UNM Research News

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

How Native languages lead to better outcomes

The University of New Mexico is part of a $1 million, multi-university study designed to examine the effect Indigenous-language immersion schools have on Native American student success, both in the classroom and beyond.

Tiffany Lee, associate director of UNM’s Native American Studies program, is a co-principal investigator on the project and one of four researchers from universities across the western part of the U.S., including UCLA and the University of Arizona.

“The project is really trying to document the impact these schools have on Native American student’s achievement,” said Lee, who is also an associate professor of Native American Studies. “And we’re looking not just at academic achievement, although that’s a big component, but also their sense of cultural knowledge, identity and impact to their Native and larger communities.”

Lee received her Ph.D. in Sociology of Education from Stanford University with a research focus on Indigenous education and language socialization experiences. For nearly 20 years, she has continued to study Indigenous learning communities and the impact they have on students. While she has personally seen the positive effects through the years, she says there’s no national database and limited research evidence that communities can look to when trying to implement these types of immersion programs.

“The knowledge that’s embedded in languages can truly enhance our world." –Tiffany Lee, associate director of Native American Studies

Indigenous-language immersion (ILI) schools act similarly to the traditional education system. Students learn math, science, social studies, art and even English through their Native languages, while also being exposed to their cultural traditions and practices.

According to Lee, their four-year, mixed-methods study will include a national survey of ILI programs, in-depth case studies of eight ILI schools to examine the processes and practices that create particular program effects and a comparison study of carefully matched non-immersion sites to see how ILI students compare to their peers. Lee says several of the ILI schools they will be studying are here in the Southwest.

“I’ve seen the benefits in my own family or with students who I’ve taught. When they are able to simply introduce themselves in their Native language and recognize who their family is, it’s really powerful for them,” she said.

While the goal of the study is to better understand how and why these programs may be beneficial, Lee says the hope is that it will help provide support for Native communities in strengthening their language education efforts and reveal to non-Native communities and policymakers the benefits of supporting these types of programs.

“There is an immense value in maintaining and revitalizing Native languages,” she said. “I think a study like this can really help reinforce, not just for Native communities but for the general public, that learning a heritage language or even a second language has tremendous positive impacts.”

Lee says the benefits extend far beyond Native communities as well. She says in many cases, ILI participants go on to do just as well, if not better, than students in traditional classrooms, which ends up having a domino effect on the Native student and the work they choose to pursue throughout their lives.

In New Mexico, a study of this size and scope could potentially have a huge impact on many Native communities. According to Lee, while the state does have a large Native American population, there aren’t many ILI schools due to a lack of funding and resources. She says ILI programs take a tremendous amount support and commitment since offering them requires specialized training for teachers and often times a need to develop and create unique textbooks and other resources. But, it’s an investment that could have a huge impact for people around the world.

“The knowledge that’s embedded in languages can truly enhance our world,” said Lee. “There’s ways of expressing ideas and knowledge through the language that can’t be easily translated, so it’s really important that we support and maintain the diversity of the world languages that we have.”

Support for this project is being provided by The Spencer Foundation.

]]>Latest NewsNative American StudiesResearchThu, 02 Mar 2017 16:51:08 GMTThe University of New Mexico is part of a $1 million, multi-university study designed to examine the effect Indigenous-language immersion schools have on Native American student success, both in the classroom and beyond.Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/how-native-languages-lead-to-better-outcomesThu, 02 Mar 2017 16:20:00 GMT

UNM computer science professor co-authors timely article on dealing with cyber conflict

A University of New Mexico computer science professor is co-author of an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that explores how cyber attack victims should best respond.

The article presents a game-theoretic model called the Blame Game, which shows when a victim should tolerate an attack and when it should respond publicly.  The best strategic choice depends on the vulnerability of the attacker, the victim’s knowledge level, the potential payoff for various outcomes and the beliefs each player has about its attacker

The model applies to a wide range of conflicts and provides guidance to policymakers about which parameters must be estimated to make a sound decision about attribution and blame.  Analysis of the model suggests that in many cases it may be rational for nations to tolerate cyberattacks, even in the face of strong public criticism.  It also shows how imbalances between adversaries’ abilities to trace attacks back to their origin can be destabilizing.

The model applies to a wide range of conflicts and provides guidance to policymakers about which parameters must be estimated to make a sound decision about attribution and blame.  Analysis of the model suggests that in many cases it may be rational for nations to tolerate cyberattacks, even in the face of strong public criticism.  It also shows how imbalances between adversaries’ abilities to trace attacks back to their origin can be destabilizing.

The article, published in the Feb. 27 online edition of PNAS, comes as the United States faces increasing threats in cyberspace, including the recent widely publicized attacks against the Democratic National Committee and the Chinese theft of databases containing the personal information of 21.5 federal employees. Read the abstract here.

“Conflict is increasingly common and severe on the Internet today, as governments and corporations have recognized its potential as an instrument of power and control” said Dr. Forrest, a distinguished professor at the University of New Mexico and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.

“Unlike nuclear technology, it can be extremely challenging to identify the party responsible for a cyber attack, and this complicates the strategic decision of when to assign blame.  Our model elucidates these issues and identifies key parameters that must be considered in formulating a response” Dr. Forrest said.

At UNM, Dr. Forrest directs the Adaptive Computation Laboratory, where she leads interdisciplinary research and education programs, including work on computer security, software engineering, and biological modeling. She is also a member of the Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology (CETI) and a co-principal investigator of the Advance at UNM project, which is dedicated to  recruiting, retaining and advancing women and minority STEM faculty.

Other authors of the PNAS article include Benjamin Edwards, a recent Ph.D. in Computer Science from UNM, now a postdoctoral researcher at IBM Research; Alexander Furnas, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan’s Department of Political Science and Robert Axelrod, Walgreen Professor for the Study of Human Understanding at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsComputer ScienceResearchWed, 01 Mar 2017 16:42:10 GMTA University of New Mexico computer science professor is co-author of an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that explores how cyber attack victims should best respond. The article presents a game-theoretic model called the...http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-computer-science-professor-co-authors-timely-article-on-dealing-with-cyber-conflictWed, 01 Mar 2017 13:00:00 GMT

UNM's COSMIAC receives $7 million Air Force contract to fund next-generation satellite electronics

The University of New Mexico has been awarded a $7 million grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop and build new materials and devices for electronics in space.

The five-year contract was awarded this month to COSMIAC, a research center in UNM’s School of Engineering.

The grant is part of an AFRL project that will build faster electrical devices that are better-suited for space satellites. Researchers on the project will focus on developing alternative semiconductor materials for electronics that perform better than current materials in the harsh conditions of a space environment.

“This is one of the largest awards the School of Engineering has ever received, and this is an incredible opportunity to not just make an impact in the area of space materials but to showcase our capabilities in the School of Engineering,” said Christos Christodoulou, principal investigator on the project. “This is an important project that will strive to produce more robust space electronics, which will vastly improve the capabilities of satellites.”

Christodoulou, also a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and associate dean for research in the School of Engineering, will work with co-principal investigators Ganesh Balakrishnan and Payman Zarkesh-Ha, both professors of electrical and computer engineering, on the project.

A large portion of the work on the grant awarded to UNM will be performed at the Center for High Technology Materials. Here, a student works on the molecular beam epitaxy machine that UNM acquired in 2010.
 

UNM was chosen after a national competition for the contract. A major factor that contributed to AFRL giving the University the project was the capabilities offered at the Center for High Technology Materials, a university-wide research center. UNM is one of the few universities in the United States with the nanoscale design and fabrication capabilities needed for the project. In 2010, UNM acquired a $1.5 million molecular beam epitaxy machine that can build up semiconductor nanocrystals one atom at a time to develop new materials.

For the project, the UNM team will study advanced semiconductor elements, such as antimonide or gallium arsenide and nitride, as possible alternatives to silicon to create new foundations for electronic devices. Those materials could conduct electricity faster than silicon and offer better protection against radiation and other adverse conditions in space.

Outside of the research mission, Christodoulou said a possible future outcome of this project would be to develop a specialized online master’s program in space electronics, as well as to boost economic development in New Mexico.

]]>Latest NewsSchool of EngineeringCHTMResearchThu, 23 Feb 2017 21:31:18 GMTThe University of New Mexico has been awarded a $7 million grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop and build new materials and devices for electronics in space. The five-year contract was awarded this month to COSMIAC, a research center...Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-s-cosmiac-receives-7-million-air-force-contract-to-fund-next-generation-satellite-electronicsThu, 23 Feb 2017 20:00:00 GMT

Extreme temperatures threaten desert songbirds with death by dehydration

According to NASA, 2016 was the hottest year on historical record. Globally, the increase amounted to nearly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. And while that might not sound like much of an increase, it could mean the difference between life and death for some bird populations.

Heat waves due to climate change pose an increasing threat to wildlife in many regions of the world. During heat waves, birds are especially at risk of lethal dehydration due to scarce water resources and high rates of evaporative water loss needed for cooling their bodies. High environmental temperatures were attributed to recent mass die-offs of wild birds and poultry in Australia, South Africa, India and North America suggest that birds are sensitive to extreme heat events.

With climate projections forecasting a large increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves, researchers including Tom Albright, associate professor from the Geography Department at the University of Nevada-Reno, Professor Blair Wolf from The University of New Mexico Department of Biology, and Alexander Gerson, assistant professor, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and others mapped the potential effects of current and future heat waves on the risk of lethal dehydration for songbirds in the southwestern United States.

The research, “Mapping evaporative water loss in desert passerines reveals an expanding threat of lethal hydration,” was published today in PNAS. The research was funded through a three-year, $650,000 National Science Foundation grant. NASA also funded aspects of this research, and its data and products played a role in enabling the research.

“Birds are susceptible to heat stress in two ways. When it’s really hot, they simply can’t evaporate enough water to stay cool, overheat and die of heat stroke. In other cases the high rates of evaporative water loss needed to stay cool deplete their body water pools to lethal levels and birds die of dehydration; this is the stressor we focused on in this study."  – UNM Professor Blair Wolf

“Birds are susceptible to heat stress in two ways,” explained Wolf. “When it’s really hot, they simply can’t evaporate enough water to stay cool, overheat and die of heat stroke. In other cases the high rates of evaporative water loss needed to stay cool deplete their body water pools to lethal levels and birds die of dehydration; this is the stressor we focused on in this study."

“This is a neat example of the kind of science enabled by two of our great U.S. science agencies: NSF (Blair’s team) and NASA (Albright’s team): basically mapping what you might call physiological performance and ultimately mapping the dynamics of risk,” said Albright.

Using hourly temperature data and a physiological model incorporating measurements of evaporative water loss, the researchers evaluated the death by dehydration risk for five songbird species. They found that small species lose water faster than their larger counterparts, thus rendering them particularly susceptible to lethal dehydration.

“During heat waves, birds that are day active suspend almost all activity and seek cool shaded microsites,” said Wolf. “At high air temperatures, the rates of evaporation needed to cool the bird increase rapidly. A 2-3°C increase in air temperature can result in a doubling or tripling of rates of evaporative water loss where birds can lose 2-5 percent of body mass per hour.”

“By focusing on heat waves and dehydration in birds, it allows us to focus more carefully on one piece of the puzzle,” said Albright. “It allowed us to use mechanistic understanding supported by actual physical measurements of evaporation from bird’s bodies.

In addition, given climate warming scenario of 4°C, the risk of lethal dehydration could increase four-fold in smaller species encompassing very large parts of the specie’s southwest ranges by the end of this century. The increasing extent, frequency, and intensity of dehydrating conditions under a warming climate may alter daily activity patterns, geographic range limits and the conservation status of affected birds.

 “These estimates suggest that some regions of the desert will be uninhabitable for many species in the future and that future high temperature events could depopulate whole regions,” Wolf said. "When combined with increasing drought projected for many of these regions, we could see precipitous declines in bird communities and increasingly severe stress on poultry as well."

The findings illustrate that conservation strategies are needed to conserve diverse plant and animal communities that supply shelter and water to desert birds amid future climate warming.

“What we were able to do here is to use individual level physiology data to inform biogeographic models so we can better understand the impact of high temperatures on these avian communities,” said Gerson. “This is a big step forward to understanding local extirpation. It will raise a lot of other questions, but our contribution will help others look at how community structure might change in the future.”             

]]>Latest NewsBiologyResearchMon, 13 Feb 2017 20:37:13 GMTAccording to NASA, 2016 was the hottest year on historical record. Globally, the increase amounted to nearly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. And while that might not sound like much of an increase, it could mean the difference between life and death for some...Steve Carrhttp://news.unm.edu/news/extreme-temperatures-threaten-desert-songbirds-with-death-by-dehydrationMon, 13 Feb 2017 20:00:00 GMT

Panel discussion: How to work with the National Science Foundation

Planning to write an National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal during the next year? On Thursday, Feb. 16 from 3 to 4 p.m., come learn from current and former NSF staff and a recent awardee about working with NSF.

Speakers include Jessie DeAro, program director with NSF Advance and a program officer with the EHR Core Research program; Amy P. Chen, the associate director of UNM’s Center for Teaching and Learning and a former Presidential Management STEM Fellow in the NSF Division of Earth Sciences; and Lydia Tapia, at UNM computer science professor and NSF CAREER award winner.

There will be plenty of time for questions. No tickets or reservations are required, but please register here or email advance@unm.edu to reserve a spot.

Sponsored by Advance at UNM, the UNM Center for Teaching and Learning and the UNM Office of the Vice President for Research.

]]>Inside UNMFaculty NewsResearchMon, 06 Feb 2017 22:22:12 GMTPlanning to write an NSF proposal during the next year? Come learn from current and former NSF staff and a recent awardee about working with NSF! There will be lots of time for questions. Speakers include Jessie DeAro, program director with NSF Advance...http://news.unm.edu/news/panel-discussion:-how-to-work-with-the-national-science-foundationMon, 06 Feb 2017 21:11:00 GMT

First Staff Research Expo a big success

 

Staff from across The University of New Mexico campus shared their research, innovations and discoveries at the first Staff Research Expo held in the lobby of the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education on Jan. 27.

The event was co-sponsored by the Staff Council Health Sciences Center Staff and Student Success Committees. Staff Council President Danelle Callan opened the event by introducing Dr. Richard Larson, HSC Vice Chancellor of Research, who spoke about the broadening of roles at the University, including a research role for staff and the importance of research in general in creating a greater impact by the University in the community.

Staff researchers were solicited to participate in the event through the weekly Staff Council email to all UNM staff and a HSC Office of Research and the Clinical Translation Science Center email to their researchers.

18 staff researchers and their co-authors presented posters at the Expo on a wide variety of topics, many also indicating that they would like to participate in future events. Presenters came from departments across campus including College of Nursing, Earth Data Analysis Center, Maxwell Museum and Internal Medicine.

Staff’s significant contribution to research is often overlooked. This event showcased how important and dedicated staff are to the research mission of UNM. 

]]>Inside UNMStaff NewsResearchMon, 06 Feb 2017 19:07:57 GMTStaff from across The University of New Mexico campus shared their research, innovations and discoveries at the first Staff Research Expo held in the lobby of the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education on Jan. 27.Mary Clarkhttp://news.unm.edu/news/first-staff-research-expo-a-big-successMon, 06 Feb 2017 17:02:00 GMT

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