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Changing climate could have devastating impact on forest carbon storage

UNM Research News -

New research from a multi-university team of biologists shows what could be a startling drop in the amount of carbon stored in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to projected climate change and wildfire events.

The study, Potential decline in carbon carrying capacity under projected climate-wildfire interactions in the Sierra Nevada, published this week in Scientific Reports, shows another facet of the impact current man-made carbon emissions will have on our world if big changes aren’t made.

“What we’ve been trying to do is really understand how changing climate, increases in temperatures and decreases in precipitation, will alter carbon uptake in forests,” said University of New Mexico Assistant Professor Matthew Hurteau, a co-author on the paper. “The other aspect of this work is looking at disturbance events like large scale wildfires. Those events volatilize a lot of carbon and can kill many trees, leaving fewer trees to continue to take up the carbon.”

Matthew Hurteau collecting data from a fire scar in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

According to Hurteau, who worked on this study with colleagues from Penn State and the University of California-Merced, roughly half of all human-emitted carbon is absorbed by vegetation and the ocean, and is stored through natural processes – something that helps limit our actual carbon impact on the atmosphere. The problem is, as forests begin to change, due to global warming and large scale fires, the amount of forest carbon uptake will decrease, accelerating the amount of man-made carbon making its way into the atmosphere.  

“Our simulations in the Sierra Nevada show that the mean amount of carbon loss from the forests under these projections could be as large as 663 teragrams,” said Hurteau. “That’s equal to about 73 percent of the total above ground carbon stock estimated in California vegetation in 2010.”

Hurteau and his colleagues used climate projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and run ecosystem model simulations, where they look at individual tree species in the Sierra Nevada to understand how projected climate and wildfire will influence where those trees will be found in the future and how quickly they’ll grow. Using that data, researchers are then able to determine the expected carbon uptake – which, if things continue moving in the same direction, will see huge declines across the Sierra Nevada mountain range over the next 250 years.

The two factors that influence these findings are changes in climate and the likelihood of large scale forest fires. Because California is experiencing warmer and dryer conditions due to global warming, certain tree species are not able to flourish across particular geographic regions like they once were. Less tree growth, means less carbon uptake in forests.

The study also shows that wildfires will play a big role in the reduction of stored carbon. And while many of these incidents will occur naturally, Hurteau says we are, in part, to blame for their significance.

“We’ve been putting out fires for a hundred years, causing tree density to go way up. In the absence of fire that system has a lot more carbon stored in it,” explained Hurteau. “But, when you have these large fire events the amount of carbon stored in the system drops because it kills many of the trees. Whereas, in a forest that’s been maintained by regular forest fires, which is the natural ecological state, your total carbon at any given point in time can be lower but it stays more consistent.”

Hurteau says researchers have identified strategies for reducing some of the fire risk by actively thinning forests to manage tree density and restoring surface fires. It’s an idea that seems counterproductive until you consider how volatile these ecosystems are due to the risk of large scale fires that end up destroying hundreds of thousands of acres. 

“Part of my responsibility as a publically funded researcher is to identify issues that these systems face, draw attention to them and then figure out what the impacts of those issues are,” he said. “Directly from that work, we also want to try and identify solutions to these issues.”

Hurteau says he hopes this work will help policy makers in California gain a better understanding of what needs to be done to maintain these forested ecosystems. He says it’s not only for the benefit of nature but for all of us, since healthy ecosystems lead to cleaner, better regulated water flow to communities across the western United States.

]]>Front PageCollege of Arts & SciencesBiologyLatest NewsResearchThu, 25 May 2017 09:00:09 GMTNew research from a multi-university team of biologists shows what could be a startling drop in the amount of carbon stored in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to projected climate change and wildfire events. The study, “Potential decline in carbon...Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/changing-climate-could-have-devastating-impact-on-forest-carbon-storageThu, 25 May 2017 09:00:00 GMT

Becerra receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award

UNM Research News -

University of New Mexico Assistant Professor Elohim Becerra received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for his proposal "Quantum Measurements for Optical Communications."

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the community. The NSF CAREER program is geared toward helping early-career faculty get strong starts on their academic careers.

Becerra is an assistant professor with UNM's Department of Physics & Astronomy. His research interests are in optics and experimental research in quantum optics, nonlinear optics and quantum information. Becerra is a faculty member in the new Quantum Optics track for the UNM Optical Science and Engineering program and leader of the Quantum Optics Research Group.

He is an experimental physicist with the Center for Quantum Information and Control (CQulC), funded by the NSF and co-located at UNM and the University of Arizona in Tucson. The quantum properties of physical systems have a large potential for enabling technologies with unprecedented capabilities. The Quantum Optics group's interests include the study of measurements with sensitivities beyond conventional limits of detection, and the study of quantum-state superpositions from the interaction of light and matter for quantum information and communication protocols.

The group studies the technologies that can be enabled by these quantum systems and seeks to understand the limits of such quantum technologies. Applications of these studies include quantum and coherent communications, metrology, and quantum information processing.

Becerra has been the Principal Investigator (PI) and Co-PI for a number of published papers.

]]>Front PageCollege of Arts & SciencesPhysics & AstronomyLatest NewsResearchTue, 23 May 2017 12:00:14 GMTElohim Becerra received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for his proposal "Quantum Measurements for Optical Communications."http://news.unm.edu/news/becerra-receives-national-science-foundation-career-awardMon, 22 May 2017 21:54:00 GMT

Warming news from Russia

UNM Research News -

A new paper by UNLV Geoscience graduate student Jon Baker has hot implications for the climate future of Russia.

Baker, working with UNLV Geoscience Professor Matthew Lachniet and colleagues Yemane Asmerom and Victor Polyak at The University of New Mexico, and Russian colleagues, have produced an 11,000 year-long climate record from the Ural Mountains of Russia that shows nearly continuous warming from the end of the last Ice Age to the present.

The paper was published in the May 22, 2017 issue of Nature Geoscience, the top journal dedicated to the Geosciences.

The finding of continual warming over the past 11,000 years contradicts the current paradigm that northern hemisphere temperature peaked 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and cooled until the pre-Industrial period, and shows instead that winter temperature variations in continental Eurasia are warmer today than any time in the past 11,000 years.

The new finding, based on precisely dated isotope temperature record, supports computer models for Eurasia that predicted continual warming.

“The contradiction in temperatures trends between this new finding and previous work is likely due to the fact that previous studies neglected to include records that were most sensitive to winter temperature variations, and focused too heavily on summer temperatures for this region,” said Baker.

Baker, who is expected to defend his PhD dissertation at UNLV in the summer of 2017, showed that disappearing ice in the Arctic regions of North America controlled the warming trend as the Ice Age glaciers disappeared. Later, rising greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, were likely responsible for the continued warming in the Ural Mountains.

“The cave climate record has important implications for future climate," said Lachniet. "Because greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing at rates unprecedented for the past 800,000 years, human-caused warming will be superimposed on the ‘natural’ trend."

Baker added “This will mean even more rapidly warming winters for continental Eurasia, than has been documented by the new record, leading to the loss of winter-time snow cover, with potential climate impact throughout the northern hemisphere”.

The climate history was based on a cave stalagmite deposit from Kinderlinskaya Cave, collected while Baker was a Fulbright Fellowship recipient to Russia from the International Education Institute.  The research was also supported by the Ralph Stone Fellowship of the National Speleological Society in 2013.

“This new contribution, involving US scientists at UNLV and UNM and colleagues from Russia, demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary international collaborative work,” said Asmerom.

The data were obtained using state-of-the art geochemical techniques at the Las Vegas Isotope Science Laboratory at UNLV and the Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory at the University of New Mexico. Both facilities were supported by infrastructure grants from the National Science Foundation. 

]]>Front PageEarth & Planetary SciencesResearchMon, 22 May 2017 20:47:14 GMTA new paper by UNLV Geoscience graduate student Jon Baker has hot implications for the climate future of Russia. Baker, working with UNLV Geoscience Professor Matthew Lachniet and colleagues Yemane Asmerom and Victor Polyak at The University of New...http://news.unm.edu/news/warming-news-from-russiaMon, 22 May 2017 20:24:00 GMT

National Academies' Presidents Comment on Proposal for New Questions for Visa Applicants

National Research News -

In a letter to the U.S. Department of State, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Medicine expressed concern that a proposal to add supplemental questions for visa applicants, published in the Federal Register on May 4, "will have significant negative unintended consequences on the nation's international leadership in research, innovation, and education." The presidents warned that the proposal could discourage leading researchers from coming to the U.S. and could lead science, engineering, and medical societies to hold meetings elsewhere. International collaborations in science, engineering, and medicine have increased dramatically in the last two decades and are critical to the U.S. research enterprise, the presidents wrote. They also emphasized the important contributions of foreign students studying and working in laboratories here, who they fear may no longer see the United States as "a welcoming country." Approximately 25 percent of the members of NAS, NAE, and NAM who are U.S. citizens were born outside the country, the letter notes.

Actions Needed to Strengthen U.S. Skilled Technical Workforce

National Research News -

Policymakers, employers, and educational institutions should take steps to strengthen the nation's skilled technical workforce, says a new report. Action is needed to support students in completing education and training programs and workers in upgrading their skills throughout their lives. Evidence suggests that as a nation, the United States is not adequately developing and sustaining a workforce with the skills needed to compete in the 21st century. Read More

Using genomics to fight deadly parasitic disease

UNM Research News -

An international team of researchers, led by University of New Mexico Associate Professor Coenraad Adema, is now one step closer to eliminating a deadly parasitic disease responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year.

The research article, ‘Whole genome analysis of a schistosomiasis-transmitting freshwater snail’, published in Nature Communications this week, gives the scientific community an in-depth look of the sequenced genome of Biomphalaria glabrata, a tropical Ram’s Horn snail.

“Sequencing and characterizing the genome of this snail has given us a lot of information into its biology,” said Adema, who is also part of UNM’s Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology (CETI) that has played a pivotal role in this project. “It has informed us on animal evolution and supports the drive to minimize the impact of infectious disease on global health.”

This snail, which lives only in tropical climates, plays a significant role in the lifecycle of a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever or bilharzia. The parasite infects the snail early on its life, essentially taking over the snail’s body, impacting its reproductive and metabolic processes. Once fully developed, the parasite leaves the snail, later infecting a human host through contact in water.

“After malaria, this is the worst parasitic disease on the planet. So, being able to do work that may help improve global human health outcomes it is a very important motivation for my research.” –Dr. Coen Adema, Dept. of Biology

According to Adema, if researchers can better understand how the snail/parasite interaction works, they may be able to stop it altogether, cutting the snail out of the parasite’s lifecycle. And, because the snail is a critical part of the organism’s development; without it, the parasite cannot fully mature and infect humans.

Understanding the animal’s genetic makeup is a critical component in being able to understand these interactions – something that is now possible thanks to this international team of researchers and support from the National Human Genome Research Institute of NIH for the sequencing effort.

“Understanding the snail’s genome gives us many avenues to cut the snail out of this parasite’s lifecycle,” Adema said. “Which one day may lead to the elimination of this disease."

Schistosomiasis is a chronic parasitic disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 66 million people were reported to have been treated for the disease in 2015, with another 218 million people requiring preventative treatment. On top of that, nearly a quarter of a million people die from snail fever every year, just in sub-Saharan Africa.

The disease is also extremely easy to contract, which is part of the reason why it impacts so many people. Once the parasite leaves its host snail, it’s able live in a body of water before breaking through skin to infect a human body. In Africa for example, simply putting your hand in the Nile River can lead to infection. The WHO hopes to eliminate snail fever by 2025 – a goal that is made increasingly more likely because of this investigation led by UNM.

“After malaria, this is the worst parasitic disease on the planet,” said Adema. “So, being able to do work that may help improve global human health outcomes it is a very important motivation for my research.”

More than 100 researchers from 50 institutions around the world are a part of this study and latest publication – a testament to how significant and wide-reaching this disease and its overall impact is. The international expertise in parasitology and invertebrate biology at UNM is underscored by important contributions of nearly a dozen different faculty, graduate students and research scientists from the Biology Department that are also part of this effort.

Adema says several of his international colleagues are already exploring new, different ways to use the snail’s genome to fight the disease. And while the parasite and corresponding illness are the main target of this research, there is also much more to learn from the genome.

“This is an important contribution to better understanding infectious disease,” he said. “It also gives us information on regulation of gene expression, comparative immunology, embryology, general biology of snails, animal evolution and many other thin

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsBiologyResearchTue, 16 May 2017 13:00:11 GMTAn international team of researchers, led by University of New Mexico Associate Professor Coenraad Adema, is now one step closer to eliminating a deadly parasitic disease responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year.Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/using-genomics-to-fight-deadly-parasitic-diseaseTue, 16 May 2017 13:00:00 GMT

UNM students ‘teaching rockets to fly’

UNM Research News -

A group of mechanical engineering students at the University of New Mexico are working to build and launch the world’s largest amateur rocket as part of a first-of-its-kind senior design project.

The 400-level, two-semester course is called Rocket Engineering and is taught by Fernando (Doc) Aguilar, a part-time faculty member in UNM’s Mechanical Engineering department.

“In our first semester, Professor Aguilar gave us an introduction on rockets, their structures, propulsion systems and things like that,” said UNM senior Sean Cooper. “Now, it’s really the students working together to actually build the rocket.”

Students wrapping the rocket's midsections with dacron fabric.

Unofficially renamed the ‘Lobo Launch’ by students, the class is designed as a way for mechanical engineering majors to get hands-on experience in an aerospace project while finishing up their degrees.

“Lobo Launch currently makes rockets,” said Avery Lopez, a UNM senior and the project leader for Lobo Launch. “In the future, we hope to incorporate satellites as well as other forms of aerospace projects but right now we’re just concentrating on the rocket.”

24 students, primarily undergrads, are separated into four different areas (Structures, Launch Rail/Pad, Systems & Propulsion) and are responsible for nearly every aspect of the rocket build. The finished product will stand roughly 47 feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and be capable of traveling upwards of 200 mph. Student organizers estimate the rocket, which is being built using a semi-monocoque design and features a solid-rocket-fuel Cesaroni O8000 motor, will soar somewhere in the range 3000 feet into the sky, releasing a UNM-developed cube satellite before safely returning to earth.

It’s an effort that has many of the student engineers both excited and also a little nervous.

“It’s really cool because rockets were kind of dream of mine growing up,” said Systems Team Leader Ryan Sims. “But, it can also be pretty stressful at times since we’re the first class to do this at UNM.”

Sims says while the Mechanical Engineering department has offered a variety of aerospace coursework at UNM over the years, this class is the first to give students this level of hands-on experience. Students say they’ve gotten a lot out of this program and hope it will continue for many years, even growing to the size of UNM’s Formula SAE team.

For 20 years, FSAE, also called Lobo Motorsports, has given students the chance to build a Formula One style racecar over the course of four-semesters. And while the Lobo Launch students enjoy seeing the progress of that build, it’s not an area of mechanical engineering they’re necessarily interested in studying.

“Mechanical engineering is one of those fields that’s very versatile, and anything you do with it will be pretty awesome,” said Propulsion Team member Stephanie Rocha. “So, it’s great that UNM now offers this aerospace class along with everything else.”

Lopez believes the course will not only benefit UNM students but also Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole. She says with companies like Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin in town, providing students with this aerospace experience will make them more marketable to these companies once they graduate, helping keep local grads in the state.

“We have such a big professional aerospace community here in Albuquerque that it makes sense for UNM to have an emphasis on it as well,” said Lopez.

Lobo Launch is being funded through a generous donation from a Mechanical Engineering alumnus, Roger Koerner. The students are also receiving support from the Air Force Research Lab and Quelab. So, while they get plenty of engineering experience building the rocket, they also learn valuable project management and networking skills.

The rocket launch is scheduled to take place on May 27 at 8 a.m. at the Albuquerque Rocket Society launch site, 45th Ave NW, Rio Rancho, NM 87144. Anyone interested in watching the launch is welcome to attend.

Right now, the Fall 2017 Rocket Engineering course is open for registration for eligible students under ME 461-001, CRN 57459. 

]]>Latest NewsSchool of EngineeringMechanical EngineeringResearchMon, 15 May 2017 22:17:47 GMTA group of mechanical engineering students at the University of New Mexico are working to build and launch the world’s largest amateur rocket as part of a first-of-its-kind senior design project. The 400-level, two-semester course is called Rocket...Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-students-teaching-rockets-to-flyMon, 15 May 2017 22:00:00 GMT

New Report Recommends Priority Actions to Achieve Global Health Security, Protect U.S. Position as Global Health Leader, and Safeguard Billions of Dollars in Health Investments

National Research News -

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies global health priorities in light of current and emerging health challenges and makes recommendations to address these challenges, while maintaining U.S. status as a world leader in global health. Prioritization of resources for each issue or disease is necessary, and it is also essential to embrace a systems-focused approach to capacity building and partnership to achieve results more comprehensively. The committee that wrote the report identified four priority areas encompassing 14 recommendations for global health action: achieve global health security, maintain a sustained response to the continuous threats of communicable diseases, save and improve the lives of women and children, and promote cardiovascular health and prevent cancer. Read More

UNM touted among top in the nation for technology transfer

UNM Research News -

The University of New Mexico (UNM) is among the best in the nation for technology transfer, according to The Milken Institute.

The Institute’s Center for Jobs and Human Capital issued its April 2017 report, “Concept to Commercialization: The Best Universities for Technology Transfer”. In it, 225 U.S. universities and research institutions are ranked according to their technology transfer and commercialization success and best practices. UNM is listed as 28 —up from its position as 93 in the Institute’s original 2005 report.

The University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index (Index) is based on data collected by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) via the AUTM’s Annual Licensing Activity Survey. Four-year averages (2012-15) for four key indicators of technology transfer success are included in the Index: patents issued, licenses issued, licensing income, and start-ups formed. The factors are normalized based on a four-year average of research dollars received by each university.

UNM is New Mexico’s largest post-secondary institution in total enrollment across all campuses, and one of the state's largest employers. The Milken Institute report notes:

“Research universities are one of the strongest assets America can use to compete in the age of innovation. Federal and other sources of public funding for university research should be viewed as an investment with a high rate of return. Research funding should be a top priority for enhancing American economic growth.”

In its exploration of best practices among the top performers, the report states “The dissemination of university-developed intellectual property (IP) occurs through a variety of complex channels. Most major U.S. research universities support a Technology Transfer Office (TTO) that actively seeks, registers, and patents IP, and manages the commercialization of their discoveries.”

As the technology transfer and economic development organization for UNM, STC.UNM protects and commercializes technologies developed at UNM by filing patents and copyrights and transferring the technologies to the marketplace. 

UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) plays a vital role in UNM's research innovation. So far, 193 U.S. Patents have been awarded to CHTM faculty. CHTM patents account for approximately 35% of STC.UNM’s entire portfolio of U.S. patents (including patents awarded to the UNM Health Sciences Center). 38% of CHTM faculty patents have been licensed for commercialization.

About the Milken Institute

The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank determined to increase global prosperity by advancing collaborative solutions that widen access to capital, create jobs and improve health; through independent, data-driven research, action-oriented meetings and meaningful policy initiatives.

]]>Latest NewsSTC.UNMCHTMResearchFri, 12 May 2017 21:45:10 GMTThe University of New Mexico (UNM) is among the best in the nation for technology transfer, according to The Milken Institute. http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-touted-among-top-in-the-nation-for-technology-transferThu, 11 May 2017 23:44:00 GMT

Gulf Research Program Awards $3.2 Million in Capacity-Building Grants to Benefit Coastal Communities

National Research News -

The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced today the recipients of 12 capacity-building grants, totaling almost $3.2 million. These competitive grants support community organizations as they conduct science-based projects designed to benefit their coastal communities from the Gulf of Mexico to Maine to Alaska.

Senior student projects on display during Engineering Expo III

UNM Research News -

The University of New Mexico School of Engineering is hosting its third annual senior design expo on May 12, featuring projects from more than 200 students from all departments in the school.

Engineering Expo III will be held from 2-5 p.m. on the first floor of Centennial Engineering Center. Free food will be served, and free parking is available for participants in the P lot on the northwest corner of Central and University.

Students, parents, faculty, staff, prospective students and corporate sponsors are invited to attend.

Jamie Gomez, a lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is organizing the event. Although all students in the school are requested to complete a capstone project their senior year, she sees this event as more than a requirement.

“We are very pleased to be holding Engineering Expo for the third year in a row,” she said. “The event offers benefits for both students and participants. Students can strengthen their skills in presentation, networking, and in explaining their research to different types of people, including potential employers. The Expo also provides employers a perfect opportunity to meet graduating students who may be a match for positions in their companies.”

This year, in addition to the students’ displays and demos, Engineering Expo III will feature a poster session and an elevator pitch. A brief awards ceremony will be held at the end of the event.

Jaynes Corp., an Albuquerque-based contractor, will be a sponsor for the event. Those interested in becoming a sponsor or donating to the event can contact Kara Clem, senior director of development for the School of Engineering, at kara.clem@unmfund.org or (505) 277-2051. 

]]>Latest NewsSchool of EngineeringResearchThu, 11 May 2017 14:04:47 GMTThe University of New Mexico School of Engineering is hosting its third annual senior design expo on May 12, featuring projects from more than 200 students from all departments in the school.Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/senior-student-projects-on-display-during-engineering-expo-iiiWed, 10 May 2017 20:56:00 GMT

New Report Examines How Assistive Technologies Can Enhance Work Participation for People With Disabilities

National Research News -

Assistive products and technologies -- such as wheelchairs, upper-limb prostheses, and hearing and speech devices -- hold promise for partially or fully mitigating the effects of impairments and enabling people with disabilities to work, but in some cases environmental and personal factors create additional barriers to employment, says a new report from the National Academies. Read More

2014 Nobel Laureate to speak Thursday at UNM

UNM Research News -

The University of New Mexico Department of Physics & Astronomy is hosting a free public lecture featuring Nobel Prize winner W.E. Moerner on Thursday, May 11 at 3:30 p.m.

W.E. Moerner, 2014 Nobel Laureate

Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford University, was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work developing super-resolution fluorescent microscopy techniques. Moerner’s work is credited with giving scientists the ability to visualize single molecules and see individual cells in a living organism – both huge advancements in science.

The lecture, titled ‘What Can You Learn from Watching Single Molecules? From Super-Resolution Imaging to Nanoscale Probes of 3D Dynamics in Cells’, will cover a wide-range of topics and explore some of the newest developments in super-resolution microscopy, presented by one of the most distinguished researchers in the field.

Summary from the department:
“It has now been more than 28 years since the first optical detection and spectroscopy of a single molecule in an industrial research lab. The progress beyond the early low-temperature, high resolution spectroscopy to the present has been astounding. By measuring the light emitted from individual molecules, one at a time without ensemble averaging, we can ask: Are they all the same, or do they march to different drummers? Combining imaging of single molecules with a method to control whether most of them are off or on, it is now possible to circumvent the fundamental diffraction limit of light to achieve "super-resolution imaging". Before this advance, optical images were always fuzzy on spatial scales less than 200 nm. Now, super-resolution techniques open up a new frontier in which biological structures and behavior can be observed in fixed and live cells with resolutions down to 20-40 nm and below. Examples range from protein superstructures in bacteria to details of the shapes of amyloid fibrils and much more. Current methods development research addresses ways to extract more information from each single molecule such as 3D position and orientation, and ways to ensure that the acquired data are both accurate and precise. It is worth noting that in spite of the current excitement about super-resolution, even in the "conventional" low concentration, single-molecule tracking regime where we simply watch the motions of individual biomolecules, much can still be learned about biological and materials dynamics.”

The lecture takes place on Thursday, May 11 at 3:30 p.m. in Regener Hall, Room 103. It is free and open to the public.  

]]>ResearchCollege of Arts & SciencesPhysics & AstronomyLatest NewsMon, 08 May 2017 19:41:26 GMTThe University of New Mexico Department of Physics & Astronomy is hosting a free public lecture featuring Nobel Prize winner W.E. Moerner on Thursday, May 11 at 3:30 p.m.http://news.unm.edu/news/2014-nobel-laureate-to-speak-thursday-at-unmMon, 08 May 2017 18:21:00 GMT

Engineering research focuses on bringing efficiency to network processes

UNM Research News -

It is human nature to seek to spend the least amount of energy, time and cost on any given task to achieve a desirable result, whether that is working out at the gym, finding the best path to travel to work or buying cereal at the grocery.

Now University of New Mexico researchers have discovered through complex numerical modeling a method that could lead to ways to more efficiently perform a variety of tasks and processes, from drug delivery to advertising.

Francesco Sorrentino, UNM assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is the author of an article that recently published in Nature Communications called “Energy Scaling of Targeted Optimal Control of Complex Networks.” Co-authors on the paper are Isaac S. Klickstein and Afroza Shirin, both graduate students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The research group examined the problem of reducing the energy consumption when trying to control a large distributed system, such as the power grid, the food web or the Internet. 

“It’s a very general type of problem,” Klickstein said. “We’re looking at how to reduce the energy or effort required to reach a certain goal. For instance, how much money do you need to put into a certain advertising campaign? Or if you’re an environmentalist, how much government regulation do you need to implement in order to increase animal populations. Our focus is to reduce the amount of effort or energy required.”

Klickstein said one of the most useful findings from the research, which spanned about two years, was that the effort can be reduced dramatically by simply focusing the goal of the control action toward only the elements that you care about most rather than the more traditional outlook of monitoring all elements.

“By keeping track of everything, the energy you must expend increases exponentially,” he said. “Instead, we say focus your action on only a few parts, say the population of one animal species or the power generation for one neighborhood. And what we’ve found with our research is that what you do for that small part will affect everybody else without having to focus on the whole population, so the level of impact can be determined and then used to make the decision whether that is an acceptable change.”

The concept is similar to using a sample size in a survey: If the goal is to survey those making $50,000 a year, the most efficient way is not to survey everyone, then go through all the data and just pick up the subset you’re interested in, but to focus your efforts initially on the group you’re interested in, Klickstein said.

He said the issue of applying a control action to influence a system has been a popular research topic, with most of the effort being put toward spreading a control action over more of the network (such as every single house that feeds into a power grid), but costs can be prohibitive with that kind of focus.

“We chose to keep the amount of locations of our control actions small and instead reduce the number of elements in the network we care about,” Klickstein said. “And lo and behold, we ended up seeing that we get essentially the same type of behavior by removing control action goals as previous papers got by increasing the number of control action locations.

This is significant because it proves that you can approach a problem in two different ways and get similar results, but ours is a cheaper solution,” said Klickstein. “You get all the benefits of having a few control locations (such as reduced cost and effort) but you get the benefit of accomplishing whatever task you want to.”

Sorrentino said that another significant finding of the research is that it now becomes possible to control systems that may not have been possible with past methods.

“If you request an action that is too large, you might not be able to do it at all, such as injecting too much energy into the power grid. Plus it is often cost-prohibitive,” he said. “By restricting the number of elements we care about and finding that the energy is reduced exponentially, we can make controlling this system visible whereas it would be invisible otherwise.”

Shirin said the next step in the research is to apply the theories to real-world systems, such as looking at biological systems as applied to the food web.

“There are a lot of species of some animals, but some of these species are going to waste while others are going extinct, so our goal could be to save a particular species,” she said. “This research will allow us to control just the portion we want to study, not the whole population.”

Klickstein said that with the continued advances in technology, making systems more and more interconnected, their research findings will become more relevant.

“The work we have done is very theoretical, but I do see there can be applications,” he said. “From self-driven cars to cloud storage to the smart grid, everything is becoming more distributed. These are systems that will need to perform complex operations, and it can’t take a lot of time. It can’t require a lot of effort. This type of directed control action I believe will help drive more efficient algorithms in the future.”

The group has recently started working with a group in biology that is working on drug development. Klickstein said that the hope is that their findings could give those who develop drugs information about what is needed for drugs that can be more efficient and targeted.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to say, ‘Here are a few theoretical drugs. If you can develop these, we can promise you these are the best drugs,’ ” he said.

Although this research is all in the programming realm, another research group at UNM will be building a small play network using Arduino microcontrollers that will be able to test some of the theory.

“This will allow us to study problems we couldn’t study in real life, like the power grid or the food needed for a species to survive,” he said.

They are also hoping to connect with other research groups at other universities so their work can be applied to a variety of systems.

“It will take a lot of tuning of our work to apply to any specific system, but the possibilities are definitely out there,” Klickstein said. 

]]>School of EngineeringMechanical EngineeringLatest NewsResearchWed, 03 May 2017 11:00:05 GMTIt is human nature to seek to spend the least amount of energy, time and cost on any given task to achieve a desirable result, whether that is working out at the gym, finding the best path to travel to work or buying cereal at the grocery. Now...Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/engineering-research-focuses-on-bringing-efficiency-to-network-processesWed, 03 May 2017 11:00:00 GMT

G7 Academies Release Statements on Cultural Heritage, Economic Growth, Neurodegenerative Diseases

National Research News -

Joint statements from the national science academies of the G7 nations were delivered today to the Italian government in advance of the G7 Summit to be held in Taormina, Italy, at the end of May. The statements, which are intended to inform discussions at the summit, call for actions to protect cultural heritage from natural disasters; invest in science, technology, and infrastructure to drive economic growth; and address the growing burden of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other neurodegenerative disorders. G7 Academies’ Joint Statements 2017: Cultural heritage: building resilience to natural disastersNew economic growth: the role of science, technology, innovation and infrastructureThe challenge of neurodegenerative diseases in an aging population

Earth & Planetary Sciences hosts inaugural Stuart A. Northrop Distinguished Lecture Series

UNM Research News -

The first-ever Stuart A. Northrop Distinguished Lecture series, hosted by The University of New Mexico’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, features Professor Jonathan Payne in a talk titled, “The Modern (6th) Mass Extinction: A Geological Perspective,” on Friday, May 5 at 3 p.m. in Northrop Hall rm. 122. A reception will follow.

Payne, who is a professor and chair of Geological Sciences at Stanford University, asks if the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history already begun? And if so, what lessons does the fossil record offer for how ecosystems will respond to massive loss of biodiversity?

Stanford Professor Jonathan Payne

In his talk, Payne will compare the intensity and ecological selectivity of past mass extinction events to the current biodiversity crisis using a new database of animal sizes and ecological traits spanning both fossil and living species. Both on land and in the ocean, the strongly selective removal of large-bodied animals across many taxonomic groups is unique to the current diversity crisis and appears to be a unique signature of human influence on the biosphere.

The geological record provides many past examples of climate warming, ocean acidification, and sea level change that can help to inform projections of future environmental conditions. However, it does not contain a biodiversity crisis with a similar pattern of extinction, adding to the challenge of forecasting future ecosystem function.

Payne’s research addresses the relationship between environmental change and biological evolution in the fossil record. His primary focus is on understanding the causes of mass extinctions and the processes that control subsequent recovery of biodiversity and global ecosystems. He and his research group also use global data on fossil occurrence patterns and body sizes to study connections between environmental change and biological evolution over the full history of life, focusing on the evolution of body size and patterns of extinction selectivity.

Payne has received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and is the 2015 recipient of the Allan V. Cox Medal from Stanford University for excellence in advising undergraduate research and of the Charles Schuchert Award from the Paleontological Society for excellence and promise in the science of paleontology.Payne’s research addresses the relationship between environmental change and biological evolution in the fossil record. His primary focus is on understanding the causes of mass extinctions and the processes that control subsequent recovery of biodiversity and global ecosystems. He and his research group also use global data on fossil occurrence patterns and body sizes to study connections between environmental change and biological evolution over the full history of life, focusing on the evolution of body size and patterns of extinction selectivity.

Professor Jonathan Payne's research focus is on understanding the causes of mass extinctions and the processes that control subsequent recovery of biodiversity and global ecosystems.

At Stanford, Payne teaches courses for undergraduates in historical geology and invertebrate paleobiology, and courses for graduate students in carbonate sedimentology, geobiology and paleobiology. He also directs the Stanford History of Life Summer Internship Program, which has hosted 71 high school students over the past three summers.

He received his B.A. in Geosciences from Williams College in 1997. After two years working as a high school math and science teacher, he returned to graduate school, earning a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University in 2005. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at Penn State, he joined the Stanford faculty in the fall of 2005.

The Stuart A. Northrop Distinguished Lecture Series, launched in 2016 through a generous donation by Dr. Bill Lovejoy (UNM Alumnus and former student of Dr. Northrop), honors former EPS Professor and Chair Dr. Stuart ‘Stu’ Alvord Northrop. Northrop’s contributions to the UNM Department of Geology during his long tenure as chairman (1929-1961) were profound. He laid the foundation of the present department, including the creation of the MS and Ph.D. programs and the construction of the department's building, which now bears his name. He was a kind and generous scholar and teacher, always ready to share his vast knowledge of New Mexico geology. The legacy he Ieft his students, colleagues, and the State of New Mexico is a large one.

UNM alumnus Dr. Bill Lovejoy.

Lovejoy is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Georgia Southern University, who influenced generations of students with his own teaching and research. Lovejoy was born in a small Ohio town coming from four generations of coal miners and became a first generation college graduate. After serving in the Navy, he attended Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, where he majored in geology. A month later he boarded a bus for Albuquerque and UNM where he earned a master’s degree in geology.

Lovejoy worked as a geologist for Shell Oil Company in Midland Texas, then after six years enrolled at OSU to pursue a Ph.D. in zoology. Lovejoy has had three interesting and satisfying careers:  geologist, biologist, and teacher. We are pleased that he can be here at UNM for the inaugural Stuart A. Northrop Distinguished Lecture.

The Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences looks forward to using this newly-created lecture series as a venue to showcase the type of research and enthusiasm for seeking knowledge that was emblematic of Northrop himself.

]]>Inside UNMEarth & Planetary SciencesResearchTue, 02 May 2017 22:48:42 GMTThe first-ever Stuart A. Northrop Distinguished Lecture series, hosted by The University of New Mexico’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, features Professor Jonathan Payne in a talk titled, “The Modern (6th) Mass Extinction: A Geological...http://news.unm.edu/news/earth-planetary-sciences-hosts-inaugural-stuart-a-northrop-distinguished-lecture-seriesTue, 02 May 2017 19:00:00 GMT

Academy Elects New Members, Foreign Associates

National Research News -

The National Academy of Sciences elected 84 new members and 21 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the Academy is widely regarded as one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Read More

NAS President Marcia McNutt Delivers Her First Annual Address to Members

National Research News -

Today during the National Academy of Sciences' 154th annual meeting, in her first speech to the members of the Academy, NAS President Marcia McNutt stressed the ongoing vitality of America’s scientific enterprise, and called on the country to strengthen its support for science and to continue to turn to science for solutions to the nation’s and the world’s most pressing challenges. Read More

NAS President Marcia McNutt Delivers Her First Annual Address to Members

National Research News -

Today during the National Academy of Sciences' 154th annual meeting, in her first speech to the members of the Academy, NAS President Marcia McNutt stressed the ongoing vitality of America’s scientific enterprise, and called on the country to strengthen its support for science and to continue to turn to science for solutions to the nation’s and the world’s most pressing challenges. Read More

NAS Honors Award Winners

National Research News -

During a ceremony at its 154th annual meeting, the National Academy of Sciences presented the 2017 Public Welfare Medal to Jane Lubchenco for her "successful efforts in bringing together the larger research community, its sponsors, and the public policy community to focus on urgent issues related to global environmental change." NAS also honored 21 other individuals with awards for their outstanding scientific achievements. News Release - Public Welfare MedalNews Release - Awards

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