniecki might be interested. He was right.

“I’ve always had a desire to travel—experience new places,” Lubiniecki said. “I had really loved Australia when I visited the first time. I’ve always been keen to go back there.”

For the Saskatchewan part of his research, Lubiniecki’s primary area of focus is sandstones in the Athabasca Basin, in the northern part of the province. There he’s studying the structural evolution of deformation bands, which are thin zones of planar structures related to the development of faults in the sandstones. Clusters of deformation bands can change the way uranium-bearing fluids move through the subsurface. By analyzing deformation band patterns, Lubiniecki is hoping to improve our understanding of uranium fluid pathways.

This summer, he conducted field work in the Athabasca Basin area, with the assistance of an SGS summer student. The pair spent three weeks at Fox Lake on the eastern side of the basin, and from there they headed to Dufferin Lake on the basin’s southwest side where the work was on an area that included one of Cameco’s exploration projects. Drew’s current position as a summer student with the SGS, as well as a Government of Saskatchewan grant, and technical and logistical support from Cameco have enabled him to return to Saskatchewan to conduct his research. 

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Drew boating to the next outcrop with mentor Bernadette Knox, Saskatchewan Geological Survey.

His advice for other SGS summer students—including brand-new ones—is to have fun and enjoy themselves.

“You get to see a place in the world that just a handful of people get to see. The experience you gain is going to be priceless.”

Lubiniecki left Saskatchewan in August to present some of his research at a conference in Quebec City before he flew back to Adelaide. He expects to finish his PhD at the end of 2018. After that, he’ll start a global job search; he’s open to jobs in both Canada and abroad, with either industry, academia or a geological survey.

But for right now he’s happy in Adelaide, enjoying the white-sand beaches and tasting the wine produced by the sprawling vineyards surrounding the city.

Check out his poem on Summer Student Show Us-Tell Us! Contest 2017