Professor Mary Louise Hill is an enthusiastic and passionate geologist who believes she can change the world through education – one student at a time. Her approach to teaching is straightforward — maintain high expectations for student learning and provide the necessary support to help students succeed. Her teaching dossier is filled with letters from grateful students who trace their success back to her example.
Hill studied geology at Carleton University in Ottawa and completed her PhD at Princeton University in New Jersey. She taught in the Department of Geology at Temple University, Philadelphia, from 1983 to 1999 before coming to Lakehead to serve as Vice-President (Academic) and Provost for five years under President Fred Gilbert.
Since joining the Department of Geology as a full-time professor in 2004, Hill has been building a research program of field-based geological investigations in Northwestern Ontario. Most of her research projects involve the analysis and interpretation of high-temperature ductile shear zones in Archean rock, including deformation of banded iron formation and implications for economic gold mineralization.
At Lakehead, Mary Louise Hill teaches one of the most popular science courses, a first-year Geology/Environmental Studies course called Planet Earth that attracts students of all ages and backgrounds. It is also videoconferenced to the Orillia campus. Her goal is to break down some of the barriers people have about studying science and to get students to think like scientists by asking “How do we know this is true?” and “How can we test that?”
In her third- and fourth-year classes for geology majors, Hill gets to know individual students “well enough to help them build on their strengths and develop other areas of competence.” She is particularly respected for the learning that goes on in her Field Schools and in her classes on Case Studies – where students learn how to make effective oral presentations, defend their ideas with evidence, and participate in scientific debate.
Dissemination of research results to other geologists is also a form of teaching, says Hill, and she gets enormous satisfaction in sharing the results of her research program at conferences and professional meetings. “My research at Musselwhite Mine led to a new geological and exploration model, with results that extended the life of the mine,” she says. “Ideas from my current research on shear-zone-hosted gold deposits are being tested through active exploration for gold in Northwestern Ontario, and I am often consulted and then thanked by geologists in the mining and exploration sector for helping them see old rocks in new ways.”
Professor Mary Louise Hill is the only female professor in a department that has six full-time faculty members – a statistic which she says is on par with most geology departments in Canada. She is a role model whether she likes it or not and, fortunately for Lakehead, she likes it. Indeed, she says she feels honoured to have had the opportunity to touch people’s lives.