UNM Research News

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 students uncovering mysteries of the past

The University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology is offering an exclusive opportunity to students from around the world. Through a partnership with Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, students can get hands-on experience excavating, researching and exploring the past through one of the great historical mysteries of the American Southwest.

“Chaco is a massive complex of stone buildings, architectural innovation, social complexity like we’d never seen in the southwest up to that point a thousand years ago,” said Professor W. H. Wills, who leads the UNM Chaco Canyon Field School.

The Great Houses of Chaco Canyon are part of about 4,000 prehistoric and historic archeological sites in the park, which span more than 10,000 years of human cultural history. Through excavation, researchers can prove there was a boom between A.D. 900 and 1100, resulting in increased agriculture methods, social complexity, engineering, astronomy and economic organization. The indigenous people also accomplished great feats of architecture, like the massive stone walls of the Great Houses that draw thousands of visitors to Northern New Mexico every year.

“We may never know the underlining, unusual kickers that turned this place from something that was not very complex into something that was complex,” Professor Wills said. “But we will try. Archeologists will always want to have those answers.”

Professor Wills and Professor Patricia Crown lead a team of archeologists, including UNM students, searching for answers on what lead to the social dynamism in Chaco Canyon. The cooperative partnership between UNM and the National Park Service dates back to the designation of Chaco Canyon as a national monument in 1906. Although the National Park Service is responsible for managing Chaco Culture National Historical Park, much of the early archaeological research in Chaco Canyon was done under the auspices of University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology.

“UNM provides an exclusive opportunity for students to gain experience in the Chaco Semester,” said graduate student Jacqueline Kocer. “They gain lab experience, a classroom portion, a service learning component and actual hands-on field work where they get experience excavating. No other university offers this type of learning.”

UNM ran advanced archaeological field schools from 1929 to 1942, with one final post-war session in 1947. Several UNM students went on to careers in the National Park Service, continuing to work in Chaco Canyon and resulting in the joint 1970-1985 Chaco Project.

In 2005, UNM Professors Wills and Crown began a new phase in the evolving UNM-Chaco relationship. Over a series of summer and fall field seasons, they re-excavated trenches dug in the 1920s during the National Geographic Society's Pueblo Bonito Expedition.

“It gives us a very unique and gratifying opportunity to work intensely with the students,” Professor Wills said. “To spend a lot of time with graduate students and training them to run field schools.”

During the first four weeks of the integrated course, students attend classes at UNM’s Main Campus. Using the laboratories and collections of the Department of Anthropology and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology as they are introduced to the fundamentals of archaeological data analysis, field research, and Chaco prehistory. For the following five weeks, students spend four days a week living at Chaco Canyon, helping to excavate during the day while attending labs or lectures in the evenings. They then return to the main campus for the remainder of the semester to analyze material and delve deeper into issues facing Chaco.

“It’s an on-the-ground research project where we’re getting real results, but it’s also our legacy,” Professor Wills said. “It’s UNM’s legacy to the field of research. We’re training students who 10 or 20 years from now will come back and do their own research.”

Click here to read more about the Field School and Chaco Canyon. 

]]>Latest NewsAnthropologyResearchMon, 23 Jan 2017 22:44:27 GMTThe University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology is offering an exclusive opportunity to students from around the world. Through a partnership with Chaco Canyon National Historic park, students can get hands-on experience excavating, researching...Rachel Whitthttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-students-uncovering-mysteries-of-the-pastMon, 23 Jan 2017 15:00:00 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

VEX robots will compete Feb. 4 at UNM

Area students compete in the 2016 VEX Robotics Competition at UNM.

Teams of middle and high school students from across the state will gather at The University of New Mexico on Feb. 4 for the VEX Robotics Competition, sponsored by the UNM School of Engineering.

The competition will be held at the Centennial Engineering Center at UNM. Qualifying rounds will take place from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and elimination rounds and finals will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

About 20 teams will come together, where they will battle against each other using robots created from the VEX EDR design curriculum.

Participants will square off in the game “Nothing But Net,” which is played by scoring colored balls in high and low goals and by elevating robots in a designated climbing zone.

Participating teams will come from Albuquerque, Farmington, Gallup, Mescalero Apache, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe public, private, charter schools, along with home-school groups and STEM societies.

The UNM student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers will provide snacks and lunch as part of their fundraising efforts.

The UNM School of Engineering’s VEX Robotics Competition is one in a series of tournaments supported by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation and various national, regional and local sponsors. 

The competition season culminates each spring, with the top-performing teams from local and state VEX Robotics contests competing against each other at VEX Worlds, where teams have the opportunity to challenge their top-ranked peers from around the country and over 30 countries around the world, including Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain and United Kingdom.

The VEX Robotics Competition is managed by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation and serves as a vehicle for students to develop critical life skills such as teamwork, leadership and project management, honed through building robots and competing with students from the community in an exciting, non-traditional environment. The VEX Robotics Design System was built from the ground up and designed to be an affordable, accessible and scalable platform used to teach science, technology, engineering and math education worldwide. 

]]>Latest NewsSchool of EngineeringResearchWed, 18 Jan 2017 23:10:47 GMTTeams of middle and high school students from across the state will gather at The University of New Mexico on Feb. 4 for the VEX Robotics Competition, sponsored by the UNM School of Engineering.Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/vex-robots-will-compete-feb-4-at-unmWed, 18 Jan 2017 21:32:00 GMT

Shedding light on mental illness brain patterns

Vince Calhoun’s warm smile deeply contrasts with the cold plastic 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 Center, 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 Engineering Center 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 NewsResearchTue, 14 Mar 2017 15:04:10 GMTVince Calhoun hopes to combat mental illnesses using 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

Call opens for 2017 Women In STEM awards at UNM

Women faculty in The University of New Mexico's STEM fields can now apply for a variety of grants as part of the 2017 Women In STEM awards.

The awards are supported by an anonymous gift made to UNM to support research by, and professorships for, women faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Income from investment from this gift will be used to help UNM women tenure-track and tenured assistant and associate STEM professors to establish new lines of research and to develop research collaborations. Awards range from $3,000 to $15,000.

“Small awards can make a big difference when faculty have new ideas or want to start a new collaboration. We look forward to helping another group of outstanding women STEM faculty make research progress,” said Julia Fulghum, director of Advance at UNM, a National Science Foundation-funded project that aims to boost the number of women and minorities in STEM fields at the university.

Eligible applicants include tenure-track and tenured women faculty members at UNM who hold the rank of assistant or associate professor and who are pursuing research in areas supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health (non-clinical) or the Department Of Energy.

Three types of grants will be awarded: 1) travel awards to foster collaborations, 2) seed awards to stimulate research projects that will lead to additional external funding, and 3) workshop awards, which are designed to generate innovative research ideas and collaborations.

Proposals are due Feb. 15. Decisions will announced by March 15. For information to apply, visit Call for Proposals.

Earlier this year, seven women were awarded the 2016 Women In STEM awards. They were: Christina Salas of the Mechanical Engineering and Orthopaedics Departments; Katie Witkiewitz of the Department of Psychology; Lindsay Worthington of Earth and Planetary Sciences; Mousumi Roy of Physics and Astronomy; Jingjing Wang in UNM’s Department of Economics; Jessica Feezell in the Political Science Department and  Siobhan Mattison of the Anthropology Department. 

Read more about the winners here.

]]>Inside UNMFaculty NewsBiologyChemistryGeographyPhysics & AstronomySchool of EngineeringResearchFri, 13 Jan 2017 23:19:15 GMTWomen faculty in The University of New Mexico's STEM fields can now apply for a variety of grants as part of the 2017 Women In STEM awards. The awards are supported by an anonymous gift made to UNM to support research by, and professorships for, women...Advance at UNMhttp://news.unm.edu/news/call-opens-for-2017-women-in-stem-awards-at-unmWed, 11 Jan 2017 19:34:00 GMT

AFRL, UNM collaborate to mentor undergrads

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and The University of New Mexico have established a successful UNM+AFRL Mentoring program that promises benefits to the community and the nation.

The program matches UNM undergraduate students with AFRL scientists and engineers (S&E), military or civilian, to provide personal and professional mentorship. The program began in the fall of 2015 with eight mentors. It now has 20 AFRL researchers and three UNM students as mentors, with an equal number of mentees.

Capt. Timothy Wolfe, an AFRL electrical engineer working on his doctorate at UNM, has been a mentor since the program’s beginning.

“I believe that stronger community building through mentorship and outreach programs like this are crucial to solving many of the current problems identified in maintaining a strong and healthy STEM culture and knowledge base,” Wolfe said.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Wolfe has mentored two students.
 

Air Force Research Laboratory mentors (l. to r.) Capt. Timothy Wolfe, Imelda Atencio and Lt. Evan Threlkeld hold posters announcing The UNM STEM Collaborative Center during a visit to that center. 
 

“What we talk about varies according to student needs,” he said.

His discussions with students usually focus on coping with stressors in their field, study techniques, professional development, course planning and opportunities such as internships and special scholarships.

Wolfe’s first student, Benjamin Zamora Urioste, joined the program in its first semester and still participates. Urioste recently received one of four “I Am STEM” awards UNM presented to undergraduates for commitment to STEM success for themselves and their communities through exceptional campus and community engagement. He now mentors a student.

Wolfe is mentoring Maria Oroyan, a junior in chemical engineering and an “I Am STEM” award winner.

“One of the greatest benefits of the mentoring program is developing lifelong mentoring relationships,” Oroyan said.

She is also working with Wolfe to mentor another UNM student.

“Both of my mentees have embraced the concept of cultivating the next ‘wave’ of students behind them, so that those students can then become strong leaders of their peers as well,” Wolfe said. “Both saw palpable gains in their confidence and comfort level as leaders, and see taking care of their mentees as major components of their leadership.”

Wolfe and AFRL mentor and scientist Imelda Atencio believe such programs are a terrific way for lab researchers to promote leadership and teamwork, and have the potential to increase the Air Force’s cadre of scientists and engineers.

“I think mentoring is an essential part of being a professional S&E,” Atencio said.

The UNM+AFRL Mentoring program is recruiting mentors and UNM students for the spring. Visit stem.unm.edu/mentor for more information about the program and to join before Jan. 30, 2017. ]]>Latest NewsResearchThu, 19 Jan 2017 17:13:36 GMTThe Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and The University of New Mexico have established a successful UNM+AFRL Mentoring program that promises benefits to the community and the nation.Jeanne Dailey, AFRLhttp://news.unm.edu/news/afrl-unm-collaborate-to-mentor-undergradsWed, 11 Jan 2017 19:10:00 GMT

Werner-Washburne receives AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement

Margaret Werner-Washburne, Regents Professor Emerita of Biology at The University of New Mexico and principal investigator of the UNM-IMSD program, will receive the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The distinction honors her work in mentoring and research that led to a significant increase in Hispanic and Native American doctorates in the biological sciences.

In almost 30 years of scientific research, Werner-Washburne has mentored more than 118 underrepresented students who have Ph.D.s or are working toward Ph.D. degrees, AAAS noted. Of those who have earned Ph.D.s, 41 were Hispanic/Latino, nine Native American and three African-American.

Werner-Washburne mentored undergraduate students in her laboratory through programs that encouraged underrepresented racial and/or ethnic minority students to pursue doctorates and through the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science SACNAS. Her mentees have gone on to work in academia and industry, in fields from computer science to genomics and biochemistry to chemical engineering, and are becoming leaders in STEM research, education, and diversity, according to AAAS.

“Imagine, if the first 300 mentees all mentor 100 students, in 3 generations, we’ll have touched the lives of 300 million people.” – Margaret Werner-Washburne, Regents Professor Emerita of Biology

In 2004, Werner-Washburne became principal investigator of UNM’s NIH-funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), an undergraduate mentoring program that prepares students for graduate school. Over 300 students have participated in the initiative since 2004. In recent years, well over 70 percent of the students have entered Ph.D. programs. Werner-Washburne attributes the success of her program to the lessons she learned from her family.  One of the most important steps in the program is for each student to “know their heart” or find out what they love. Once students know that, they have self-motivation and the rest is fun, said Werner-Washburne.

Several years ago, Werner-Washburne added a mentoring program for freshmen, sophomores and transfer students, targeting Native American students. The program, Pathways Scholars, has increased the retention/graduation rate significantly for all students, but, most importantly, by almost 70 percent for Native American students. In the future, Werner-Washburne hopes to find ways to replicate the Pathways Scholars Program in other schools, including tribal colleges.

Werner-Washburne was nominated by Juan C. Meza, dean of the School of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced. Meza has worked with Werner-Washburne on the board of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), where she was president in 2013 and 2014.

In a nomination letter sent to AAAS, Meza wrote that Werner-Washburne has been a “selfless and dedicated mentor to many hundreds of students” throughout her career. Meza said, “I was especially honored to work with Maggie during her time as president of SACNAS. She worked tirelessly initiating new activities and served as an incredible role model to students in all areas.”

One former IMSD student, Erik Arellano, arrived at the University of New Mexico in 2008 after eight years of military service. Arellano, a Hispanic first-generation college student, was in IMSD as an undergraduate and wrote in his letter of support that he felt severe anxiety and insecurity upon entering his first lab. He wrote that Werner-Washburne helped him realize that he was “not only good enough to be in a high-end research lab, but that [he] could excel in that environment.”

Margaret Werner-Washburne, Regents Professor Emerita of Biology, will receive the Lifetime Mentor Award from AAAS.

Because of Werner-Washburne, Arellano wrote that he found the boldness to dream bigger than the life of poverty in which he was raised. “Having spent eight years leading men into conflict, I can honestly say that Dr. Werner-Washburne’s ability to recognize and repair deep-seeded and complicated issues in her mentees is of the highest order,” Arellano wrote.

Werner-Washburne stays in touch with many of her mentees and is happy to see so many are successful mentors themselves. “Imagine,” she said, “if the first 300 mentees all mentor 100 students, in 3 generations, we’ll have touched the lives of 300 million people.”

In 1999, Werner-Washburne received the National Science Foundation Director’s Special Service Award. Werner-Washburne was also honored by Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. She received the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the first President Bush in 1990 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring from his son in 2004.

She was elected a Fellow of AAAS in 2006 and served on the AAAS Biological Sciences Steering committee from 2008 to 2012. In addition, she has served on the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Advisory Council and as a board member and president of SACNAS. She has also been affiliated with the American Society for Cell Biology and the Genetics Society of America.

She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Stanford University in Stanford, California in 1971 and her Master’s degree in Botany from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii. Werner-Washburne earned her Ph.D. degree in Botany from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1984, where she also did her post-doctoral research.

Her research career focused on HSP70s and stationary phase in yeast. She has been a co-principal investigator for the model organism database FlyBase at Harvard. Werner-Washburne’s scholarly work and service were recognized in 2011 with the Harvard Foundation’s Scientist of the Year Award.

“One can think of few people who have done more to advance the goal of increasing underrepresented minorities and women in the biological sciences than Dr. Werner-Washburne,” said Meza. “She has provided mentorship and guidance to countless students, who will doubtless go on to have their own successes in science. Her impact will be felt for many years to come.”

The AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students working toward completion of a Ph.D. in STEM and/or are significantly affecting the climate of a department, college or institution, or field in such a manner as to significantly increase the diversity of students pursuing and completing Ph.D.s in STEM fields.

To be considered for the Lifetime Mentor category, candidates must demonstrate scholarship, activism and community building. Nominees must have more than 25 years of mentoring experience. The award includes a $5,000 prize, a commemorative plaque and complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting, as well as reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the meeting.

The award will be bestowed upon Werner-Washburne during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb. 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held Friday, Feb. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

Media contacts:
AAAS, Stephen Waldron, 202-326-6749 | email: swaldron@aaas.org
UNM, Steve Carr, 505-277-1821 | email: scarr@unm.edu

]]>Latest NewsBiologyResearchWed, 18 Jan 2017 02:20:43 GMTMargaret Werner-Washburne, Regents Professor Emerita of Biology at The University of New Mexico and principal investigator of the UNM-IMSD program, will receive the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science...http://news.unm.edu/news/werner-washburne-receives-aaas-mentor-award-for-lifetime-achievementWed, 11 Jan 2017 16:00:00 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.

]]>Latest NewsBiologyChemistrySTC.UNMCHTMResearchFri, 03 Mar 2017 23:45:49 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

UNM's 2016 top-10 research news stories

The University Communication and Marketing (UCAM) Department at The University of New Mexico annually compiles a list of its top-10 research news stories during the course of the year. Below is the list of UNM's top-10 research news stories for 2016. The stories are in random order.

Scientists discover hidden galaxies behind Milky Way
Hundreds of hidden nearby galaxies have been studied for the first time by a team of international scientists, including UNM Physics and Astronomy Professor Patricia Henning, shedding light on a mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the ‘Great Attractor.’ 

An afternoon walk and a mammoth find
It began with a man walking along a shallow wash near Abiquiu, New Mexico one afternoon and noticing some flakes of what looked like bone. He happened to be walking near the property line, maybe on his neighbor’s property. So he went to visit his neighbor, to tell him about the find.

Zach Sharp, Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, conducts and experiment in the UNM-CSI lab. Sharp is the director of the newly-opened UNM-CSI lab.

UNM-CSI features world class stable isotope research
It started with a vision – a vision to build a world class research-focused laboratory to support stable isotope research while providing hands on instruction that also encourages a cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas and techniques. The result is the UNM-CSI or Center for Stable Isotopes.

UNM research reveals big benefits to housing homeless population
A new report from The University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research could help change the way cities, counties and states deal with homelessness. The study, which researchers say is one of the most comprehensive looks at the economic impact of homelessness to-date, shows it actually costs less to house chronically homeless people than to leave them on the streets.

UNM alumnus plays role in gravitational waves discovery
It is considered by many to be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the past century. For the first time an international group of researchers, including a University of New Mexico alumnus, have detected the existence of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime, confirming a portion of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity.

UNM researchers exploring how to control bacterial growth on sensitive surfaces
Bacteria is such a common part of our world most of us don’t think much about it, but when bacteria grows prolifically on some surfaces it can cause major problems. One example is bacterial growth on a urinary catheter, another is bacterial growth on the hulls of ships. 

New DNA sequencing tech could revolutionize industry
The advancement of the study of the human genome is considered by many to be one of the most significant scientific achievements in modern history. Now, a new technique developed at The University of New Mexico will change the way researchers sequence DNA, what they’re able to learn from it and how many lives they’re able to save.

The dead still speak at UNM’s Human Osteology Lab
Inside an aged, unassuming laboratory in UNM’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, a group of scientists look to the dead for answers.

Optical physicists record lowest temperature ever in solids using laser cooling
When most people think about lasers, they usually imagine them generating heat and even setting something on fire. But, for a group of scientists in The University of New Mexico’s Department of Physics & Astronomy, lasers are actually being used to reach temperatures colder than the arctic circle.

Research links parental relationship quality to a child’s intelligence
The race is on. Children spend more of their time in classrooms and participating in organized activities than any other generation. As part of this frantic feat, Americans are spending around $7 billion annually on supplemental education to ensure their children do well on the highly competitive education circuit. What researchers at UNM have found is if parents can’t get along with each other, then all this conditioning is moot. 

Tobias Fischer collects measurements of volcanic sulfur dioxide in the sky overhead using a Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer on the summit of Kanaga volcano in the Western Aleutian Islands. 

Exhaling Earth: scientists closer to forecasting volcanic eruptions
On average, 40 volcanoes on land erupt into the atmosphere each month, while scores of others on the seafloor erupt into the ocean. A new time-lapse animation uniting volcanoes, earthquakes, and gaseous emissions reveals unforgettably the large, rigid plates that make the outermost shell of Earth and suggests the immense heat and energy beneath them seeking to escape.

UNM technology playing crucial role in Large Hadron Collider discoveries
Near Geneva, Switzerland, an experimental facility, 17-miles in diameter, shoots protons at almost the speed of light to see what happens when they crash into one another. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is located at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator on the planet. Several experiments take data at the LHC, including the largest called ATLAS. And, on the other side of the world, in The University of New Mexico’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, a research group is making big contributions to this massive experiment more than 5,000 miles away.

]]>Latest NewsAnthropologyBiologyChemistryEarth & Planetary SciencesPhysics & AstronomySchool of EngineeringCollege of EducationResearchThu, 29 Dec 2016 15:59:10 GMTThe University Communication and Marketing (UCAM) Department at The University of New Mexico annually compiles a list of its top-10 research news stories during the course of the year. Below is the list of UNM's top-10 research news stories for 2016. The...http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-s-2016-top-10-research-news-storiesThu, 22 Dec 2016 21:10:00 GMT

Heinrich announces funding for Innovative STEM Education Program at KAFB 

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently announced $25 million in authorized funding for the continuation of the nationwide STARBASE program, which motivates fifth grade students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through hands-on learning in collaboration with military installations.

The program in New Mexico is based at Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) La Luz Academy where scientists, engineers, and military volunteers from AFRL and other Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) organizations apply abstract principles to real world situations by giving students from across New Mexico interactive demonstrations on the use of STEM in different settings and careers.

"We need more New Mexico students who are passionate about STEM to fill the in-demand jobs at our national labs and military installations," said Heinrich. "STARBASE is a highly effective program that strengthens the relationships between the military, communities, and local school districts. The program at AFRL's La Luz Academy exposes students to STEM at a critical age and puts them on the path to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs."

Before the announcement, Heinrich toured La Luz Academy and met with students who have participated in the STARBASE program. The STARBASE program at La Luz Academy is geared toward students who are historically under-represented in the STEM fields and allows them to participate in a 25-hour hands-on curriculum where they solve scientific challenges related to aerospace.  In New Mexico, the program has served nearly 10,000 5th grade students.

The announcement was made at KAFB where Heinrich was joined by Kelly Hammett, director of AFRL Directed Energy; Ronda Cole, director of La Luz Academy; and Chaouki Abdallah, provost, The University of New Mexico. 

Heinrich also discussed giving the Department of Defense civilian on-campus recruiting authority, which enables AFRL, White Sands Missile Range, and other installations specializing in research, development, testing, and evaluation to hire from New Mexico's academic institutions.

"The long-term success of Kirtland Air Force Base can be enhanced by our college graduates, which is why I helped create a new direct-hire authority to allow Department of Defense recruiters to hire the best graduates directly from university campuses, including UNM, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico State," said Heinrich. "This measure, along with the continuation of the STARBASE program, will strengthen the STEM pipeline and ensure that New Mexicans are prepared for the jobs of the future."

"Directed energy is a new frontier for national security research, and UNM has been a leader in that arena for more than 20 years," said Abdallah. "Along with our partners in the Air Force Research Lab, and at Kirtland Air Force Base, we are determined to be at the forefront of this research and to provide exciting new opportunities for students and important career prospects with the DOD.” 

In addition to these provisions, Heinrich also highlighted $183 million for research and development of directed energy weapon systems and other key advancements he secured in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to benefit New Mexico's men and women in uniform, military installations, national laboratories, and job creation throughout the state.  For a full list of measures secured in the NDAA for New Mexico, click here.

The NDAA sets spending levels and policies for fiscal year 2017. NDAA authorizes funding for the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as the Department of Energy's environmental cleanup programs including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

]]>Latest NewsGovernment RelationsResearchAdministrationWed, 21 Dec 2016 22:02:48 GMTU.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently announced $25 million in authorized funding for the continuation of the nationwide STARBASE program, which motivates fifth grade students to explore Science,...http://news.unm.edu/news/heinrich-announces-funding-for-innovative-stem-education-program-at-kafbTue, 20 Dec 2016 17:28:00 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

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