SANTA FE — New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED) has announced that six New Mexico colleges and universities have received a total of $43.5 million in dedicated research funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support research projects in biology, medicine, computer science, math, environmental science and more.
Several grants also focus on increasing the number of women, Native Americans, Hispanics, and other historically underrepresented groups in research fields.
“New Mexico’s public colleges and research universities add tremendous value to our state, helping to position us as national and international leaders in innovation,” NMHED Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “It is especially important that we empower students from all backgrounds for successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and math with mentorship and research experience during their academic careers.”
Students pursuing degrees in research-based fields at New Mexico’s public and Tribal colleges and universities can gain hands-on research experience under the mentorship of faculty, many of whom are leading experts in their field nationally and internationally. These experiences are key for those interested in pursuing careers and research in science, technology, engineering, and math, or continuing their education to graduate and doctoral levels.
“Other than studying neural diversity, my mission is to train students and engage them in neuroscience research. I am highly passionate about neuroscience,” University of New Mexico Biology Professor Mubarak Syed said. “My aim is to train the next generation of neuroscientists, and give them exposure to research early on. I have a long-term passion and commitment for science outreach and mentoring students, in particular those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Dr. Syed is the recipient of the NSF’s CAREER award, a prestigious award that integrates education and research. With the help of this award, he and his lab will visit Zia and Jemez Pueblos and demonstrate experiments to high school students in a classroom setting. Using fruit flies, these outreach activities will expose students to neuroscience research and is part of his “Pueblo Brain Science” program. Dr Syed has also established a mentoring program for local college students called NEURONAL – Neuroscience Experiences and Undergraduate Research Opportunities for Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos/Hispanics.
“Our University continuously engages with communities on the Navajo Nation to provide information, resources, and develop research to maintain our culture and language,” Navajo Technical University President Elmer Guy said. “Our university is devoted to preparing our students to be successful in the career choices they pursue and to inspire them to be civically engaged and conscious of all the changes that occur in our environment. The NSF grants support the preservation of our Navajo language and culture by forging them with STEM education and research to create solutions and improve the lives of our people.”
“Research is a fundamental aspect of New Mexico Tech’s approach to educating students,” New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology President Stephen Wells said. “These major research grants ensure that our undergraduate and graduate students alike get the opportunity to participate in funded, real-world research during their academic careers. Much of the same research goes on to help raise the standard of living in New Mexico while also growing the state’s advanced workforce and STEM economy.”
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences, and is tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery. Awards from the NSF reflect its statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
“As we continue to take on this pandemic and the climate crisis, science has proven time and time again to be our best tool. That’s why I am proud to support these National Science Foundation awards. New Mexico’s universities are at the forefront of the research needed to leverage cutting-edge science to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. This funding gives our universities the resources they need to deliver on that work. It will also help expand and diversify our STEM workforce, positioning us for more advances ahead,” Sen. Martin Heinrich said.
“New Mexico’s colleges and universities are consistently on the forefront of innovation and putting students on a path to success. From bolstering research in specialized fields to increasing diversity in education, this grant funding will help support New Mexico students to pursue their careers,” said Senator Ben Ray Luján. “I will continue supporting investments in New Mexico’s higher education institutions to help our students succeed and compete in the job market.”
“Our New Mexico higher education institutions give countless students a pathway to bright and successful futures. This grant funding will boost growth in our essential STEM fields,” said Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández. “We must support the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians whose inventions will lead to a better future for New Mexico.”
“New Mexico is a science and technology powerhouse—from our national labs to our public universities and tribal and community colleges. As someone that has worked as a STEM educator and researcher in communities across the state, I know first hand how critical investments in New Mexico institutions are to our state,” said Rep. Melanie Stansbury. “These NSF grants and the programs they support will invest in our students and researchers and put their talents to work for our communities. I am deeply proud of our colleges and universities and the extraordinary work they are doing.”
The following New Mexico colleges and universities received grant awards for research proposals so far this year:
The University of New Mexico (UNM) – $30,087,141
- $14,999,681 toward Transforming Rural-Urban Systems: Trajectories for Sustainability in the Intermountain West Research Network (TRUSTS-RN), a transdisciplinary research effort representing diverse communities, sectors, disciplines, and backgrounds aimed at improving regional sustainability.
- $982,345 to broaden the participation of women and underrepresented minorities from Native American, Hispanic, and low-income populations in STEM innovation and entrepreneurship.
- $50,000 for the development of a modular framework to assist people using wheelchairs in completing activities such as accessing electronic devices, typing, and opening doors.
- $404,551 to fund research involving synthetic cellular systems and to support training and education for Native American students. A partnership with Navajo Technical University will deliver a cross-institutional synthetic biology course and a funded UNM summer research internship for NTU students.
- $992,280 to fund research into building synthetic cells, which can have specific functions and desired applications such as the ability to eradicate infection-causing microbes or the ability to breakdown toxic chemicals in the environment.
- $414,071 to fund research into creating a new synthetic mechanism for DNA replication control in synthetic cells that will open the door for new applications in biomedicine and biotechnology.
- $168,569 toward collecting and describing mammals and their tapeworm and flea parasites from the grasslands of Central Asia.
- $106,431 to conduct seismic imaging at Valles Caldera to probe and unveil the subterranean magmatic system of the volcano.
- $497,969 to fund research into the role of bacteria and fungi in transforming and detoxifying metals in the environment.
- $130,000 to develop a curricular framework for data science education and workforce development that is transferable between diverse institutions.
- $566,476 to develop new computational tools and knowledge that can be used to help ground operators of satellites manage the complexity of next generation space missions.
- $393,314 to develop small-scale instrumentation and analysis tools for better monitoring of the time-varying microwave environment on and above Cerro Toco, at the site of the current POLARBEAR/Simons Array CMB experiment.
- $324,240 to investigate magma infiltration and deformation of previously stable tectonic plates.
- $600,000 to fund research into Quantum Information Science (QIS).
- $550,000 to fund research into developing broad-spectrum antiviral
- materials that work against many viruses without inducing resistance.
- $12,000 for student travel for select students to participate in the Doctoral Mentoring Consortium (DMC) at the International Conference of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KRR) in Hanoi, Vietnam.
- $193,204 to upgrade research equipment at the UNM Volatiles Laboratory to measure the composition of the noble gas helium in volcanic emanations and thermal springs.
- $187,307 to research carbon sequestration along the Andean Convergent Margin (ACM).
- $423,431 to research how wildfires affect water quality and aquatic ecosystems.
- $225,520 to investigate the relationship between volcanism and tectonism in southwest North America.
- $574,694 to fund the creation of Arctos, a database and collection management system between the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (University of California Berkeley), the Museum of Southwestern Biology (UNM), and the Texas Advanced Computer Center (University of Texas Austin).
- $970,175 to investigate the factors that influence genomic variation within amphibians and to produce new genome-scale data for several dozen frog species sampled across the United States.
- $687,031 to research the role of immunity-related t-cells and variations between placental and non-placental mammals. This project will also provide research experiences for undergraduates transferring from two-year community college to a four-year, research-intensive university.
- $200,000 to develop novel tools to search existing seismographic databases for subtle earthquakes that may have evaded detection.
- $152,476 to develop new parallel-in-time algebraic multigrid methods for complex physical systems specifically designed for next generation computers.
- $1,824,296 to research how diverse neural cell types are generated and how these neural types acquire distinct functions.
- $119,972 to develop algorithms that are useful for modern physics and quantum information.
- $307,495 to evaluate how plant-plant and plant-microbe interactions influence the migration of creosote into adjacent grasslands.
- $113,228 to develop a replicated, 4,000-year-long reconstruction of Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) rainfall in Nepal to examine the nature and origins of multidecadal monsoon variability during different climate states of the late Holocene.
- $246,699 to advance theory for understanding teacher learning as it relates to mathematics, teacher knowledge and student knowledge.
- $399,441 toward developing software that takes advantage of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) for capturing and processing data from astronomical telescopes.
- $650,000 to study novel molecular circuit designs that exploit DNA chirality to produce robust molecular circuits that can execute computations within living mammalian cells, and to strengthen the biotechnology educational pipeline in New Mexico via a collaboration with ¡Explora!
- $942,923 to research processes that promote rapid radiations in nature using a species-rich genus of island kingfishers as a study system.
- $99,528 for a workshop on enhancing postdoctoral professional skills to advance research and workforce development.
New Mexico State University (NMSU) – $4,086,244
- $1,190,460 to conduct research into biofilm, through which students will be co-mentored by a team of scientists and have the opportunity to conduct research at national laboratories.
- $579,236 to fund research into the auditory system of aye-ayes, one of the most unique and endangered primates in the world, and find potential applications to technology.
- $475,685 for the purchase of a Bio-AFM microscope to support the research and training of investigators and students at NMSU, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and Eastern New Mexico University.
- $239,400 to research how the physical environment, interactions with others, and an animal’s own characteristics act together to influence that animal’s movements through a landscape.
- $250,000 to research groundwater sustainability and management of transboundary aquifers.
- $98,980 to research increasing the resilience of food systems and reducing food insecurity and waste.
- $50,000 to fund the development of a technology that can convert yard trimmings disposed as municipal solid waste into an environmentally benign anti-icer.
- $532,400 to develop a novel approach to doing participatory design through live streaming media: Live Participatory Design Fiction (LPDF).
- $121,331 to research challenges facing floating offshore wind turbine technology.
- $46,000 for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
- $299,733 to increase the participation of women and Hispanic high school students in computer science.
- $301,999 to envision, design and engage in worker-oriented research and training related to the proliferation of automation in the hospitality industry, which has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology – $3,484,024
- $483,028 to fund research into the relationship between volcanic activity and glacier retreat by examining rocks and minerals from Mount Waesch in West Antarctica.
- $396,934 for the purchase of a high-resolution confocal Raman microscope with capabilities to perform liquid and solid experiments.
- $225,000 to investigate new states of matter induced by light.
- $676,882 to research how and when the Mongolian Altai mountains formed.
- $120,731 to purchase a new Agilent 5900 Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission and to support a new outreach program to educate students about their local water resources.
- $523,159 for research into lightning physics.
- $519,563 to research the impact of applied stress on high-entropy alloys, a new class of engineering materials that show significant promise for replacing traditional alloys, such as steel, in high temperature and load-bearing applications.
- $538,727 to support analysis of observations collected during the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) field campaign, which studied the formation and development of tropical convective clouds and associated heavy rainfall in the eastern equatorial Pacific and southwest Caribbean.
Navajo Technical University (NTU) – $4,445,440
- $405,440 to fund research into addressing challenges to computation and communication networks in remote, less populous and rural areas.
- $4,040,000 for a partnership with Harvard University to increase the number of Native Americans earning undergraduate degrees in STEM fields, improve research infrastructure at NTU, increase the number of Native Americans entering and completing graduate programs in materials science, and integrate Native American perspectives and methods of inquiry into materials science research.
New Mexico Highlands University – $1,148,205
- $831,740 for a partnership with the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Los Angeles to provide materials science education and hands-on training for research to students from underrepresented groups.
- $150,229 for the purchase of a Raman Microscope, which uses laser light to obtain valuable information about the vibrational structure of molecules and crystals on the micrometer scale.
- $166,236 to fund research into predicting the effects of microbes on tree productivity during the critical canopy closure stage of forest establishment.
Central New Mexico Community College – $298,757
$298,757 to investigate how to recruit, retain, and prepare women and minoritized students to pursue careers in Computer Information Systems (CIS).