Thomas J. O'Keefe Institute

for Sustainable Supply of Strategic Minerals


The O’Keefe Institute performs basic and applied research to develop technology, methodologies and tools that facilitate sustainable supply of strategic minerals for the United States. The Institute also does science-based policy work that informs government policy on strategic minerals. The Institute leverages state-of-the-art research facilities distributed across the Missouri S&T campus and faculty researchers from several academic departments.

The institute is named in honor of the late Dr. Thomas J. O’Keefe, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of materials science and engineering at Missouri S&T. An internationally known authority on electrodeposition of metals, O’Keefe earned a bachelor’s degree from S&T in 1958. After graduation, he joined Dow Chemical Co. as a process control metallurgist before returning to S&T as an instructor in 1964. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering in 1965 and served on the metallurgical engineering faculty and as a senior research investigator in the Graduate Center for Materials Research for over 40 years.

O’Keefe’s primary areas of research focused on chemical and extractive metallurgy and deposition of coatings. In the 1990s, he and chemistry Curators’ Distinguished Professor Dr. James O. Stoffer began pioneering research to replace toxic chromates used as a corrosion inhibitor on military aircraft. Their work resulted in the first environmentally friendly alternative to toxic, chrome-based anti-corrosions coatings. Their discoveries are patented and used extensively in the aerospace industry as a certified standard solution for aircraft coatings. The research also led to an R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine.

O’Keefe graduated over 60 Ph.D. students, published 170 articles, had 11 issued U.S. and foreign patents, and received numerous awards throughout his career. In 2008, the Dr. Thomas J. O’Keefe Lecture Series at Missouri S&T was created in his honor to bring accomplished metallurgists from industry to campus to share their expertise with students.

The Institute has five research thrust areas

  1. public policy development related to encouraging the recovery of critical materials from existing and new process streams
  2. development of new processes to recover critical minerals as byproducts from existing processes and new sources
  3. identifying new sources of critical minerals within the United States
  4. life cycle-based criticality assessment of existing and new processes for critical mineral recovery
  5. Sustainability assessment and environmental mitigation of potential hazards of existing and new processes

O'Keefe Institute Affiliated Faculty

Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei

Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei      

Director, O'Keefe Institute

Professor of Mining Engineering

  • Mining Engineering
  • Sustainability
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Energy efficiency

Dr. Michael Moats

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

  • Extractive metallurgy
  • Hydrometallurgy
  • Electorefining and electrowinning
  • By-product recovery

Dr. Alanna Krolikowski

Assistant Professor of History and Political Science

  • Political economy of global supply chains
  • International technology and innovation policy
  • U.S.-China trade relations
  • Diversity of regulatory and policy environments

Dr. Marek Locmelis

Assitant Professor of Geology and Geophysics

  • Conceptual exploration targeting
  • Strategic mineral resources
  • Transport and deposition of critical minerals
  • REE from clay minerals

Dr. Lana Alagha

Associate Professor of Mining Engineering

  • Rare earth extraction
  • Froth flotation
  • Mine waste management

Dr. Mark Fitch

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering

  • Mine impacted waters
  • Biochemical reactors
  • Metal remediation
  • Sustainability

Dr. Suzanna Long, PhD, CPEM, F.ASEM, F.IISE

Dean, College of Engineering, University of Idaho

  • Rare earth supply chain management
  • Social Life Cycle Assessment
  • Transportation-logistics of critical materials

Dr. Jonathan Obrist Farner

Assitant Professor of Geology and Geophysics

  • Sedimentology & Stratigraphy
  • Basin analysis
  • Petroleum geology
  • Paleolimnology

Dr. Mahelet Fikru

Associate Professor of Economics

  • Environmental and Resource Economics
  • Energy Economics
  • Industrial Organization
  • Microeconomics