UNM Research News

Isaac receives 2nd annual Community Engaged Research Lecturership award

Claudia Isaac, University of New Mexico associate professor in Community & Regional Planning (CRP) in the School of Architecture & Planning, has been selected to receive the 2nd Annual Community Engaged Research Lectureship Award by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

As part of the award, Isaac will present a lecture on Thursday, May 4 at 5:30 p.m. in George Pearl Hall’s Garcia Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Isaac, who has taught at UNM for 29 years, received a letter from the Office of the Vice President for Research, congratulating her selection – which is one of the highest honors the University bestows on its faculty members in recognition of research/creative activity of exceptional merit.

Renia Ehrenfeucht is the director of the CRP in the School of Architecture & Planning (SA&P). She also nominated Isaac to deliver the lecture.

“Dr. Isaac’s projects not only accomplish immediate objectives but also build capacity for the organization or group to set and meet new objectives,” Ehrenfeucht wrote. “This is hard to accomplish and often overlooked in community engaged scholarship.”

Community engaged research is both Isaac’s research and passion.

“I always refer to our community partners as ‘scholars,’ because I don’t want to diminish their value in the process of authorship and ownership of materials produced as a function of the parallel collaboration that takes place between us,” Isaac said.

She often is the person on a board, committee or in an organization who takes the research and compiles it into a report or summary meeting notes, with collaborator review and comment. She believes “the process is co-creation”.

All of Isaac’s research is in response to a community need and therefore must engage the community.

“The term ‘poverty’ implies that those who live in poverty have no skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. Navigating the services the poor need is daunting in and of itself. People may not speak the language of the academy, but they are not without analytical insight,” she said.

“Dr. Isaac frames her work around poverty alleviation,” Ehrenfeucht wrote. “Given the complexity of the issue and that income disparities underlie global, national and local economies, she has worked on a wide range of related topics including economic development, violence reduction, food systems and affordable workforce housing. Many of these projects impact national and regional audiences including funding organizations and other practitioners…” Ehrenfeucht added that the most important impact of Isaac’s work resides in the community that first asked the question.

Some of the organizations with which Isaac has partnered include Albuquerque Affordable Housing Coalition, the New Mexico Resiliency Alliance, which partners with various other programs and funding sources to support community-based economic development projects statewide, engages in leadership development and also policy and advocacy work. The AgriCultura Network is the farmer-owned cooperative with which La Cosecha partners. La Cosecha began as a project of the AgriCultura Network and is now becoming its own non-profit organization. The two organizations remain in strong partnership with each other. 

“The key aspect of La Cosecha is it’s affordability for low income households that cannot usually afford locally grown, chemical free, high quality produce,” Isaac said.

“Ancient agricultural practices allowed communities to flourish. A goal is to resurrect those practices and restore food systems. The participatory evaluation of community based food systems organizations like La Cosecha CSA enables data collected from all collaborators, compiled with an external eye, to bring all the information and people together to direct collective action.”

Isaac has worked with the NM Resiliency Alliance and New Mexico MainStreet, in their work to build the economic development capacity of rural and underserved communities in NM. The NMRA has provided funding to MainStreet Organizations for the last three years for projects, and this hear has provided the first small grants to non-MainStreet communities.

According to Isaac, they received more than 40 excellent applications for three grants; and are developing a network of technical assistance providers expand on what NM MainStreet provides to aid in economic planning, designing physical plans and promoting the community.

“Her [Isaac’s] partners also emphasize her talent to communicate across different stakeholders and accurately represent different positions. She has conducted evaluation work for projects funded by the Walter K. Kellogg Foundation, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and numerous state and community programs,” Ehrenfeucht wrote.

“It is important to celebrate and acknowledge Dr. Isaac’s research,” said Mark Childs, associate dean for research at SA&P. “The research and the award acknowledge to the larger community that rigorous community-based work adds great value to both the communities and the academy.”

“I’m delighted Dr. Isaac is only the second recipient of this award. It shows that the University upholds its mission to work with and support the citizens and New Mexico.”

]]>Latest NewsSchool of Architecture & PlanningCommunity & Regional PlanningResearchMon, 24 Apr 2017 12:38:33 GMTClaudia Isaac, University of New Mexico associate professor in Community & Regional Planning (CRP) in the School of Architecture & Planning, has been selected to receive the 2nd Annual Community Engaged Research Lectureship Award by the Office of the...Carolyn Gonzaleshttp://news.unm.edu/news/isaac-receives-2nd-annual-community-engaged-research-lecturership-awardSun, 23 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT

UNM expands Division of Genomic Resources

The University of New Mexico’s Division of Genomic Resources (DGR) recently celebrated the grand-opening of its newly-expanded biological material repository installing several frozen nitrogen repository tanks designed to better protect the world-renowned collection housed as part of the Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB).

“This Division of the Museum of Southwestern Biology is the world's largest frozen tissue collection for mammals and in the top-10 largest in the United States for birds and fishes,” said Joseph Cook, director of the MSB. “It represents biodiversity from across the ecosystems of the Southwest, but also has wide coverage worldwide.

“This scientific infrastructure provides critical sampling for many different kinds of research questions: from tracking the origin of SIn Nombre hantavirus in New Mexico in 1993 to recent discoveries that bats, moles and shrews (on four continents) also carry hantavirus.”

The DGR is a world-class repository for cryogenic biological materials. With the new facility, samples previously archived at –80oC in 17 freezers are migrating into new, more secure cryogenic nitrogen-vapor facility (-190oC).

“Expansion allows this frozen collection to continue to grow, but also provides a safer and much colder storage system, instead of electrical freezers at -80C (that can be killed by any power outage such as helicopters fall off of buildings and into power lines), the samples will now be archived in nitrogen vapor tanks at -190C that will remain cold for more than 20 days in event of a power disruption (vs 90 minutes),” Cook said.

DGR holdings are fully searchable on-line (arctosdb.org) and represent >200,000 organisms. Annually, more than 70 loans of approximately 2,000 specimens are sent to U.S. and foreign research institutes, helping to establish UNM as an international research leader in biology.

A variety of species including vertebrates and their parasites, such as fleas, ticks and helminth worms from western North America, Asia, Africa, and throughout Latin America are represented at the MSB. This resource is essential to researchers and scientists in studies involving emerging pathogens, genomics, climate change, molecular evolution, conservation genetics, environmental informatics and stable isotope ecology.

This collection has established UNM as an international research leader in biology and provides the basis for collaborations with the private sector and multimillion dollar grants from NIH, NSF, DOD, USDA, & CDC. DGR is instrumental in natural resource management and also tracking emerging pathogens in the US, Panama, Chile, Europe and East Asia.

“We are now probing more deeply the relationship between pathogens in wild organisms and how they jump to human populations,” said Cook. “Those studies are impossible without wide and deep sampling such as found in the Division of Genomic Resources. The facility will also now attract more partners who need state of the art storage and associated cyberinfrastructure such as that provided by the Museum of Southwestern Biology. ”

The equipment ($500K) was provided through the National Science Foundation and is the first phase of a $5 million planned expansion of this Center of Excellence at UNM.

The celebration was part of the UNM Biology Department’s annual Research Days and Open House.

]]>Latest NewsBiologyResearchTue, 18 Apr 2017 23:08:25 GMTThe University of New Mexico’s Division of Genomic Resources (DGR) recently celebrated the grand-opening of its newly-expanded biological material repository installing several frozen nitrogen repository tanks designed to better protect the...http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-expands-division-of-genomic-resourcesTue, 18 Apr 2017 22:18:00 GMT

UNM scientists selected for 2017 Women in STEM awards

A group of UNM professors has received the 2017 Women in STEM awards to honor their research in diverse areas of inquiry, including bioengineering, exercise science, biology, linguistics, political science and astronomy and physics.

Among other topics, the winners are studying minority language development, cell division, non-government agencies in Peru and Bolivia, insulin signaling, qualitative comparative analysis, and the detection and treatment of amyloid diseases.

The winners are the second group in a competition that began last year after UNM in 2015 received a donation through the Chicago Community Foundation. The donor requested that the money be used to support research by women STEM faculty. UNM established an endowed account and dedicated the endowment earnings to women STEM faculty.

The Women in STEM (WIS) awards competition was developed through a collaboration between UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah,  Vice President for Research Gabriel Lopez, and the ADVANCE at UNM program, a five-year National Science Foundation project that promotes women STEM faculty.
 


The WIS awards seek to assist women STEM faculty at the assistant and associate professor levels to develop new interdisciplinary research and research collaborations. Awards will support new research, travel to visit research collaborators, and for interdisciplinary workshops. Proposals are solicited, reviewed, and then winners selected by a committee consisting of women STEM professors. The Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research provide support.

“This competition not only allows us to help talented UNM faculty, it provides an opportunity to highlight the wide range of work done by women STEM faculty.  We’re looking forward to promoting this year’s awardees,”  said Dr. Julia Fulghum, director of ADVANCE at UNM.

This year’s research awards went to:

Eva Chi of the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department for her work to develop theranostic agents for the simultaneous detection and treatment of amyloid diseases, which are the cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Her project aims to diagnose and treat these diseases.

Christine Mermier of the Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences Department and Kristina Trujillo of the Cell Biology and Physiology Department for their work on understanding the link between mitochondrial function and insulin signaling. This research could lead to improved insulin signaling in cell culture and even reduce high-fat-diet induced insulin resistance.

Naomi Shin, Barbara Shaffer and Jill Morford of the Linguistics Department to research how children learn minority languages when exposure to the language is limited. This research examines children’s acquisition of two U.S. minority languages, Spanish and American Sign Language, and investigates whether acquisition of grammar is determined by amount of exposure to those languages or by cognitive maturation. The study is also designed to address parental concerns about whether and how often to speak to children in minority languages.

Jami Nelson Nunez of the Political Science Department to investigate interactions between nongovernmental organizations and mayors in decentralized settings around challenges into service delivery. She will investigate the conditions under which collaborations between the mayors and nongovernment organizations are likely to develop. The funding will help provide the means to do field research in cities in Bolivia and Peru.

This year’s travel awards go to Ylva Pihlstrom of the Physics and Astronomy Department and Kendra Koivu of the Political Science Department. Pihlstrom will use the funding to visit the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles to survey stars that will help explore the structure of the galaxy and the Galactic Bulge. Koivu will use the funding to travel to Budapest for a two-week intensive workshop on qualitative comparative analysis. Qualitative comparative analysis is an algorithmic form of qualitative analysis based on a set theory of mathematics that studies collections of concepts as sets.

Michelle Facette of the Biology Department won a seed award to further her work on the development of fluorescent protein marker lines for monitoring cell division in maize. Fluorescent proteins allow protein dynamics to be monitored prior to cell division.  This research will help to understand the critical development process through live cell imaging.

Pihlstrom said she’s thrilled to accept her travel award.

“I am very excited and grateful to receive the Women in STEM ADVANCE travel grant,” she said. “This will allow a work week with a collaborator at Jet Propulsion Lab, where we can really focus on iron out our modeling details.

Our project aims to develop a new method of measuring statistical distances to evolved stars using radiative transfer modeling of the stellar light, reprocessed in the circumstellar envelope.  Via the calculated properties stellar distances can be derived, which are crucial for, e.g., testing dynamical models of the Milky Way galaxy,” Pihlstrom said.

Nelson Nunez said the award will enable her to conduct qualitative research and pilot a survey of mayors to be conducted this summer in South America.

“I am extremely grateful for the support of WIS for my work and my ideas.  The funding comes at a crucial time for me and will allow me to take on a challenging, but relatively unexplored issue around what helps mayors to provide basic services in rural areas, especially in drinking water and improved sanitation. 

“I plan to use the award to compare the relationships between mayors and NGOs in Peru and Bolivia to investigate the factors that facilitate collaboration and to examine what types of collaboration have yielded better results in the water and sanitation sector,” Nelson Nunez added.

The call for the 2018 awards will be announced later this year. Visit advance.unm.edu for more information or follow us at @advanceunm.

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsPresident’s OfficeProvost’s OfficeCollege of Arts & SciencesResearchTue, 18 Apr 2017 12:00:15 GMTA group of UNM professors has received the 2017 Women in STEM awards to honor their research in diverse areas of inquiry, including bioengineering, exercise science, biology, linguistics, political science and astronomy and physics. Among other topics,...http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-scientists-selected-for-2017-women-in-stem-awardsTue, 18 Apr 2017 12:00:00 GMT

UNM's Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Research Division issued patent for innovative meshplate

An adaptive surgical device invented several years ago by a team of researchers with The University of New Mexico’s Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation for improved support and healing of knee, elbow and sternum fractures has been issued a United States patent. The design team now seeks to license and manufacture the mesh plate as a viable alternative device for treating fractured bone that underlies a thin layer of soft tissue.

Assistant Professor Christina Salas

“Many existing surgical implants are rigid plates with few screw placement options which experience rejection rates more than 50 percent of the time,” said Christina Salas, assistant professor and director of UNM's Orthopaedics Biomechanics & Biomaterials Laboratory. “But our high-tension mesh device precisely molds to bony contours for enhanced compression. It also features numerous crimped links which can accommodate multiple bone screws for improved stability. These benefits can prevent costly secondary surgeries and speed up rehabilitative healing.”

Salas came up with the patented design after studying mesh devices used to treat facial fractures. Co-inventers of the new mesh plate include: Mahmoud Reda Taha, professor and chair of UNM Civil Engineering; Dr. Leroy Rise, a former UNM Orthopaedics fellow and current orthopaedic surgeon with CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, NM; and Dr. Aaron Dickens, a former UNM Orthopaedics resident who now performs orthopaedic trauma surgery with Great Basin Orthopaedics in Reno, Nev.

“Our mesh plate can be produced from a variety of materials to avoid metallic implant corrosion and breakdown,” said Salas.

Professor Mahmoud Reda Taha

She points out that the device’s improved technology is designed “to outperform” larger compression plates and steel-wire fracture repair techniques currently in use. The patented device is specifically configured to resist high-tension stresses to knee, elbow and sternum fracture but can potentially be used to treat other types of fractures that require surgical implants just below the skin.

For more information, visit UNM Orthopaedics Research

 

]]>Inside UNMSTC.UNMResearchMon, 17 Apr 2017 22:26:33 GMTAn adaptive surgical device invented several years ago by a team of researchers with The University of New Mexico’s Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation for improved support and healing of knee, elbow and sternum fractures has been issued a United States...Lynn M. Lessardhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-s-orthopaedics-rehabilitation-research-division-issued-patent-for-innovative-meshplateMon, 17 Apr 2017 22:15:00 GMT

Patent issued to Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Research Division for innovative meshplate for treating fractures

An adaptive surgical device invented several years ago by a team of researchers with The University of New Mexico’s Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation for improved support and healing of knee, elbow and sternum fractures has been issued a United States patent. The design team now seeks to license and manufacture the mesh plate as a viable alternative device for treating fractured bone that underlies a thin layer of soft tissue.

Assistant Professor Christina Salas

“Many existing surgical implants are rigid plates with few screw placement options which experience rejection rates more than 50 percent of the time,” said Christina Salas, assistant professor and director of UNM's Orthopaedics Biomechanics & Biomaterials Laboratory. “But our high-tension mesh device precisely molds to bony contours for enhanced compression. It also features numerous crimped links which can accommodate multiple bone screws for improved stability. These benefits can prevent costly secondary surgeries and speed up rehabilitative healing.”

Salas came up with the patented design after studying mesh devices used to treat facial fractures. Co-inventers of the new mesh plate include: Mahmoud Reda Taha, professor and chair of UNM Civil Engineering; Dr. Leroy Rise, a former UNM Orthopaedics fellow and current orthopaedic surgeon with CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, NM; and Dr. Aaron Dickens, a former UNM Orthopaedics resident who now performs orthopaedic trauma surgery with Great Basin Orthopaedics in Reno, Nev.

“Our mesh plate can be produced from a variety of materials to avoid metallic implant corrosion and breakdown,” said Salas.

Professor Mahmoud Reda Taha

She points out that the device’s improved technology is designed “to outperform” larger compression plates and steel-wire fracture repair techniques currently in use. The patented device is specifically configured to resist high-tension stresses to knee, elbow and sternum fracture but can potentially be used to treat other types of fractures that require surgical implants just below the skin.

For more information, visit UNM Orthopaedics Research

 

]]>Inside UNMSTC.UNMResearchMon, 17 Apr 2017 22:16:05 GMTAn adaptive surgical device invented several years ago by a team of researchers with The University of New Mexico’s Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation for improved support and healing of knee, elbow and sternum fractures has been issued a United States...Lynn M. Lessardhttp://news.unm.edu/news/patent-issued-to-department-of-orthopaedics-rehabilitation-research-division-for-innovative-meshplate-for-treating-fracturesMon, 17 Apr 2017 22:15:00 GMT

Five Lobos receive prestigious NSF graduate research award

Five current and former University of New Mexico students have been selected to receive this year’s National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

According the NSF website, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.”

UNM's 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows:

Greg Ottino – Particle Physics

Julian Vigil – Chemical Engineering

Violet Sheffey – Sustainable Chemistry

James Fluke – Environmental Engineering

Tomas Babuska – Metallic Materials Research


Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 including a cost of education allowance, which gives them the chance to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution. The program also provides an opportunity for international research as well as professional development.

According to its website, since 1952, NSF has funded over 50,000 of these fellowships, selecting from a pool of more than 500,000 applicants. 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates with hundreds more obtaining membership to the National Academy of Sciences. 

]]>Latest NewsChemistryPhysics & AstronomySchool of EngineeringResearchWed, 12 Apr 2017 13:00:07 GMTFive current and former University of New Mexico students have been selected to receive this year’s National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. According the NSF website, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) “recognizes...http://news.unm.edu/news/five-lobos-receive-prestigious-nsf-graduate-research-awardWed, 12 Apr 2017 13:00:00 GMT

UNM physicist discovers strange forces acting on nanoparticles

A new scientific paper published, in part, by a University of New Mexico physicist is shedding light on a strange force impacting particles at the smallest level of the material world.

The discovery, published in Physical Review Letters, was made by an international team of researchers lead by UNM Assistant Professor Alejandro Manjavacas in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Collaborators on the project include Francisco Rodríguez-Fortuño (King’s College London, U.K.), F. Javier García de Abajo (The Institute of Photonic Sciences, Spain) and Anatoly Zayats (King’s College London, U.K.).

The findings relate to an area of theoretical nanophotonics and quantum theory known as the Casimir Effect, a measurable force that exists between objects inside a vacuum caused by the fluctuations of electromagnetic waves. When studied using classical physics, the vacuum would not produce any force on the objects. However, when looked at using quantum field theory, the vacuum is filled with photons, creating a small but potentially significant force on the objects.

Dr. Alejandro Manjavacas

“These studies are important because we are developing nanotechnologies where we’re getting into distances and sizes that are so small that these types of forces can dominate everything else,” said Manjavacas. “We know these Casimir forces exist, so, what we’re trying to do is figure out the overall impact they have very small particles.”

Manjavacas’ research expands on the Casimir effect by developing an analytical expression for the lateral Casimir force experienced by nanoparticles rotating near a flat surface.

Imagine a tiny sphere (nanoparticle) rotating over a surface. While the sphere slows down due to photons colliding with it, that rotation also causes the sphere to move in a lateral direction. In our physical world, friction between the sphere and the surface would be needed to achieve lateral movement. However, the nano-world does not follow the same set of rules, eliminating the need for contact between the sphere and the surface for movement to occur.

“The nanoparticle experiences a lateral force as if it were in contact with the surface, even though is actually separated from it,” said Manjavacas. “It’s a strange reaction but one that may prove to have significant impact for engineers.”

While the discovery may seem somewhat obscure, it is also extremely useful for researchers working in the always evolving nanotechnology industry. As part of their work, Manjavacas says they’ve also learned the direction of the force can be controlled by changing the distance between the particle and surface, an understanding that may help nanotech engineers develop better nanoscale objects for healthcare, computing or a variety of other areas.

For Manjavacas, the project and this latest publication are just another step forward in his research into these Casimir forces, which he has been studying throughout his scientific career. After receiving his Ph.D. from Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) in 2013, Manjavacas worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice University before coming to UNM in 2015.

Currently, Manjavacas heads UNM’s Theoretical Nanophotonics research group, collaborating with scientists around the world and locally in New Mexico. In fact, Manjavacas credits Los Alamos National Laboratory Researcher Diego Dalvit, a leading expert on Casimir forces, for helping much of his work progress.

“If I had to name the person who knows the most about Casimir forces, I’d say it was him,” said Manjavacas. “He published a book that’s considered one of the big references on the topic. So, having him nearby and being able to collaborate with other UNM faculty is a big advantage for our research.” 

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsCollege of Arts & SciencesPhysics & AstronomyResearchFri, 07 Apr 2017 21:43:15 GMTA new scientific paper published, in part, by a University of New Mexico physicist is shedding light on a strange force impacting particles at the smallest level of the material world. The discovery, published in Physical Review Letters, was made by an...Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-physicist-discovers-strange-forces-acting-on-nanoparticlesFri, 07 Apr 2017 16:25:00 GMT

UNM awarded $1.6 million NSF grant to extend microsystems education

The University of New Mexico has been awarded $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to continue a successful program to provide educational materials and services to industry trainers and educators on the growing science and technology of microsystems.

The grant, which begins July 1, 2017, runs through June 30, 2021, will fund the creation and maintenance of a wide variety of microsystems educational materials used by colleges, educators, and industry members across the nation. This is a continuation of previous NSF grants for the initiative, called the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education.

For nearly a decade, UNM has been working under NSF grants to develop technical training materials and develop outreach modules. This latest grant will focus specifically on converting those materials into an online format, creating a support center for those in the microsystems industry.

Matthias Pleil, a research professor and lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is principal investigator on the grant. Co-principal investigators are John Wood, professor of mechanical engineering, and Daniel Kainer and Pamela Auburn, both of Lone Star College in Houston.

“The focus of the grant is to support the integration of our educational materials into technician programs and support the growing microsystems industry,” said Pleil. “One of the things we’ll be doing in the next four years is to create online short courses based on these materials. We have about 50 or so learning modules and will be putting them online so that instructors can use them in their classrooms with their students.”

Gabriel Lopez, UNM vice president for research, said that this project will have a major impact.

“This important award from the NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education will greatly enhance UNM's ability to educate technician and undergraduates to participate in New Mexico’s emerging high-technology manufacturing sector and thus has significant potential for economic impact in our state,” Lopez said. “Dr. Pleil and his team have assembled an excellent set of partners to execute the project's mission, including small local companies such as HT Micro and large corporations such as Honeywell and Texas Instruments, and Sandia National Laboratories is also an important partner.

“Through its online programs, the SCME will also have a national scope and impact, thus significantly leveraging UNM’s educational mission to make it an educational leader in the area of microsystems manufacturing.”

Microsystems, also known as microelectrical mechanical systems (MEMS), are in many devices used daily, including smartphones, gaming consoles, medical devices, and autonomous vehicles.

“The microsystems industry is growing at a fast rate, with about a 14 percent compounded annual growth,” Pleil said. “Microsystems enable us to do a lot of things, and they are found in popular wearable devices that can track our location, sleep, and activity levels through micro accelerometers and pressure sensors.

“Smartphones, and the Internet of Things with all its integrated sensors also include these devices. It is therefore necessary to provide educators the background needed to prepare their students to succeed in the high-tech workforce that make, design and integrate these gadgets.”

Pleil said a lot of technical colleges and universities currently use their educational materials, and they also will be working to develop additional classes and resources that are available to students, not just instructors, so that students, technicians and workers can also educate themselves.

One major component of this grant will be working with Lone Star College to help them integrate the SCME bioMEMS and fabrication units into their biotech, nanotech and chem-tech technician programs. They also have hands-on kits, sold on their website, that help instructors teach students and follow along effectively with the training materials, he said.

The center’s materials will teach students about cleanroom safety, manufacturing, and fabrication, which is of interest to those in advanced manufacturing, since these devices are mostly made in cleanrooms, Pleil said. Classes and workshops are held in UNM’s Manufacturing Technology and Training Center cleanroom so that students and educators can get an authentic experience.

So far, UNM’s impact has been significant in this area. Pleil said the center has extensive materials on their website that are free for download. He said the learning modules get about 6,000 downloads a month, and their YouTube channel has about 45 or so videos, which so far have gotten about a half-million views.

“Probably 80 percent of impact we don’t even know about,” Pleil said. “We track student hours [instructional time multiplied by number of students impacted based on instructor surveys], and we have several hundred thousand hours. We’ve tracked about 40,000 IP addresses that have downloaded materials over the years and 300,000 downloads, so the users come back, which indicates they find value in our work. It’s mainly from the U.S., but we also have downloaders from Europe, India, China, and Africa.”

Pleil said they will continue to support their current partners, as well as develop new partners, especially in industry whose technicians and new engineers could benefit from the online training in microsystems.

]]>Latest NewsSchool of EngineeringResearchTue, 04 Apr 2017 23:29:52 GMTThe University of New Mexico has been awarded $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to continue a successful program to provide educational materials and services to industry trainers and educators on the growing science and technology of...Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-awarded-1-6-million-nsf-grant-to-extend-microsystems-educationTue, 04 Apr 2017 22:48:00 GMT

UNM partners with NASA for national robotics competition

More than 600 students from 40 colleges and 30 high schools will demonstrate their programming skills in a robotics competition culminating at the Kennedy Space Center, April 18-20. 

The competition, which will be live-streamed online, is part of the second annual NASA Swarmathon with the winning team recieving $5,000.

The Swarmathon is a swarm robotics programming challenge administered under a cooperative agreement between the NASA Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) and The University of New Mexico (UNM). The Swarmathon is run by Principal Investigator Dr. Melanie Moses, UNM Associate Professor of Computer Science, and postdoctoral researchers and students in her Biological Computation Lab.

Swarmathon teams develop computer code used by swarms of robots to autonomously find and collect the most resources in an arena without human supervision or maps. To meet this challenge, students will develop new algorithms (rules encoded in computer programs) that can be used by robot swarms for other applications such as cleaning up hazardous waste or rescuing people in disaster zones. Listen to our partners at NASA Swampworks on Science Friday as they discuss how robot swarms can also collect frozen water, minerals and other materials needed to support NASA’s Journey to Mars.

“Computer scientists have not yet figured out how to program robots to interact autonomously with unanticipated events in the real world,” said Professor Moses. Successful Swarmathon teams will program robots to cooperate even when noise and errors cause unexpected behavior.

“My experience with the Swarmathon team has been a great learning opportunity that I am proud to be a part of,” says Chrissy Martinez from the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) team that won third place in the 2016 Swarmathon.

Members of the 2016 gold medal team from Fayetteville State University attribute their success to effective teamwork. As they program robots to cooperate with each other, the students must also learn to coordinate their programming efforts to work together. Effective teamwork is an essential skill in the modern technological workforce where programmers work together to design complex computer systems that control everything from social media to autonomous cars.

Over 1000 students have participated in the Swarmathon since 2015. Participants are from Minority Serving Institutions (for example, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges) and high school teams mentored by those college students. Virtual teams and high school teams will upload their code to compete in a simulated environment at UNM. The physical teams have tested their code on three Swarmathon robots at their colleges; this code will be loaded onto identical robots that will compete to collect the most objects in competition arenas at Kennedy Space Center. Winners will be announced during the Award Ceremony on April 18.

For more information, visit NasaSwarmathon.com, watch the 2016 Swarmathon video, or look behind the scenes at UNM.

]]>ResearchSchool of EngineeringComputer ScienceLatest NewsTue, 04 Apr 2017 21:03:40 GMTMore than 600 students from 40 colleges and 30 high schools will demonstrate their programming skills in a robotics competition culminating at the Kennedy Space Center, April 18-20.  The competition, which will be live-streamed online, is part of the...http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-partners-with-nasa-for-national-robotics-competitionTue, 04 Apr 2017 17:34:00 GMT

Tyrannosaurs show their sensitive side

A team of researchers, including UNM Honors College Professor Jason R. Moore, has found a new species of tyrannosaur dinosaur — the most popular of the prehistoric creatures.

After the fossils were pulled out of the muddy banks of a Montana river, the team was able to analyze the texture of the facial bones of the new species. The findings suggest that the face of tyrannosaurs was covered in a scaly protective layer with a high degree of tactile sensitivity, similar to crocodiles.

“Being a tyrannosaur, they had really small arms,” says Moore. “They wouldn’t be able to interact with their environment with their hands the way mammals do — find food, build nests, tend to eggs and young. In order to do these things, Daspletosaurus needed to use its feet or head. The discovery and analysis of the tyrannosaur shows that the dinosaur had a developed face sensitivity similar to the sensitivity in our finger tips, suggesting it could use its snout for all those complex ecological interactions, similar to the way crocodiles do today.”

An investigation by a team of scientists from Wisconsin, Australia, Louisiana, Montana and New Mexico has identified and named the new species of the tyrannosaur clan: Daspletosaurus horneri – “Horner’s Frightful Lizard.”

The species is named for the renowned dinosaur paleontologist, John “Jack” R. Horner, formerly curator at the Museum of the Rockies (MOR) in Bozeman, Montana. The tyrannosaur’s name honors his discoveries of numerous dinosaur fossils and his mentorship of so many students that launched them on to accomplished scientific careers. The name-bearing specimens are stored in the research collections of the MOR.

The fossil resources of Montana, where the new tyrannosaur was found, are central to studies of dinosaur evolution.

“Montana, similar to many Rocky Mountain states, has lots of rock exposed at the right time and right environment to contain dinosaurs,” says Moore. “The fossils are found preserved in ancient river channels and flood plains. If you know what you’re looking for, they are widespread.”

The research is led by Thomas Carr of Carthage College’s Department of Biology in Wisconsin, an expert on the evolution and growth of Tyrannosaurus rex and its closest relatives, collectively called tyrannosaurs.

The family tree
In addition to adding a new species to the tyrannosaur family tree, the team’s research provides new information about the mode of evolution and life appearance of tyrannosaurs, specifically the face.

This latest study, published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports, found evidence for a rare, nonbranching type of evolution in tyrannosaurs and that tyrannosaurs had scaly, lipless faces and a highly touch-sensitive snout.

“Daspletosaurus horneri was the youngest, and last, of its lineage that lived after its closest relative, D. torosus, which is found in Alberta, Canada,” says Carr. “The geographic proximity of these species and their sequential occurrence suggests that they represent a single lineage where D. torosus has evolved into D. horneri.”

Moore elaborated, “One of the difficulties in demonstrating this style of evolution is establishing that the different species don’t overlap in time. The new radiometric dates we measured help support this temporal separation between D. torosus and D. horneri.”

The research confirms that the ages of the two species shows that the evolution of the dinosaur was slow—happening over a span of 2.3 million years.

The team’s work literally changes the face of tyrannosaurs, which they found was covered by a lipless ‘mask’ of large flat scales and extensive patches of armor-like skin. This conclusion results from comparison of tyrannosaur skulls with those of crocodylians, birds and mammals, and earlier work by other researchers who had matched bone texture with different types of skin covering.

Jayc Sedlmayr, professor at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans, explained, “Much of our research … was generated from lab based comparative anatomy, where you get arms deep in ‘blood and guts’ dissecting birds—living dinosaurs and crocodilians—their closest living relatives.”

The crocodile connection 
“It turns out that tyrannosaurs are identical to crocodylians in that the bones of their snouts and jaws are rough, except for a narrow band of smooth bone along the tooth row,” explained Carr. “We did not find any evidence for lips in tyrannosaurs: the rough texture covered by scales extends nearly to the tooth row, providing no space for lips.”

“However, we did find evidence for other types of skin on the face, including areas of extremely coarse bone that supported armor-like skin on the snout and on the sides of the lower jaws. The armor-like skin would have protected tyrannosaurs from abrasions, perhaps sustained when hunting and feeding.”

The researchers found that, like in crocodylians, the snout and jaws of the tyrannosaurs are penetrated by numerous small nerve openings, allowing hundreds of branches of nerves to innervate the skin, producing a sensitivity similar to that of human fingertips.

This sensitivity is part of a bigger evolutionary story, explained Sedlmayr. “The trigeminal nerve has an extraordinary evolutionary history of developing into wildly different ‘sixth senses’ in different vertebrates, such as sensing magnetic fields for bird migration, electroreception for predation in the platypus bill or the whisker pits of dolphins, sensing infrared in pit vipers to identify prey, guiding movements in mammals through the use of whiskers, sensing vibrations through the water by alligators and turning the elephant trunk into a sensitive ‘hand’ similar to what has been done to the entire face of tyrannosaurs.”

]]>Latest NewsHonors CollegeResearchThu, 30 Mar 2017 21:57:05 GMTA team of researchers, including UNM Honors College Professor Jason R. Moore, has found a new species of tyrannosaur dinosaur — the most popular of the prehistoric creatures. After the fossils were pulled out of the muddy banks of a Montana river, the...http://news.unm.edu/news/tyrannosaurs-show-their-sensitive-sideThu, 30 Mar 2017 20:58:00 GMT

UNM awarded NSF ADVANCE grant to create institutional transformation across STEM fields

For decades, women have been significantly underrepresented in the faculty ranks, especially in the higher levels of academia in nearly all Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Some say not enough attention has been paid to the recruitment, retention and advancement of women and minorities.

Now, with the help of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, The University of New Mexico will benefit through innovative programs that will impact the entire institution as part of the NSF’s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) program. The goal of the NSF’s ADVANCE IT program is to increase the representation and advancement of women faculty in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce. 

At UNM, the essential goal of the five-year, $3.3 million NSF grant, of which only eight percent were funded in this round, is to implement and utilize a managerial engagement model to transform the institutional climate in an effort to promote diversity and facilitate advancement for women.

"It absolutely cannot be more timely for UNM given the budget situation because we can do things to help faculty and to help faculty feel valued and supported by UNM at a time where this is going to be a real challenge for department chairs and deans." 

– Julia Fulghum, director, Advance at UNM

“One of the things that is important about UNM is that we’re both a Hispanic Serving Institution and Carnegie Very High Research University,” said Julia Fulghum, director, Advance at UNM. “There’s a lot more women faculty in the humanities and we’re doing pretty well in the social sciences, which are part of STEM for NSF. However, when you start looking at the natural sciences, math and engineering, there’s not as many women, particularly minority women faculty as we’d like to see particularly as you get up to the more advanced ranks.”

Fig. 1a: Illustrates women as a percent of Total Faculty at UNM by Rank and Department type.Fig. 1b: Illustrates underepresented faculty Groups as a percent of Total Faculty, National Averages vs. UNM.

Additional goals of the Advance at UNM project include:

  • create a more inclusive, egalitarian, and supportive institutional climate;
  • increase the participation of women, particularly minority women, STEM faculty in leadership positions;
  • improve satisfaction with, and perceptions of fairness of, the tenure and promotion process among women, and especially minority women, STEM faculty;
  • increase the number of women, particularly minority women, at all levels in STEM departments; 
  • increase the national and international recognition of scholarship by all women STEM faculty at UNM    

In addition, the NSF required UNM to have an external and internal advisory board as well as a social science research project that works in parallel with the overall institutional transformation project.

Mala Htun, a UNM political science professor who is the deputy director of Advance, said the research project will lead to valuable information about women and minority STEM faculty.

“The social science research team will analyze whether the "managerial engagement" model of diversity promotion developed by sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev works in the university context.

Through a survey administered in three waves, in-depth personal interviews, and ethnographic immersion, we will explore how ADVANCE activities affect the campus climate, and the achievements and perceptions of women and minority STEM faculty,” she said.

The NSF also required internal and external evaluators, and the UNM project includes a faculty professional development committee, additional faculty leadership and a communications advisory committee.

“This is a huge effort that incorporates a wide range of faculty from all across main campus in different roles,” said Julia Fulghum, director of Advance at UNM. “Receiving the grant shows both that the institution needs to change, and that the institution is ready to change. One of the things you have to do is persuade the NSF that you understand your own institution, both as an institution and in the context of higher education in the U.S.

“We not only had to persuade the NSF that we understand ourselves and know how we need to change, but that we are ready to change. It provides exciting opportunities for the campus to look broadly at faculty careers and faculty work, and find better ways to help all faculty be successful.” 
 

The Advance at UNM office in the Communication and Journalism building is now open and plays host to a variety of workshops and events. Among other things, the program provides a space on campus for confidential mentoring sessions as well as networking.


As part of the implementation of Advance at UNM, the project team will adapt and apply the managerial engagement model using three clusters of program activities. They include: the mobilization and engagement of administrators, deans, department chairs, and senior faculty as partners in institutional transformation; greater access and connections for and among women and minority women STEM faculty; and improved transparency of policies and processes.

UNM’s diverse demographics also played a part in the grant award, which will benefit minority women and men alike.

“Our faculty diversity comes nowhere close to our student diversity, which is higher than many other research universities,” said Fulghum. “We do have a more diverse faculty than most Carnegie Very High Research Universities, and that’s something important to the NSF. Although the Advance program focuses on women STEM faculty, because of our demographics we get to incorporate working with minority men and women as part of our overall charge.”

One of the universities where the Advance program has had an enormous local and national impact is the University of Michigan, a program that was funded in the first cohort about 15 years ago when the NSF implemented the Advance Institutional Transformation program.

The Advance at UNM work space offers many amenitiies.

“The University of Michigan has done a phenomenal job of sustaining it,” said Fulghum. “There are a number of departments at UM and a number of university policies that have changed dramatically due to that Advance program. One of the great things for us is we’re getting help from Abby Stewart, who was the director of UM’s Advance program for 15 years.”

Over the years the NSF has learned from Advance programs funded early on that institutional transformation takes 7-10 years. It can’t be done in five years. “What we can do is put a lot of things in motion that can contribute to it and have a big impact on the university not just over the next five years, but the following decade if we do this right,” said Fulghum.

UNM has already moved forward with the development of its program including a location in the Communication & Journalism building and establishing an on-campus presence for Advance at UNM.  The workspace environment is designed to include collaborative work and meeting space for faculty in addition to the program office. A website, Advance at UNM, that includes a section titled MetaMentor, where the Advance team can help faculty navigate career questions, has also been created. Additional career resources are also available on the website. The team also is using social media, including its Facebook and Twitter pages.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces because it’s about institutional transformation,” said Fulghum. “The cool thing about it, because it’s institutional transformation, we get to do things that engage all faculty and that are open to all faculty. I think department chairs, faculty and deans, and the University leadership broadly, are really excited about this program.

“It absolutely cannot be more timely for UNM given the budget situation because we can do things to help faculty and to help faculty feel valued and supported by UNM at a time where this is going to be a real challenge for department chairs and deans. We can immediately be allies and obviously be valued partners because we’re really at a critical juncture on main campus.”

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsProvost’s OfficeCollege of Arts & SciencesResearchTue, 28 Mar 2017 22:40:57 GMTFor decades, women have been significantly underrepresented in the faculty ranks, especially in the higher levels of academia in nearly all Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Some say not enough attention has been paid to the...Steve Carrhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-awarded-nsf-advance-grant-to-create-institutional-transformation-across-stem-fieldsTue, 28 Mar 2017 22:00:00 GMT

UNM Human Research Protections Program receives full AAHRPP accreditation

The University of New Mexico Human Research Protections Program (HRPP), UNM’s provider of regulatory and ethical review services for human research at UNM Main & Branch Campuses, today announced that it has received full accreditation by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protections Programs (AAHRPP), effective March 20, 2017. AAHRPP serves to protect the rights and welfare of research participants, and also to build public trust and confidence in research.

The UNM Institutional Review Board (IRB) was established over two decades ago to meet the review needs of sponsors, contract research organizations and investigators across the Main and Branch campuses. The HRPP, which includes the IRB, the University and the researchers, provides oversight for all research activities involving human participants at the University of New Mexico. The HRPP is not an office, but rather a collective effort of all who participate in the conduct, review, approval and facilitation of human research at UNM.

They join eight other organizations in earning AAHRPP accreditation this quarter, bringing the total to 238 accredited organizations overall.

“Undertaking the process of national accreditation was a way to show that UNM has a tremendous interest in the protection and safety of participants in human research,” said HRPP Director Linda Petree. “The accreditation process was quite intensive. It involved implementing a substantial number of policies and procedures, developing relationships with all of the components of the program, as well as a site visit that included IRB records review and interviews with over 30 individuals who are involved in the HRPP. I am very proud to have been a part of this significant achievement and to work with UNM’s amazing research community.”

“National accreditation from AAHRPP underscores the main campus IRB's commitment to rigorous standards for the protection of individuals & communities involved in human research as well as to our service to the research community,” said IRB Chair and Associate Professor Christine Mermier. “Organizations with accredited IRBs are also more likely to build public trust in research, as well as to develop a competitive advantage for funding organizations and regulatory agencies.”

“UNM Office of Research & Compliance and its Office of the IRB are committed to the continuous improvement of the HRPP and other research compliance programs, said Research Compliance Director Ana Andzic-Tomlinson. “The AAHRPP accreditation is evidence of our commitment to process improvement and the highest level of quality in supporting the mission of protecting the rights and welfare of human research participants and fostering research integrity and ethics.”

To earn AAHRPP accreditation, organizations must demonstrate that they have built extensive safeguards into every level of their research operation and that they adhere to high standards for research. In today’s global, collaborative research enterprise, organizations increasingly rely on AAHRPP accreditation status to help identify trusted research partners.

A nonprofit organization, AAHRPP provides accreditation for organizations that conduct or review human research and can demonstrate that their protections exceed the safeguards required by the U.S. government. To learn more, visit www.aahrpp.org

]]>Latest NewsResearchFri, 24 Mar 2017 16:46:22 GMTThe University of New Mexico Human Research Protections Program (HRPP), UNM’s provider of regulatory and ethical review services for human research at UNM Main & Branch Campuses, today announced that it has received full accreditation by the Association...Vanessa Tanhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-human-research-protections-program-receives-full-aahrpp-accreditationFri, 24 Mar 2017 16:12:00 GMT

Peabody, Chackerian to receive the 2017 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow Award

Dr. David Peabody and Dr. Bryce Chackerian, professors in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology have been chosen to receive the 2017 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow Award in recognition of their achievements as leading innovators at The University of New Mexico. 

The STC.UNM (STC) Board of Directors presents this special award each year to a university faculty inventor(s) whose body of technologies have made a significant social and economic impact on society and the marketplace.  The award will be presented to Peabody and Chackerian at STC’s 2017 Innovation Awards Dinner on April 4. 

The annual event also recognizes UNM faculty, staff and students who have received issued U. S. patents, trademarks and registered copyrights within the past year. In addition to receiving the Innovation Fellow Award, Peabody and Chackerian will each receive an Innovation Award for five issued patents this year.                                                                                                                                                                 

“We are so pleased to recognize these two top innovators at UNM with the 2017 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow Award,” said STC CEO Lisa Kuttila on behalf of the entire STC.UNM Board of Directors. “Each in his own right is an outstanding inventor, and as collaborators, they are a match made in heaven. Dr. Peabody and Dr. Chackerian’s body of technologies represent a new way to make vaccines using their novel virus-like particle platform. 

Dr. David Peabody, 2017 Innovation Fellow Award recipient

“These VLP technologies have limitless potential to treat infectious and chronic diseases.  The importance of innovations in vaccine development, particularly to developing countries, cannot be under-estimated. Vaccines that are more effective, faster to create, and cheaper to make are a global need that require our ingenuity to treat preventable infectious diseases and the new and unknown ones on the horizon.  And now an entirely new class of vaccines is being developed for chronic diseases, the new treatment frontier.”

“We do many things well at the UNM Health Sciences Center, but I’m particularly proud of the work that David Peabody and Bryce Chackerian have been doing to develop vaccines to address a wide variety of human illnesses,” said UNM HSC Chancellor and School of Medicine Dean Paul Roth. “Their research represents a significant step forward in medical technology.

"For the first time, the power of the human immune system might be harnessed against some of our most pressing health concerns, including infectious diseases like Human Papillomavirus, HIV and Zika virus, as well as to treat chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and cancer. I want to congratulate them for this much-deserved award.”

Peabody received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Utah. As a postdoctoral fellow, he trained in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Berg (Nobel Prize, 1980) at the Stanford University Medical School and came to UNM as an assistant professor in 1984.

For most of his career, he studied the single-strand RNA viruses of bacteria (the RNA bacteriophages) as model systems to understand the role of RNA-protein interactions in gene regulation, but in the last 10 years turned his attention to adapting the virus-like particles (VLPs) of these phages as platforms for vaccine discovery and delivery.

Dr. Bryce Chackerian, 2017 Innovation Fellow Award recipient

Chackerian received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington.  As a postdoctoral fellow, he trained in the laboratory of Dr. John Schiller at the National Cancer Institute.  In 2004, he joined the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at UNM. He is a member of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center for Infectious Disease and Immunity. 

Chackerian's laboratory is interested in vaccine development, particularly the use of virus particles as platforms for antigen display.  It has long been recognized that highly dense repetitive antigens such as virus particles induce strong immune responses.  Chackerian’s laboratory has exploited these structural features to develop vaccines in which virus-like particles (VLPs) are used as platforms to display practically any epitope in this highly immunogenic, multivalent format. 

Together, the two inventors have developed a wide range of tools that allow them to use the versatile bacteriophage VLP technology to rationally engineer novel vaccines and also discover vaccines through an empirical affinity selection-based technology that target not only infectious diseases but the self-antigens that are involved in chronic diseases as well.

]]>Latest NewsHealth Sciences CenterResearchThu, 23 Mar 2017 18:14:06 GMTDr. David Peabody and Dr. Bryce Chackerian, professors in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology have been chosen to receive the 2017 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow Award in recognition of their achievements as leading innovators at The...Denise Bissellhttp://news.unm.edu/news/peabody-chackerian-to-receive-the-2017-stc-unm-innovation-fellow-awardThu, 23 Mar 2017 16:10:00 GMT

Physics & Astronomy hosts UNM Physics Day 2017

The University of New Mexico Department of Physics & Astronomy hosts UNM Physics Day 2017 on Saturday, April 8 at the department facilities at 1919 Lomas Blvd. NE.

The conference will feature a variety of events including oral and poster presentations by undergraduate students from UNM, NM Tech, the University of Arizona and a slew of other colleges and universities. There will also be tours of UNM’s Observatory and several research labs to show attendees just some of the cutting-edge work being done throughout the department.

Faculty organizers say they want to introduce a variety of students to physics and astronomy and hope to get them thinking about pursuing the field at the university level.

Arash Mafi, interim director of UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials and professor of Physics & Astronomy, will present the plenary talk. Awards will also be given out for the best presentations and lunch and dinner will be provided for all attendees.

UNM Physics Day 2017 is sponsored by The University of New Mexico, the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers, the Society of Physics Students and the Rayburn Reaching Up Fund.

Anyone interested in attending can register through the event’s website

]]>CHTMInside UNMCollege of Arts & SciencesPhysics & AstronomyResearchWed, 22 Mar 2017 14:00:07 GMTThe University of New Mexico Department of Physics & Astronomy is hosting UNM Physics Day 2017 on Saturday, April 8 at the department facilities at 1919 Lomas Blvd. NE.http://news.unm.edu/news/physics-astronomy-hosts-unm-physics-day-2017Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:00:00 GMT

UNM Biology Department hosts 26th annual Research Days and Open House

The Biology Department at The University of New Mexico hosts its 26th annual Research Days and Open House Thursday and Friday, March 30-31.

This annual event showcases student research, and celebrates discovery and education in the biological sciences.

Students have created posters to showcase their discoveries. The posters will be on display for judges’ preview on Thursday, and will be presented by the students with an oral presentation on Friday.

Dr. Jonathan Overpeck

This year's keynote speaker is Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, and University Director, Southwest Climate Science Center; Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor; and Regents Professor of Geosciences, Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. He will speak on “New Perspectives on Future Climate Change Risk and Ecosystem Change.”

Thursday’s schedule:

  • 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. - Student poster presentations and judging (odd-numbered), first floor & basement hallways of Casetter Hall
     
  • 1 – 3:20 p.m. - Student poster presentations and judging (even-numbered), first floor & basement hallways of Casetter Hall
     
  • 3:30 p.m. - Departmental research presentation, “The Avian Tree of Life in the Phylogenomics Era” by Assistant Professor Michael Andersen, UNM Biology, 100 Castetter Hall
     
  • 4:30 – 6 p.m. - Open houses in Castetter Hall & in the Museum of Southwestern Biology (CERIA, Bldg. 83)

Friday's schedule:

  • 9 – 11:30 a.m. - Student oral presentations, Session 1, 55 Castetter Hall
     
  • 12 noon –1 p.m. - Lunch, basement & courtyard of Castetter Hall, BGSA Lunch with Keynote Speaker, 107 Castetter Hall
     
  • 1 – 3:15 p.m. - Student oral presentations, Session 2, 51 Castetter Hall
     
  • 1 – 3:15 p.m. - Student oral presentations, Session 3, 55 Castetter Hall
     
  • 3:30–5:15 p.m. - Remarks by acting Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Craig White; introduction of the keynote speaker by William T. Pockman, UNM professor &  Biology chair; Keynote lecture, Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, “New Perspectives on Future Climate Change Risk and Ecosystem Change,” Room 102 (auditorium) of the Science & Math Learning Center (SMLC, Bldg. 14)
     
  • 4:30 – 8 p.m. - Reception for keynote speaker, silent auction and awards ceremony, foyer, Room 102 (auditorium) and Room 120 of the Science & Math Learning Center (SMLC, Bldg. 14)

For more information, visit 26th annual Research Days or email Donna George, dgeorge@unm.edu.

]]>Inside UNMBiologyLatest NewsResearchMon, 20 Mar 2017 11:00:08 GMTThe Biology Department at The University of New Mexico hosts its 26th annual Research Days and Open House Thursday and Friday, March 30-31. This annual event showcases student research, and celebrates discovery and education in the biological...http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-biology-department-hosts-26th-annual-research-days-and-open-houseMon, 20 Mar 2017 11:00:00 GMT

LANL donation adding to UNM supercomputing power

A new computing system to be donated to The University of New Mexico Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC) by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will put the “super” in supercomputing.

The system is nine times more powerful than the combined computing power of the four machines it is replacing, according to CARC interim director Patrick Bridges.

The machine was acquired from LANL through the National Science Foundation-sponsored PR0bE project, which is run by the New Mexico Consortium (NMC). The NMC, comprising UNM, New Mexico State, and New Mexico Tech universities, engages universities and industry in scientific research in the nation's interest and to increase the role of LANL in science, education and economic development.

The new system given to UNM from LANL

The system includes:

  • More than 500 nodes, each featuring two quad-core 2.66 GHz Intel Xeon 5550 CPUs and 24 GB of memory
  • More than 4,000 cores and 12 terabytes of RAM
  • 45-50 trillion floating-point operations per second (45-50 teraflops)

Additional memory, storage and specialized compute facilities to augment this system are also being planned.

“This is roughly 20 percent more powerful than any other remaining system at UNM,” Bridges said. “Not only will the new machine be easier to administer and maintain, but also easier for students, faculty and staff to use. The machine will provide cutting-edge computation for users and will be the fastest of all the machines.”

Andree Jacobson, chief information officer of the NMC, says that he is pleased the donation will benefit educational efforts.

 “Through a very successful collaboration between the National Science Foundation, New Mexico Consortium, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory called PRObE, we’ve been able to repurpose this retired machine to significantly improve the research computing environment in New Mexico,” he said. “It is truly wonderful to see old computers get a new life, and also an outstanding opportunity to assist the New Mexico universities.”

To make space for the new machine, the Metropolis, Pequeña, and Ulam systems at UNM will be phased out over the next couple of months. As they are taken offline, the new machine will be installed and brought online. Users of existing systems and their research will be transitioned to the new machine as part of this process.

]]>Latest NewsSchool of EngineeringResearchThu, 16 Mar 2017 20:44:48 GMTA new computing system to be donated to The University of New Mexico Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC) by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will put the “super” in supercomputing. The system is nine times more powerful than the combined...http://news.unm.edu/news/lanl-donation-adding-to-unm-supercomputing-powerThu, 16 Mar 2017 18:45:00 GMT

Shedding light on mental illness brain patterns

Vince Calhoun’s warm smile deeply contrasts with cold plastic of the machine at the center of his distinguished career. During the last quarter century, his research has focused on creating algorithms used in the fMRI scanner to map electrical currents via blood moving through the human brain.

"We need to maximize our ability to see what’s impacted in the brain so we can understand how mental ilnesses work” - Vince Calhoun, executive director, Mind Research Network

Much like his lab’s fMRI uses disruptions in the magnetic field to create images of the brain, Calhoun is making big ripples in the international pool of biomedical research. His analysis, along with his mission to create mentorships and interdisciplinary partnerships for students and researchers at the Mind Research Network (MRN), are why he was chosen as the honored speaker at 62nd Annual Research Lecture.

The University of New Mexico Annual Research Lecture, presented by the Office of the Vice President for Research, was established in 1954 and is one of the highest honors the University bestows on its faculty member in recognition of research and creative activity. This year it is being held on Apr. 19 in the auditorium of Centennial Engineering Library, from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. The focus of the lecture has not yet been announced.

Calhoun was chosen based on his success creating flexible ways to analyze functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). He is currently Executive Science Officer at the MRN and a Distinguished Professor in the UNM Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is the author of more than 500 full journal articles and over 550 technical reports, abstracts and conference proceedings. During his nearly 11 years working at UNM, Calhoun extended his research to methodically assess the structure and function of the brain, with a particular focus on the study of psychiatric illnesses.

“It’s kind of like trying to find this hidden link,” he said. “And once we find the hidden link, we can start to see if that link changes in patients with mental illness. But if we don’t know where to look, we don’t know how to study it.”

Calhoun didn’t begin his academic career wanting to work with fMRI, in fact his undergraduate degree is in Electrical Engineering. While studying at the University of Kansas, he was introduced to the idea of Biomedical Engineering; and recognized parallels between the two fields – like how blood flow and electrical current in the human body can be modelled in similar ways to electrons moving through a circuit. He became fascinated with the concept of MRI and its ability to map portions of the body simply by disrupting the magnetic field around them.

He followed that newborn curiosity to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, where he earned a Masters in Biomedical Engineering and another in Information Systems. Around that time, fMRI was invented and researchers discovered brain activity could be seen using the new technology, without injecting any type of dye or chemical into the body – a turning point in non-invasive neuro research.

“You can see inside a living human person without poking them with anything, and that really piqued my interest during the first few years of graduate school,” Calhoun said. “I began focusing on fMRI and even conducted a few early experiments.”

From the classroom to the lab

During graduate school at Johns Hopkins University in the early 90s, Calhoun began working as a research engineer in the psychiatric neuroimaging lab. The job extended beyond graduation, and he spent a total of ten years working alongside psychologists – hearing them discuss all the things they wished they could see in the brain.

“I got very interested in studying mental illness using fMRI,” Calhoun said. “And developing techniques that could help us unravel these very complex mental diseases.”

While continuing to conduct research at Johns Hopkins from 1993-2002, Calhoun simultaneously worked towards his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland. The pairing of biomedical and electrical engineering image processing schooling enabled him to continue moving towards his goal of developing techniques to examine images of the brain.  

“My main interest is how you analyze the date,” said Calhoun. “In particular, not making too many assumptions about how we think the brain is working.”

His drive to analyze data laid the foundation for another major theme in Calhoun’s work: neuroinformatics. Neuroinformatics is the official name for research that focuses on organizing neuroscience data using computer models and analytical applications. On its most basic level, neuroinformatics allows Calhoun and others to manage mass amounts of data, right as it comes out of the fMRI scanner. The researchers can also manually enter information, allowing them to build up a large repository of data and get very precise information on small changes in the brain.

Calhoun began developing his neuroinformatics program after leaving Johns Hopkins, while working as an assistant professor and the director of the Medical Image Analysis Lab at Yale University’s Hartford Hospital in New Haven, Conn. While continuing to work on the project there, he also helped build an imaging system at the Institute of Living, one of the first mental health centers founded in the Unites States. The imaging center provided the Institute of Living with a foundation for studying the brain function of their considerable psychiatric patient base.  

Expanding knowledge of mental illness

Calhoun’s research looks closely at people with a wide range of mental illnesses, from schizophrenia and bipolar, to Alzheimer’s and autism. In particular, it targets ways to make an impact on people who are very early in their treatment; and he hopes by mapping brain function and volume, he will be able to help at-risk patients before they are even diagnosed.

“We’re also looking at water diffusion,” Calhoun said. “If you can get a map of water diffusion across white matter in the brain, you can start to see these brain tracks.”

By mapping the brain tracks, researchers can see how different sections of the brain are interacting – which could lead to learning about more effective treatment and preventative measures.

“Mental illness is really a difficult and complex thing to study,” said Calhoun. “And we need to maximize our ability to see what’s impacted in the brain so we can understand how the disease is working.”

Calhoun says this type of research can help physicians, psychiatrists and others respond to mental illnesses in a more effective way, because they will know more about what they are combating. His work creating algorithms to analyze mental illnesses caught the attention of recruiters at the Mind Research Network and at UNM, and Calhoun relocated to Albuquerque in 2006.

“They were already building tools similar to what I was building, in regard to neuroinformatics,” Calhoun said. “I wouldn’t have picked Albuquerque out of a hat because I didn’t know anything about it, but it’s been a good move.”

Not only was the move to New Mexico profitable for his career, Calhoun says it has also been beneficial for his family. Together, he, his wife and three kids enjoy the New Mexico sunshine, its sprawling mountains and plethora of outdoor activities.

The Annual Research Lecture will be held Wednesday, Apr. 19 in the Centennial Library Auditorium from 6:15 – 7:45 p.m. There will be a reception beforehand in the Stamm Common Room from 5 – 6 p.m.

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsSchool of EngineeringElectrical & Computer EngineeringMind Research NetworkStaff NewsResearchMon, 13 Mar 2017 18:29:54 GMTVince Calhoun hopes to combat mental illnesses using research from algorithms that allow fMRI scanners to map electrical currents via blood moving through the human brain. Rachel Whitthttp://news.unm.edu/news/shedding-light-on-mental-illness-brain-patternsMon, 13 Mar 2017 16:13:00 GMT

Program aimed at diversifying biomedical field receives continued funding

The University of New Mexico Department of Biology is continuing its Post-baccalaureate Research and Education Program (PREP), thanks to a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PREP helps support traditionally under-represented students gain valuable research experience after completion of their Bachelor’s degrees, in order to prepare them for successful entry into a graduate program. The initiative is particularly focused on those students that did not gain much research experience as undergraduates, and provides full-time experience in research laboratories in order to enhance research credentials.

“The PREP program was critical to help me develop the skills I needed before entering a Ph.D. graduate program." – Damian Trujillo, PREP participant, 2005

Richard Cripps, a professor in Biology and director of PREP for the last seven years, says the successful program is critical for many trainees.

“Our program focuses upon individuals who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D., but who, for a variety of reasons, did not receive extensive research training as an undergraduate,” said Cripps. “Many talented students fall out of the system at this point, and PREP is intended to address this training gap. We provide the scholars with a parent mentor and research laboratory, and we work with them to enhance their potential to succeed in Ph.D. programs.”

Damian Trujillo, who graduated from UNM in 2005 with degrees in Biology and Philosophy, participated in PREP before entering a graduate program and says the experience has greatly benefited him.

“The PREP program was critical to help me develop the skills I needed before entering a Ph.D. graduate program,” said Trujillo. “Within the PREP program, I got experience performing, presenting and developing a research project. These skills were absolutely necessary for acquiring my Ph.D.”

Trujillo recently finished a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Stanford University School of Medicine and is now working in the biotech field. He says the program not only offered him valuable research experience but also connected him with a UNM faculty mentor – a relationship that continues to positively impact his career.

The goals for the PREP program include identifying a cadre of qualified post-baccalaureate scholars, specifically under-represented BS/BA graduates who chose to postpone graduate studies, and to recruit them into the PREP program before they give up the idea of pursuing a graduate level career; providing these scholars with research and training opportunities that will give them the skills to carry out research in their chosen area; generating the confidence and time needed to prepare for graduate studies; and facilitating application and acceptance into a biomedical related graduate program.

To learn more about the PREP program and how to apply, click here.  

]]>Latest NewsBiologyResearchThu, 09 Mar 2017 20:26:58 GMTThe University of New Mexico Department of Biology is continuing its Post-baccalaureate Research and Education Program (PREP), thanks to a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PREP helps support traditionally...http://news.unm.edu/news/program-aimed-at-diversifying-biomedical-field-receives-continued-fundingThu, 09 Mar 2017 19:33:00 GMT

Pushing the boundaries of DNA sequencing

A young company developing technology created at the University of New Mexico (UNM) is on a mission to disrupt the landscape of DNA sequencing.

Armonica Technologies, LLC, is developing a DNA sequencing platform that will sequence a complete human genome in minutes. The company’s goal is to make the technology the gold standard for DNA sequencing for precision medicine research applications. Armonica has optioned a portfolio of patented and patent pending technologies from STC.UNM. The technology is called “optical nanopore sequencing” and uses nanochannels to deliver single DNA molecules through nanopores. Nanopores are very small holes with an internal diameter of 1 nanometer (one billionth of a meter). The nanopores slow down DNA translocation enough to produce massively parallel, single-base resolution using optical techniques.

Here’s how nanopore sequencing works: when a nanopore is immersed in conducting fluid, voltage can be applied to produce an electric current. The current is sensitive to the size and shape of the nanopore so that if a DNA strand passes through or near the nanopore, the amount of current changes. The change in the current as the DNA molecule passes through the nanopore represents a reading of the DNA sequence.

“There is an unmet need in the fast-growing DNA sequencing market,” said Armonica President & CEO Scott Goldman. “Today’s standard genome sequencing approach requires extensive library preparation and creates a massive computational and bioinformatics problem related to reassembling the data set. Armonica will resolve these problems by introducing a sequencing instrument that will not require library preparation and will generate reads of up to 50,000 bases, combined with a parallelism of 1 million. This approach will net 50 billion bases—more than sufficient to sequence the entire human genome in minutes.”

The innovative nanopore technology was developed by Distinguished Professor Emeritus Steve Brueck, Research Assistant Professor Yuliya Kuznetsova, and Postdoctoral Fellow Alexander Neumann from UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) and Professor Jeremy Edwards from UNM's Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, in collaboration with Redondo Optics CEO Edgar Mendoza.
 


 

“Nanopore sequencing analyzes long DNA strings, with long reads that provide more accurate identification of genome variations,” said Brueck. “It is an approach, therefore, that leads to a more thorough, faster, and accurate genomic analysis, allowing researchers to substantially improve the ability to make new discoveries. One of the challenges of nanopore sequencing is to improve the resolution to be able to detect single nucleotides (bases).”

“We believe our nanochannel technology will disrupt the industry because it produces very long reads for higher accuracy, very high parallelism using optical techniques, and high throughput rates for greater processing speed. It will be an affordable tool for researchers,” said

STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila. “This technology portfolio represents a leap in genomic sequencing technology that could be a huge benefit for the DNA sequencing industry, which is experiencing explosive growth. The company’s research and development are currently being done at UNM’s CHTM, a research center with a global reputation for inventing disruptive nanoscale technologies and providing outstanding scientific expertise and technical support. We are very excited about the technology’s potential and believe in the company’s vision.”

The inventors have successfully demonstrated the viability of the technology and have received a National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to advance development of sequencing instruments for genomic, research and medical facilities.

]]>BiologyChemistryLatest NewsSTC.UNMCHTMResearchFri, 03 Mar 2017 22:01:22 GMTA young company developing technology created at the University of New Mexico (UNM) is on a mission to disrupt the landscape of DNA sequencing.http://news.unm.edu/news/pushing-the-boundaries-of-dna-sequencingFri, 03 Mar 2017 21:27:00 GMT

Super plants need super ROOTS

Agriculture consumes about 80 percent of all U.S. water. Making fertilizers uses 1 to 2 percent of all the world’s energy each year. A new program hopes to develop better crops — super plants that are drought-resistant, use less fertilizer and remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The program, ROOTS, or Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration, is sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Sandia National Laboratories has received $2.4 million to adapt previously developed sensors to monitor root function and plant health in new, noninvasive ways through one ROOTS project.

The insights gained from these sensors, with plant experts from The University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, will guide breeding of better varieties of sorghum. Sorghum is a drought-tolerant grain mostly grown for animal fodder and biofuels in the U.S. but relied upon as an important food crop in Africa and parts of Asia.

“If successful, these technologies will usher in a new era for research on plant function." –David Hanson, UNM Professor of Biology

The sensors will be easy to adapt to other crops too, said Eric Ackerman, manager of Sandia’s Nanobiology department and principal investigator for the ROOTS project.

Though roots are hard to access and study, thoroughly understanding how they work and how to improve them is essential for drought-resistant crops that need less fertilizer. Deep roots can tap additional water sources and extensive root systems can gather more nutrients, Ackerman said. Roots also are critical for depositing carbon into the soil, instead of the air.

“It is really exciting to see how Eric Ackerman and his team are repurposing miniaturized sensing technologies originally developed for national security applications, such as warfighter health monitoring or detection of chemical agents for real-time monitoring of hard-to-access root systems,” said Anup Singh, director of Sandia’s Biological and Engineering Sciences Center.

Minimally invasive microneedles to monitor plant productivity
One technology researchers will adapt is a microneedle-based fluidic sensor. This matchbox-size device was originally developed for biomedical applications, such as the painless detection of electrolyte levels of warfighters on arduous missions. However, due to its size, minimally invasive set-up and ability to constantly measure the levels of important chemicals, Sandia researchers believe it’s valuable for other research, such as plant monitoring.

For the ROOTS project, researchers are interested in monitoring the products of photosynthesis, such as simple sugars, important root excretions, such as oxalic acid, and water pressure. Water pressure, or turgor pressure, is an important measure of plant health, even before they wilt. Current methods for measuring these critical indicators are costly, too invasive or don’t provide continual data.

“The microneedles will help us measure sugars transported by the plant to and from the roots before soil microbes can use them, and will give us a better understanding of how plants add to soil carbon,” said Ben Duval, a plant and soil expert at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Ronen Polsky, who leads the microneedles research, doesn’t think the detection chemistry or the needles themselves will need much tweaking to work with plants, but one challenge will be determining the best way to attach the sensors to the plants. “The cool thing with our task on ROOTS,” he said, “is that nobody has done this in plants before. It’s such an intriguing project to take these sensors and apply them to plants.”

Initial support for developing the microneedle sensors came from Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program with additional funding by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The sensor was also the subject of doctoral work by Philip Miller, currently a postdoctoral researcher at Sandia working on the ROOTS project.

Mini gas detectors to monitor plant health above and below ground
The other Sandia technology used in the ROOTS project is a micro gas chromatography system, or micro-GC. Sandia has been working on hand-held systems that detect and analyze gases indicative of chemical, biological and other threats for almost 20 years.

For ROOTS, researchers will use the micro-GC systems to measure volatile organic compounds (VOC) above and in the ground. Ethylene, a common VOC that triggers fruit ripening, also can signal drought stress. Plants also use chemicals related to menthol and a component of eucalyptus smell as distress signals, for instance, if they are plagued by pests.

UNM plant biologist Dave Hanson, co-principal investigator, said the “micro-GCs will be used to detect signals from environmental stress, such as drought, heat and nutrients, and biological stress, such as insect and pathogen attacks, as well as assess root growth.”

By placing very thin sample collection spikes in the ground and using cutting-edge detectors, Ron Manginell, who leads the micro-GC research, plans to monitor normal plant VOCs and these stress signals in almost real-time.

“First, we have to figure out what the important VOCs actually are, which is always a challenging problem,” Manginell said. “Once we figure out what those are, the challenge is putting together the miniaturized system to go after those.” Then Manginell’s team will take their prototype hand-held system and test it in the field.

Initial support for developing the micro-GC system came from Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program with additional funding from the DOE, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and DTRA. Systems based on the same body of research are being used to analyze water quality and could be used to monitor diseases by just “smelling” a patient’s breath, said Manginell.

‘Usher in a new era’
Sandia’s project is one of 10 ROOTS projects funded by ARPA-E. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a number of universities will use other approaches and technologies to tackle the challenge of breeding better crops to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

“The microneedles and micro-GC developed by Sandia are extremely exciting because of their potential to provide critical data on plant function that have been unattainable in any setting,” said Hanson. “If successful, these technologies will usher in a new era for research on plant function. They would also contribute to economic growth.”

Since both technologies are small, less expensive than alternatives and offer critical insights, the team hopes they could directly aid agricultural research and even commercial farming quickly and easily.

Ackerman said, “The overall hope for Sandia is that this could open an important new national security area for the biology program to study beyond our current focus on bio-threats and biofuels. It brings us into the energy, water, climate, agriculture nexus, and we are hoping that there will be more opportunities in the future to use even more Sandia technologies.”

]]>ResearchCollege of Arts & SciencesBiologyLatest NewsFri, 03 Mar 2017 18:18:04 GMTAgriculture consumes about 80 percent of all U.S. water. Making fertilizers uses 1 to 2 percent of all the world’s energy each year. A new program hopes to develop better crops — super plants that are drought-resistant, use less fertilizer and remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.Mollie Rappe, Sandia National Labshttp://news.unm.edu/news/super-plants-need-super-rootsThu, 02 Mar 2017 21:17:00 GMT

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