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Researching the Future
of Earth and Beyond

Las Cruces has long been known for its association with White Sands Missile Range and it is gaining notoriety for its proximity to Spaceport America. A key factor in the area’s mushrooming growth in technical fields is, of course, New Mexico State University. The school is home to a wide range of disciplines including the many fields of agricultural science, astrobiology and even marine biology. The university certainly garners its share of research and study grants and awards, making for strong contributions to the local economy and creating niches for some of America’s leading scientific researchers to share our local neighborhoods.

NMSU is a natural choice for grants to study desalination efficiency and photovoltaic energy harnessing because of the abundance of brackish water in the region and, of course, the abundance of sunshine. Such projects, however, appear to be simply the tip of the iceberg for NMSU. The numerous grants, awards and recognitions include projects dealing with the likes of artificial intelligence, nanosatellites, cut flower physiology, and even corporate storytelling.

NMSU engineers and astrologists like Nancy Chanover, David Glenar and David Voelz, are developing tools for in-situ detection of organic species that may exist on Mars or which may be traveling with asteroids. Astronomy Department Head Jim Murphy has been recognized recently by NASA for his years of contribution to the requirements for landing craft in the harsh environment of the planet Mars. Such projects enhance New Mexico’s capabilities to participate even more in NASA research, which ultimately leads to a stronger Las Cruces economy.

But marine biology? Sure. Michele Nishiguchi studies the symbiotic relationships among marine creatures, such as squid and bacteria. Her work may not be dinner conversation for most of us but Michele works hard to garner support for research scientists at NMSU in many fields. As leader of NMSU’s biosciences cluster, she lends support to fellow scientists and fights for the renewal of grants required for the successful completion of projects. She also conducts intriguing field trips to exciting locations.

As we speed down Interstate 25 past University Avenue, our first thoughts may be of tailgating at Aggie Memorial, golf at the university course or a Neil Diamond concert at Pan American Center (yes, I attended both of them). But the research projects that involve our university neighbors are nothing less than incredible. NMSU is the FAA partner for testing all aspects of unmanned aerial vehicle development. It has a contract for the operation of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility that launches high altitude balloons (over 1700 total) from all over the world. And it receives grants, lots of grants, like the $340,000 just awarded by the National Science Foundation to develop, among other things, software to assist robotics or handle all the details of your next vacation.

NMSU’s participation in research and development is exciting, obviously cutting-edge and extremely beneficial to this community. So think about it: If your children have an interest in science or participating with the nation’s top Model United Nations Team (or any one of a number of fields in which NMSU excels), does it make sense to send them anywhere else?

Published Winter 2009

Charlotte Tallman



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