Monday, 8 May 2017

A Rising Star: Kate Tungpalan

Dr. Kate Tungpalan has impressed us at two recent MEI Conferences. At Process Mineralogy '14 she represented the University of Queensland’s JKMRC as a post-graduate student, presenting a paper relating mineralogical and textural characteristics to flotation behaviour.
At this year's Process Mineralogy '17 she presented a paper on behalf of the University of the Philippines and was also awarded a prize for one of the best presentations.
With the JKMRC team at Process Mineralogy '14:  Elaine Wightman,
Tamsyn Parker, Kate Tungpalan, Riza Mariano and Vannie Resabal
Process Mineralogy '17: Kate and fellow prize-winner, Pierre-Henri Koch,
with Process Mineralogy book authors Megan Becker, Elaine Wightman and Cathy Evans

Kate relaxing with delegates at Process Mineralogy '17
Kate Tungpalan, who is currently an assistant professor in the department of mining, metallurgical and materials engineering at the University of the Philippines, was born on 8 June in 1984, the eldest of three children, in Cagayan, a province in the northern Philippines. Both her parents are agriculturists, but her mother became a teacher.
She was inspired to take up mineral processing as a career as she saw it as a challenge when she undertook plant practice at Philex Mines, Philippines. She says that the mining industry in the Philippines is dominated by men, and there were not many women pursuing mineral processing as a career, whether in operations, research or in academia.  She was initially inspired by the environmental and social implications of mineral processing (or mining in general). So on leaving school she studied Environmental Engineering at the University of the Philippines and in 2011 was awarded a Masters degree in Environmental Engineering for her research topic on dissolved air flotation for the removal of nickel particles in wastewater.
Kate then took up "a great postgraduate offer" from the JKMRC in Australia. Prof Emmy Manlapig and his colleagues from The University of Queensland were looking for students to study the ore from Tampakan (an undeveloped copper porphyry deposit in the Philippines, at that time owned by Xstrata Copper). They came to the University of the Philippines during the time when Kate was finishing her Masters. Dr. Herman Mendoza introduced her to them, which led to Xstrata Copper funded her PhD research, and the Australia Awards Scholarships funding her living allowance in Australia.
Kate, Ian Morley Prize winner, with Elaine Wightman and Cathy Evans
She carried out research under the supervision of Prof Emmy Manlapig, Dr Elaine Wightman and Dr Luke Keeney, investigating textural drivers for separation performance in a variable and complex ore, the subject of her presentation at Process Mineralogy ’14. She was awarded a PhD in 2016 and during her time at JKMRC was also awarded the Ian Morley Prize, which is awarded annually for the best all-round postgraduate student at the JKMRC.
Apart from her PhD research, Prof Manlapig also involved her in different projects, one of which was a project at the Sustainable Minerals Institute of The University of Queensland called Designer Tailings. Kate says that she felt very fortunate to be involved as “it gave me the opportunity to work with researchers in different fields and I learned a lot about time management. And of course, it’s not just about work, I was involved in extra-curricular activities in the university such as organising and participating in student conferences and social events. There is an organisation of Filipino students in UQ and we made it a point to get together once in a while.
Bush walking with Filipino friends
Kate at Ayers Rock
Kate travelled extensively within and outside Australia during her time at JKMRC and did not have a hard time adopting to the Australian life “because it’s so multicultural. My friends are of different nationalities and with different personalities. And that’s one of the things that I will always be grateful for, as doing my PhD at the JKMRC was not just about my degree but more importantly the friendships that I built with the people there.  I felt at home when I was in Brisbane!”

With fellow JKMRC students
Kate returned to the University of the Philippines last year and is now enjoying teaching and being with young people. She is also part of a research team that is helping the artisanal miners in the country, via a government-funded project that aims to establish an environment-friendly technology for them. Her aim for the near future is to develop the project such that most, if not all, artisanal miners in the Philippines will shift to this environmentally-friendly technology. She says “it’s not easy to convince them but I believe in my team!”
Kate and her team at the University of the Philippines
In the long term she hopes to inspire more students to appreciate mineral processing and to take up the challenge of pursuing a career in mineral processing. She also hopes to continue to travel and enjoy nature. She loves nature, climbing/hiking mountains and enjoying the beach, and she is also a keen photographer and badminton player. She dreams of visiting the “must-see” places in the world and climbing the most beautiful mountains in the world. She says that she feels ashamed that she has travelled more in Australia, during her PhD, than in her own country, where “I hear foreigners have been to more places in Philippines than me!” So now her goal is to travel around the Philippines and to discover its beauty. “Although it is tiring, it is my goal to visit a place at least once a month”.
Hiking Table Mountain, Cape Town, with Process Mineralogy '14 delegates
We expect to hear much more of Kate, her travels and her career in future.


  1. Well done, Kate; you make J.K.Alumni proud. Wish you newer heights in future.
    Bless you,

  2. Congratulations Kate! my best wishes
    Germán F.


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