UNM Research News

Grant funds political activism study at UNM

A new, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant is allowing researchers at The University of New Mexico to study how people are responding to the current political environment in the United States.

Earlier this spring, the NSF awarded UNM Political Science Professor Lonna Rae Atkeson a one year, $30,000 grant to research, “RAPID: Emotion Regulation, Attitudes, and the Consequences for Political Behavior in a Polarized Political Environment.” (NSF Award 1743846).

“Rarely do higher education faculty get awarded a timely grant,” Atkeson said. “But this funding comes at a time when it is particularly interesting to see how emotions are contributing to the political conversation.”

Recent events have fueled the public’s political activism, as evidenced from heated debates on social media, broad-scale marches and protests across the nation.

Atkeson’s current study builds on her previous work, further examining emotion and how emotion regulation influences political activism, particularly in response to emotionally provocative moments in society.

“We’re surveying respondents who were already interviewed during the 2016 U.S. election three times over the next year to capture how citizens respond to political change," she said. "Our first survey will capture attitudes toward the first months of the Trump presidency along with recent political events surrounding former FBI Director Comey, Russia, and withdrawal from the Paris Accords."

The survey-based study is the first in political science to look at how emotion regulation habits differ between individuals in society; and considers whether, over time, these habits foster agreement or polarization.

This kind of information contributes to a growing body of research that explores the importance of socio-political emotions in fueling public attitudes and behavior. Atkeson is conducting this research in conjunction with Professor Cherie D. Maestas, Marshall A. Rauch Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and Professor Sara Levins, assistant professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Together, they hope to develop a new theory to explain how individual-level emotion regulation habits contribute to the information processing; and how they influence expressive and social political behavior.

“Professor Atkeson has been at the forefront of research on elections, voting, attitudes, and survey research methodology in the American context for more than 20 years,” said Timothy Krebs, chair, UNM Political Science Department. “This award further solidifies her position as a leading light in political science; and is a credit to our department, the College of Arts and Sciences and UNM. We are very excited about this award, and her continued success.”

Atkeson, the principal investigator of the award, is also a Regents' Lecturer and director of the both Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy and the Institute for Social Research at UNM.

]]>Front PageFaculty NewsPolitical ScienceInstitute for Social ResearchResearchWed, 19 Jul 2017 19:00:09 GMTA new, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant is allowing researchers at The University of New Mexico to study how people are responding to the current political environment in the United States. Earlier this spring, the NSF awarded UNM Political...http://news.unm.edu/news/grant-funds-political-activism-study-at-unmWed, 19 Jul 2017 19:00:00 GMT

Biology professor receives funding to fight pervasive African parasite

In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 90 percent of village children are infected with a debilitating and potentially fatal neglected tropical disease called schistosomiasis. Around the world, more than 220 million cases persist, mostly in Africa, despite considerable efforts over the years to control the effects. It’s a disease researchers at The University of New Mexico are working hard to combat.

UNM Distinguished Professor of Biology Eric S. Loker began studying the parasite that causes this disease more than three decades ago and is widely considered one of the world’s foremost experts in this field. Loker was recently awarded a five-year, $1.9-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue his work in Africa.

“We’re looking at a particular parasite, Schistosoma mansoni, in and around Lake Victoria, in Kenya,” said Loker. “Lake Victoria is one of the world’s great endemic foci of schistosomiasis. So, we’re looking at why this parasite is so pervasive there and what can be done about it?”

Schistosoma mansoni is a parasitic fluke, or flatworm, that is one of three major species responsible for causing human schistosomiasis. The parasite is dependent on particular species of freshwater snails (Biomphalaria) that serve as vectors. The parasite multiplies extensively in the snail and produces many swimming larvae that leave the host and penetrate the skin of people as they bathe, wash clothes and play in freshwater. Once contracted, schistosomiasis, or snail fever as it’s commonly known, can cause abdominal pain, liver and intestinal damage, stunted mental and physical development and, in severe cases, death. The transmission cycle is completed when parasite eggs passed in human feces enter water, and hatch to release a stage that infects snails.

“Anybody who works in this field has this dream that somehow they can identify a mechanism whereby they could lessen the burden of this infection." – Eric S. Loker, UNM Department of Biology

Currently, the drug Praziquantel is used worldwide as the primary treatment for schistosomiasis. But the parasite is so prevalent, the most at-risk populations are extremely likely to be re-infected over and over again, making it very important for other control methods to be explored.

“Anybody who works in this field has this dream that somehow they can identify a mechanism whereby they could lessen the burden of this infection,” said Loker. “We hope to be able to do that as well.”

A Complex Biotic Environment: Helpful or Harmful?
To find new avenues for control, Loker and his UNM colleagues are working alongside long-standing collaborator Dr. Gerald Mkoji and his team from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). With help from this new grant, the team will be working to better understand how and why this parasite is so common in and around Lake Victoria and what, if anything, can be done to leverage the diverse natural setting in which it occurs to the detriment of the parasite.

One aspect they are exploring is the diversity and abundance of the Biomphalaria vector snails in the Lake Victoria region. Unlike many other ‘hotspots’ for schistosomiasis, Lake Victoria is home to three different species of Biomphalaria, each of which has the capacity to develop and spread the parasite. In this case, Loker says the region’s diverse environment supports multiple modes of transmission, which has amplified the impact of the disease. Gaining a better understanding of the biology of each of the snail species, including their differing degrees of susceptibility to infection and vulnerabilities to environmental change, may help researchers determine how to limit their role as vectors.

The second aim of this project is to devise new ways to engage the region’s incredible biodiversity to potentially fight the S. mansoni parasite. Loker and his team have found several other parasites that also depend on these same snails for their development. In some cases, the non-schistosome parasites can compete with and even consume the S. mansoni parasites within the snail, before it’s able to fully develop. The benefit here is that these competitor parasites don’t pose a threat to humans.

“We’re trying to basically domesticate these particular competitor parasites and try to document if there’s any way that we can increase their abundance in places where people might be inclined to go in the water,” said Loker.

If researchers are able to develop a mechanism to accomplish this task without posing other environmental concerns, they may be able to use the environment’s natural diversity to make real gains in the fight to stop the spread of schistosomiasis.

Loker says current control methods for snail vectors are fairly crude and typically involve introducing large quantities of chemicals into freshwater habitats to kill off the snails, something biologists would prefer not to do. It is also prohibitively expensive for large habitats. Also, the chemicals can kill other aquatic wildlife and are not popular with local populations that depend on water from such habitats for drinking and every day survival.

Another approach to be taken by the proposal and a possible solution to this problem is the development of CRISPR/Cas technology for the Biomphalaria snail. The cutting-edge genome editing tool would essentially give researchers the ability to take out a gene in the snail’s DNA – making it no longer able to support the development of the parasite. Without the snail acting as a vector host, the parasite could no longer develop to infect humans.

Recently released research from UNM Professor Coen Adema, which analyzed the genome of a Biomphalaria species, will assist Loker’s project and could give other scientists the ability to develop this CRISPR/Cas technology in the future.

“The beauty of having this new funding is that it gives us the opportunity to keep our eyes open and look for other control opportunities,” said Loker. “In addition to the particular aims that we’re exploring, we’re always on the hunt for something that might be really interesting and useful.”

Loker and his team of graduate students will travel to Kenya later this year to continue their research. He says the NIH grant will give the opportunity to make several trips per year, something he hopes will lead to more progress in the fight against this parasite.

“We are very excited for the future of this research,” he said. “But, this project also gives us the opportunity to train more U.S. and Kenyan graduate students who will be able to continue to tackle this problem in the future.” 

]]>Front PageFaculty NewsCollege of Arts & SciencesBiologyResearchFri, 14 Jul 2017 22:19:49 GMTIn parts of sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 90 percent of village children are infected with a debilitating and potentially fatal neglected tropical disease called schistosomiasis. Around the world, more than 220 million cases persist, mostly in Africa,...Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/biology-professor-receives-funding-to-fight-pervasive-african-parasiteFri, 14 Jul 2017 17:28:00 GMT

Groundbreaking discovery confirms existence of orbiting supermassive black holes

For the first time ever, astronomers at The University of New Mexico say they’ve been able to observe and measure the orbital motion between two supermassive black holes hundreds of millions of light years from Earth – a discovery more than a decade in the making.

UNM Department of Physics & Astronomy graduate student Karishma Bansal is the first-author on the paper, Constraining the Orbit of the Supermassive Black Hole Binary 0402+379’, recently published in The Astrophysical Journal. She, along with UNM Professor Greg Taylor and colleagues at Stanford, the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Gemini Observatory, have been studying the interaction between these black holes for 12 years.

“For a long time, we’ve been looking into space to try and find a pair of these supermassive black holes orbiting as a result of two galaxies merging,” said Taylor. “Even though we’ve theorized that this should be happening, nobody had ever seen it until now.”

In early 2016, an international team of researchers, including a UNM alumnus, working on the LIGO project detected the existence of gravitational waves, confirming Albert Einstein’s 100-year-old prediction and astonishing the scientific community. These gravitational waves were the result two stellar mass black holes (~30 solar mass) colliding in space within the Hubble time. Now, thanks to this latest research, scientists will be able to start to understand what leads up to the merger of supermassive black holes that creates ripples in the fabric of space-time and begin to learn more about the evolution of galaxies and the role these black holes play in it.

“Even though we’ve theorized that this should be happening, nobody had ever seen it until now.” – Professor Greg Taylor, UNM Department of Physics & Astronomy

Using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a system made up of 10 radio telescopes across the U.S. and operated in Socorro, N.M., researchers have been able to observe several frequencies of radio signals emitted by these supermassive black holes (SMBH). Over time, astronomers have essentially been able to plot their trajectory and confirm them as a visual binary system. In other words, they’ve observed these black holes in orbit with one another.

“When Dr. Taylor gave me this data I was at the very beginning of learning how to image and understand it,” said Bansal. “And, as I learned there was data going back to 2003, we plotted it and determined they are orbiting one another. It’s very exciting.”

For Taylor, the discovery is the result of more than 20 years of work and an incredible feat given the precision required to pull off these measurements. At roughly 750 million light years from Earth, the galaxy named 0402+379 and the supermassive black holes within it, are incredibly far away; but are also at the perfect distance from Earth and each other to be observed.

Bansal says these supermassive black holes have a combined mass of 15 billion times that of our sun, or 15 billion solar masses. The unbelievable size of these black holes means their orbital period is around 24,000 years, so while the team has been observing them for over a decade, they’ve yet to see even the slightest curvature in their orbit.

“If you imagine a snail on the recently-discovered Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri – 4.243 light years away – moving at 1 cm a second, that's the angular motion we're resolving here,” said Roger W. Romani, professor of physics at Stanford University and member of the research team.

“What we’ve been able to do is a true technical achievement over this 12-year period using the VLBA to achieve sufficient resolution and precision in the astrometry to actually see the orbit happening,” said Taylor. “It’s a bit of triumph in technology to have been able to do this.”

While the technical accomplishment of this discovery is truly amazing, Bansal and Taylor say the research could also teach us a lot about the universe, where galaxies come from and where they’re going.

"The orbits of binary stars provided tremendous insights about stars,” said Bob Zavala, an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory. “Now we'll be able to use similar techniques to understand super-massive black holes and the galaxies they reside within."

Continuing to observe the orbit and interaction of these two supermassive black holes could also help us gain a better understanding of what the future of our own galaxy might look like. Right now, the Andromeda galaxy, which also has a SMBH at its center, is on a path to collide with our Milky Way, meaning the event Bansal and Taylor are currently observing, might occur in our galaxy in a few billion years.

“Supermassive black holes have a lot of influence on the stars around them and the growth and evolution of the galaxy,” explained Taylor. “So, understanding more about them and what happens when they merge with one another could be important for our understanding for the universe.”

Bansal says the research team will take another observation of this system in three or four years to confirm the motion and obtain a precise orbit. In the meantime, the team hopes that this discovery will encourage related work from astronomers around the world.

]]>College of Arts & SciencesFaculty NewsPhysics & AstronomyResearchFront PageTue, 27 Jun 2017 15:13:11 GMTFor the first time ever, astronomers at The University of New Mexico say they’ve been able to observe and measure the orbital motion between two supermassive black holes hundreds of millions of light years from Earth – a discovery more than a decade in the making.Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/groundbreaking-discovery-confirms-existence-of-orbiting-supermassive-black-holesTue, 27 Jun 2017 15:00:00 GMT

Lee receives ORAU Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award

Sang Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of New Meixco, has been awarded one of the Oak Ridge Associate Universities (ORAU) 2017 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards.

Assistant Professor Sang Lee.

His selection is especially significant because there were 125 applicants from which 37 awardees were chosen. Recipients of this award are faculty who are within the first two years of their tenure-track position.

This is a national award that recognizes the quality and promise of young faculty researchers. UNM's Office of the Vice President for Research matched this award, making the total award amount worth $10,000 for one year (June 1 to May 31).

“This is a great achievement for Dr. Lee and UNM is proud of his commitment to research excellence,” said Vice President for Research Gabriel López. 

]]>Front PageSchool of EngineeringMechanical EngineeringResearchMon, 26 Jun 2017 19:44:58 GMTSang Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of New Meixco, has been awarded one of the Oak Ridge Associate Universities (ORAU) 2017 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards. Vanessa Tanhttp://news.unm.edu/news/lee-receives-orau-ralph-e-powe-junior-faculty-enhancement-awardMon, 26 Jun 2017 19:36:00 GMT

High-schoolers build sensors, test them at Sandia crest

About 30 local high school students visited The University of New Mexico School of Engineering on a recent Saturday to work with faculty and graduate students to learn how to build low-cost sensors, then put them to the test measuring the natural frequency, or sway, of a car on the Sandia Peak Tramway.

The students met at Centennial Engineering Center, Room 1028, to assemble fairly simple low-cost sensors, then traveled across town to the Sandia Peak Tramway, where the students took a tram ride with their devices, collecting data along the way. The effort is being led by Fernando Moreu, assistant professor of civil engineering, whose research specialty is low-cost sensors.

The students built 15 smart sensors that collect accelerations and tilt of structures and used them in the field to collect data. Each sensor consisted of an Arduino microcontroller, a tilt meter, an accelerometer and other electronic components that can be put together for about $40.

The data was collected in real time and will be able to be analyzed by the students.

This activity is a part of UNM’s annual Summer Transportation Institute, organized by the School of Engineering.

Moreu said collecting such data, such as on bridges or railroads, can give valuable information about how much these structures move. Although isolated data may not be of much use, he said the ability to track data over a period of time to measure changes could be of value.

“We’re really domesticating sensors,” he said. “If a person tracks the daily movement of a bridge over time and sees that it changes significantly over time, the ability to quantify that information could be helpful in calling attention structures that may potentially be unsafe or at risk.”

Moreu is passionate about the issue of low-cost sensors because he said that sensors can be valuable on a widespread basis, from professional civil engineers to laypeople, and the cost does not have to be prohibitive.

“Young people are very open to the idea of the use of sensors for a lot of uses because it’s become more and more common, but it’s not as accepted in industry,” he said. “The hope is to use this training as a pilot for future trainings with practitioners to show them that they, too, can use these devices and the cost should not be a barrier."

He cites the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, issue by the American Society of Civil Engineers, as why sensors would be useful on a widespread basis. It shows that the condition of many of our nation’s roads, bridges, dams and railways is in poor condition.

One of the goals with this effort is to get students interested in engineering by creating a fairly simple, fun and productive activity, said Moreu.

“Not all of the students will be interested in pursuing engineering, but maybe a handful will, and maybe they also will be able to begin working with a UNM mentor or professor to engage in research, even in high school,” he said.

Although Moreu is a civil engineer, this activity encompasses a broad range of engineering skills, from civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering to mechanical engineering.

]]>Front PageSchool of EngineeringCivil EngineeringResearchWed, 21 Jun 2017 12:00:08 GMTAbout 30 local high school students visited The University of New Mexico School of Engineering on a recent Saturday to work with faculty and graduate students to learn how to build low-cost sensors, then put them to the test measuring the natural...Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/high-schoolers-build-sensors-test-them-at-sandia-crestWed, 21 Jun 2017 12:00:00 GMT

UNM triumphs over adversity to win Outstanding Solar System Design Award at Solar Splash

Engineers are known for being organized, analytical and prepared with a plan well in advance.

But sometimes, despite research, testing and complex calculations, the best-laid plans throw a curveball, forcing engineers to act more like ER doctors in crisis mode than calm and in-control logical thinkers.

That’s what happened to The University of New Mexico’s Solar Splash team just a few days before the team was set to drive to Springfield, Ohio, for the June 7-11 competition.

On the Friday evening before the Monday that the team was set to take the boat to Ohio, they literally experienced a meltdown. Even though it was supposed to be sun-proof, the deck material melted after just a few minutes in the Albuquerque sun, shattering multiple photovoltaic cells.

“It was literally sagging,” said Steven Maurice, a master’s student in electrical engineering. “About 20 of the cells were visibly damaged.”

Clearly, it was time for Plan B.

Luckily, Peter Vorobieff, the mechanical engineering professor advising the team, was at the hardware store when he received the crisis call. Being an engineer, he came up with a quick solution.

“I purchased some California oak, and we built a new deck for the cells,” said Vorobieff, who picked up woodworking skills in high school.

Then, the next 48 hours were filled with a lot of teamwork, as Maurice and Joshua Stewart, another electrical engineering master’s student, worked feverishly to rebuild the array, testing each cell, and replacing about 50 cells. They even called in a reinforcement — electrical engineering undergraduate teammate Naveed Jafari — to help out. Even after doing this, the team was still soldering the silicon bypass diodes in place after they arrived in Ohio.

“The students learned a lot, and while it is competitive, it’s a friendly competition where teams share their knowledge and help each other out."    – Professor Peter Vorobieff, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering

This year, the team opted to purchase highly-efficient solar cells (which have an efficiency of more than 30 percent vs. around 18 percent efficiency of conventional cells) from SolAero Technologies of Albuquerque. Although the SolAero cells, normally used in space applications, required a learning curve to work with, the team was able to design an array of panels with the cells. After the meltdown of the backing material, the team didn’t have time to reconstruct the entire array with the needed power with the SolAero cells, so they decided to supplement the SolAero array with cells they used on last year’s boat. It wasn’t Plan A, but it did get the job done, keeping the boat powered throughout the entire competition.

Despite this glitch with the deck, the UNM team was awarded the Outstanding Solar System Design Award at the competition, largely due to using such advanced, unique cells, some creative craftsmanship, and also because — for the second year in a row — they were the only team to build their own array.

“We were the only team there with space-grade cells,” Vorobieff said.

Although the team’s seventh-place overall finish (out of 13 teams to finish and 16 to compete) was lower than last year’s fourth-place finish, this year’s team actually performed better than last year.

“We improved our boat and performance, but our competitors improved too,” Vorobieff said.

The team also placed second in qualifying and second in visual display.

The meltdown days before the competition wasn’t the first adversity the team faced, though. About a week before, after Maurice and electrical engineering master’s student Joshua Stewart spent countless hours preparing the SolAero cells for their designed configuration, they were preparing to finalize connections and realized that 80 percent of the cell pairs had faulty connections, making them inoperable. Catching that near-fatal issue was thanks to the wisdom of Jane Lehr, the professor leading the electrical engineering side, who kept emphasizing to test every step of the way. Jafari, who would also be called in to assist after the later meltdown, was called in to help out. With a week of long hours, they were able to assemble what they believed at the time was their complete array.

Vorobieff said he is already thinking about next year’s design. He plans to keep the Gheenoe hull purchased this year and would like to use the SolAero cells, but redesign how they are mounted. He also would like the student team to redesign and replace the drivetrain, which was largely unchanged from last year’s boat.

“We had two problems, the first being our competition had more horsepower, and the second is that our drivetrain was underpowered and programmed to cut power to the motor when the battery voltage drops,” he said. “This is good to preserve the battery, but not good during a race.”

A project of this magnitude cannot be done in a vacuum. Twelve electrical and computer engineering students and nine mechanical engineering students participated in the Solar Splash team, led by mechanical engineering students Michael Anselmi and Daniel Taylor and Joshua Stewart on the electrical engineering side. Vorobieff said invaluable technical assistance was provided by individuals at two local companies — Steve Taylor from Taylor Marine and Alex Stavrides at SolAero. In addition, he said Diana Sargent, senior fiscal services technician in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, made sure the equipment purchasing went smoothly on the UNM end.

Also, Vorobieff said both the mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering departments at UNM provided generous support to the effort, especially Lehr, who led the electrical engineering side of the project, including the solar array design and construction of the maximum power point tracker to charge the batteries.

Even though winning is always a goal, “The students learned a lot, and while it is competitive, it’s a friendly competition where teams share their knowledge and help each other out,” said Vorobieff. “The competition score is important, but it can’t quantify what the students get out of something like this.”

To donate to the 2018 Solar Splash team, go to https://www.unmfund.org/fund/solar-splash/.

]]>Front PageSchool of EngineeringElectrical & Computer EngineeringMechanical EngineeringResearchTue, 20 Jun 2017 12:00:09 GMTEngineers are known for being organized, analytical and prepared with a plan well in advance.Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-triumphs-over-adversity-to-win-outstanding-solar-system-design-award-at-solar-splashTue, 20 Jun 2017 12:00:00 GMT

FSAE adds star power to this year’s program

The University of New Mexico Formula SAE team has nearly two decades of design, build and racing experience under its belt. Under the direction of John Russell, professor of mechanical engineering, the team has grown and evolved, and also has had some great results, including being ranked as high as fifth best out of 125 in the United States and 18th best out of 500 in the world.

However, the last couple of years, results at the annual international race competition in Lincoln, Neb., have not been as stellar because of some mostly- preventable failures. Russell says that although the team has done well with the resources it has, better-financed teams with newer equipment, facilities, and more specialized expertise have stolen the spotlight.

Enter this year’s addition of Mike Arnold, a veteran of the Indy Car circuit, as lab manager. Arnold, who came in at the beginning of 2017, has experience in the building, design, and fabrication of racecars. He has been working with the program to provide expertise on the build of the car and organization of the shop.

Russell said even small changes implemented by Arnold, like being there to answer questions, have greatly helped the team.

The UNM FSAE team will compete in Lincoln this year June 21-24 with a revamped car that Arnold had a hand in, along with Alan Mertens, a veteran award-winning Indy Car designer and builder who for years partnered with Al Unser Jr., a two-time Indianapolis 500-winning driver.

In addition, Unser, an Albuquerque native, worked some with the FSAE team during practices to give the team driving tips.

Russell said with the extra expertise on board this year — Arnold focusing on the build of the car, Mertens giving advice on the design, and Unser helping with driving — he has been able to focus on his primary expertise of vehicle dynamics.

“It’s been truly enjoyable having Mike run the shop,” Russell said. “It’s made a huge difference and has brought a lot of discipline to the program so that it is run more like a professional racing team with greater attention to the details of the build.”

Team lead and mechanical engineering senior Jonathon Abeyta said he feels that this attention to detail early in the design and build process makes them feel ready for competition.

“Things can always go wrong that you don’t expect, but I think we feel prepared and should be really ready at the competition,” he said.

In terms of changes on the car this year, the team has made strides to improve the engine system, which has given them issues the last couple of years. This year’s turbo-charged engine should help control boost pressure for different events in the competition, as a single-cylinder fuel injector will help the engine run cooler with greater fuel efficiency, Russell said.

Abeyta said that in addition to the larger engine changes, they’ve installed a new centrifugal clutch that will help prevent the engine from stalling, and have installed improved instrumentation on the dash that will help them detect problems when they still can be remedied instead of waiting until they become a major issue and threaten to sideline the car as in the past.

Abeyta said it’s been an educational process working with Arnold.

“He’s helped us catch a lot of issues early and helped us think of things that should be fixed that we might not have thought of,” he said.

Russell said hiring Arnold to manage the shop is the first step in a new five-year plan called the Venture for Racing Excellence to raise funds to revamp the FSAE program — which includes acquiring all-new equipment and a larger design and build space — in an effort to not just improve competition results, but also to enhance the learning experience for students and raise the profile of the program, the School of Engineering, and UNM.

The LOBO Motorsports FSAE program is a problem-based, hands-on senior design program where over the course of three semesters, students design, build, and race a small Formula-type racecar for international competition. The project includes every aspect of systems engineering, project management, and teamwork seen in a government or industrial engineering development program. In a little over a year, the team takes a system from conception to operation. The program is interdisciplinary and has about 45 students on each year’s team. It is one of the few programs in the country that doesn’t operate as a club. Instead, FSAE is a for-credit alternative to a senior design project.

To donate to the Venture for Racing Excellence, contact Courtney Holmes at (505) 277-0664 or courtg@unm.edu.

]]>School of EngineeringElectrical & Computer EngineeringMechanical EngineeringResearchFront PageThu, 15 Jun 2017 17:39:07 GMTThe University of New Mexico Formula SAE team has nearly two decades of design, build and racing experience under its belt. Under the direction of John Russell, professor of mechanical engineering, the team has grown and evolved, and also has had some great results, including being ranked as high as fifth best out of 125 in the United States and 18th best out of 500 in the world.Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/fsae-adds-star-power-to-this-years-programThu, 15 Jun 2017 15:45:00 GMT

International institute brings researchers to UNM for summer

Graduate students and early-career researchers from around the world will be gathering this summer at The University of New Mexico for the 2017 Sandia National Laboratories Nonlinear Mechanics and Dynamics Summer Research Institute, known as NOMAD.

The institute will be held from June 19 to July 28 at the Manufacturing Training and Technology Center (MTTC) at the UNM Science and Technology Park. It brings together technical researchers from various backgrounds with the goal of developing collaborations and making progress toward solving major challenges.

This year’s theme is “Integration of Test and Analysis.” The goal of this year’s institute is to improve the way that experiments and modeling are done in the engineering sciences. Often, they are performed in isolation from each other, so NOMAD will explore ways in which the processes can be better integrated, improving the outcomes of each, said Robert Kuether, an engineer at Sandia National Laboratories who is organizing this year’s institute.

For this year’s institute, 18 mostly graduate-level students from around the world will be working on one of six technical projects. Each project was organized by two to four mentors from various government, academic, or industrial institutions. Seventeen mentors will be advising the teams over the summer, Kuether said.

This program was started in 2014 by Sandia National Laboratories through the vision of Kuether’s predecessor, Matt Brake.

“He had gotten me involved as a technical mentor to some of the past projects, and I quickly realized how unique and special this institute was to the students, mentors and the engineering community,” he said. “Eventually, I took over the lead organizing role in hopes of continuing his progress and making the institute sustainable in years to come.”

NOMAD is a collaborative environment that brings together researchers, experts and students alike, to solve challenging problems related to the field of nonlinear mechanics and dynamics.

“By bringing people together for six weeks, we are able to share various perspectives and state-of-the-art techniques to solve these problems and expand our networks in the external research community,” Kuether said.

The institute is open to graduate students and early-career researchers from the United States and international communities.  Faculty who would like to get involved or would like more information can contact Kuether at rjkueth@sandia.gov.

]]>Front PageSchool of EngineeringSTC.UNMResearchLobo HubWed, 14 Jun 2017 20:00:37 GMTGraduate students and early-career researchers from around the world will be gathering this summer at The University of New Mexico for the 2017 Sandia National Laboratories Nonlinear Mechanics and Dynamics Summer Research Institute, known as NOMAD.Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/international-institute-brings-researchers-to-unm-for-summerWed, 14 Jun 2017 15:46:00 GMT

UNM touted among top in the nation for technology transfer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Milken Institute

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

]]>Front PageSTC.UNMResearchWed, 14 Jun 2017 12:00:07 GMTThe University of New Mexico (UNM) is among the best in the nation for technology transfer, according to The Milken Institute. STC.UNMhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-touted-among-top-in-the-nation-for-technology-transferThu, 11 May 2017 23:44:00 GMT

UNM receives $12 million NSF Cooperative Agreement to operate COMPRES

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded The University of New Mexico a five-year, $12 million NSF Cooperative Agreement to operate the Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences or COMPRES.

Distributed through NSF’s Instrumentation and Facilities Division of the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) in the Directorate for Geosciences, this award will assist in the operation of national facilities and infrastructure development for high-pressure geosciences research. Known as COMPRES IV, this award, which began June 1, covers a five-year period from 2017 through 2022. There are five overall planned increments to the project.

A community-based consortium, COMPRES’ goal is to enable Earth science researchers to conduct the next generation of high-pressure science on world-class equipment and facilities. COMPRES was designed and charged with the oversight and guidance of specialized laboratories at several national synchrotron facilities. Synchrotron-based techniques have played an ever-increasing role in experimental efforts to measure properties of geological materials at high pressures and temperatures.

Under the leadership of Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor Carl Agee, who is the principal investigator, UNM began operating the community-based organization in 2015, when the University of Illinois released operations. Agee will also serve as COMPRES Chief Executive Officer / president.

“This consortium has been funded for $12 million over five years, with approximately $2.4 million distributed annually through the COMPRES central office including several sub-awards for projects that are currently being carried out at various synchrotron facilities,” said Agee, who will serve as CEO / president. “As CEO, my job is to promote COMPRES, manage all the sub-awards, and organize workshops including the consortium’s annual meeting.”

As part of its mission, COMPRES continually develops new infrastructure and technologies to advance U.S. geoscience research. The consortium consists of scientists from 68 member institutions who determine the basic material properties of the inaccessible Earth, and these measurements, in turn, shed light on questions of direct societal impact, such as the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. They can also help explain the formation of natural resources within the Earth, and they can improve our quality of life through the discovery of new advanced materials.

“The goal of high pressure science is to see how materials react under extreme conditions,” Agee said. “Materials scientists and physicists are interested not only in how materials behave under extreme conditions, but also how it’s applied and or its relevance to Earth science which tells us how the interiors of large planetary bodies function and how geology works under extreme conditions.”

Part of Agee’s responsibility is the creation of budgets, where the grant funds go and working with the executive committee. “The most important thing is we try to make sure new projects and new science discoveries are coming out of this cooperative agreement,” Agee said. “It’s also my job to promote this endeavor. COMPRES is a very cohesive entity in terms of the research community. Many people call this general area of research mineral physics, but it goes out further to other areas.

“What’s neat about COMPRES is that it provides a focus for the organization. There are certain areas of research that don’t have a cohesive common vision. COMPRES leads the way or charge of the community in terms of what we’re going to be doing the next five years.” 

For more information, visit COMPRES.

]]>Front PageEarth & Planetary SciencesResearchThu, 08 Jun 2017 21:08:10 GMTThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded The University of New Mexico a five-year, $12 million NSF Cooperative Agreement to operate the Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences or COMPRES. Distributed through NSF’s...Steve Carrhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-receives-12-million-nsf-cooperative-agreement-to-operate-compresThu, 08 Jun 2017 20:48:00 GMT

Solar Splash team takes refreshed approach to competition this year

The University of New Mexico competed for the first time last year in the Solar Splash boat competition. The rookie team was proud of their results — fourth overall, second place in slalom, highest-scoring rookie team — but it being their first year, they knew improvements would need to be made.

Now, with a year of experience under their belts, the team has made some big changes and is hoping this results in a better performance at competition.

The team will compete in the national competition June 7-11 in Springfield, Ohio.

“We looked at everything from last year’s team in a design problems course last semester lead by Dr. [Peter] Vorobieff,” said team leader Michael Anselmi, who just received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “We mainly focused on improving the hull design and looked at the cost, weight, stability, and fluid analysis.”

From their research, they identified boats within their price range that they felt would improve their performance this year and chose a 13-foot Gheenoe manufactured in Titusville, Florida.

The boat, which was driven here from Florida and arrived just after spring break, is a fraction of the weight of last year’s boat, a foot shorter and more fluid dynamic, as it is made of fiberglass instead of aluminum.

“It cuts through the water better than last year’s boat,” Anselmi said. “Plus, it has a flat bottom toward the transom, which assists with the stability of the craft and increases its ability to maneuver.”

The team also did something counterintuitive to the boat that they hope will help improve its performance.

“We cut the keel out of the hull from about mid-ship to the transom then filled it in with fiberglass to not only assist the boat in planing when it reaches speed, but it created a level surface to mount all of our drive train components to,” Anselmi said.

Daniel Taylor, co-team lead and a master’s student in mechanical engineering, said he is hopeful that improved solar cells will have a big impact. The team was able to purchase highly-efficient solar cells from SolAero Technologies in Albuquerque.

“Last year’s cells were about 15-18% efficient, and year’s are 28-32% efficient, which will make a major difference in not just performance, but in the number of cells needed to power the boat,” Taylor said. “Fewer cells will cut down on the weight of the total array as well.”

Last year’s boat was around 500 pounds total, and so far, Anselmi said this year’s boat is around 375.

Anselmi and Taylor said a lot of materials and expertise were provided by Steve Taylor of Taylor Marine. Some of the work on the boat was done at his workshop. His expertise is what led the team to make a lot of the changes to the hull for improved efficiency.

This year’s team includes a core of nine students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering as well as 11 students from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering that are providing extra projects to assist in the efficiency of charging the batteries with the solar cells.

“We’re a small group, and we’d like to keep it small, because everyone is passionate and wants to put in the work,” Taylor said.

This year’s supporters include Sandia National Laboratories, Roger Koerner, IEEE, the UNM Department of Mechanical Engineering, Taylor Marine, and several private donors.

The team was able to raise enough money for supplies and travel this year, but they would like to be able to continue fund-raising to pass along not just knowledge, but funds, to next year’s team.

Although the team found the bureaucracy and delays of planning a project of this magnitude a challenge, it gave them good experience in the real world.

“We’re in the infancy of this program, but I think we’ve learned a lot about not just making the boat, but how to get things done at a university, which will be transferrable to industry as well,” Anselmi said.

Also, they would like to make the design problems course a two-semester course instead of just one, Taylor said.

The team went with a Vikings theme this year when naming the boat. It is named Solulfur, which is Old Norse for “Sun Wolf.”

To learn more about the UNM Solar Splash team, go to http://unmsolarsplash.com To donate, go to https://www.unmfund.org/fund/solar-splash/

]]>Front PageSchool of EngineeringElectrical & Computer EngineeringMechanical EngineeringLatest NewsResearchWed, 31 May 2017 15:27:28 GMTThe University of New Mexico competed for the first time last year in the Solar Splash boat competition. The rookie team was proud of their results — fourth overall, second place in slalom, highest-scoring rookie team — but it being their first year,...Kim Delkerhttp://news.unm.edu/news/solar-splash-team-takes-refreshed-approach-to-competition-this-yearWed, 31 May 2017 14:00:00 GMT

Changing climate could have devastating impact on forest carbon storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becerra receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warming news from Russia

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

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

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

Kinderlinskaya Cave, in the Ural Mountains of Russia, showing soda-straw stalactites draped from the roof and stalagmites growing upward from the cave floor. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>Front PageEarth & Planetary SciencesResearchMon, 22 May 2017 21:24:00 GMTA new paper by UNLV Geoscience graduate student Jon Baker has hot implications for the climate future of Russia. Baker, working with UNLV Geoscience Professor Matthew Lachniet and colleagues Yemane Asmerom and Victor Polyak at The University of New...http://news.unm.edu/news/warming-news-from-russiaMon, 22 May 2017 20:24:00 GMT

Using genomics to fight deadly parasitic disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNM students ‘teaching rockets to fly’

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

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

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

Students wrapping the rocket's midsections with dacron fabric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senior student projects on display during Engineering Expo III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Nobel Laureate to speak Thursday at UNM

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

W.E. Moerner, 2014 Nobel Laureate

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

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

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

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

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

Engineering research focuses on bringing efficiency to network processes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford Professor Jonathan Payne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNM alumnus Dr. Bill Lovejoy.

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

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

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

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

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