UNM Research News

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

Civil engineering student awarded fellowship

Elisa Borowski

Elisa Borowski, a master’s student in The University of New Mexico Department of Civil Engineering, was selected to receive the 2017 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Out of 3,500 eligible applications, the Department of Defense will award about 150 fellowships this year.

The fellowship provides coverage of full tuition and mandatory fees at any accredited U.S. college or university offering advanced degrees in science and engineering along with an annual stipend for four years.

Borowski will pursue a doctoral degree in civil engineering at Northwestern University in the fall, with a research focus on sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems.

 

]]>Inside UNMSchool of EngineeringCivil EngineeringStudent SuccessResearchThu, 27 Apr 2017 16:18:12 GMTElisa Borowski, a master’s student in The University of New Mexico Department of Civil Engineering, was selected to receive the 2017 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Out of 3,500 eligible applications, the...http://news.unm.edu/news/civil-engineering-student-awarded-fellowshipThu, 27 Apr 2017 16:00:00 GMT

Isaac receives 2nd annual Community Engaged Research Lecturership award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNM expands Division of Genomic Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNM scientists selected for 2017 Women in STEM awards

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

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

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

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


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

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

This year’s research awards went to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assistant Professor Christina Salas

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

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

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

Professor Mahmoud Reda Taha

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

For more information, visit UNM Orthopaedics Research

 

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

Five Lobos receive prestigious NSF graduate research award

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

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

UNM's 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows:

Greg Ottino – Particle Physics

Julian Vigil – Chemical Engineering

Violet Sheffey – Sustainable Chemistry

James Fluke – Environmental Engineering

Tomas Babuska – Metallic Materials Research


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

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

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

UNM physicist discovers strange forces acting on nanoparticles

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

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

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

Dr. Alejandro Manjavacas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>Latest NewsFaculty NewsCollege of Arts & SciencesPhysics & AstronomyResearchFri, 07 Apr 2017 23:30:03 GMTA new scientific paper published, in part, by a University of New Mexico physicist is shedding light on a strange force impacting particles at the smallest level of the material world. The discovery, published in Physical Review Letters, was made by an...Aaron Hilfhttp://news.unm.edu/news/unm-physicist-discovers-strange-forces-acting-on-nanoparticlesFri, 07 Apr 2017 22:30:00 GMT

UNM awarded $1.6 million NSF grant to extend microsystems education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNM partners with NASA for national robotics competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyrannosaurs show their sensitive side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Julia Fulghum, director, Advance at UNM

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

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

Additional goals of the Advance at UNM project include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Advance at UNM work space offers many amenitiies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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