April 2024


Eclipse Thoughts


By Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President for Research, Creativity, and Economic Development

Flew to Boston, Massachusetts Friday April 9 en route to Plattsburgh, New York which was directly in the path of the eclipse. Plattsburgh is where my daughter-in-law spent her childhood, and my in-laws own a cabin tucked away from the city. Knowing that the next total solar eclipse in the United States will not take place for another 20 years, I was not about to miss this one.

Ancient civilizations harbored fears of eclipses, a reaction I can understand, often startled by sudden darkness. Fortunately, unlike our ancestors, we now possess scientific knowledge that predicts when and where eclipses will occur, allowing me to plan for this eclipse with fearless excitement.

Unease stirred by unexpected changes and navigating uncertainty is a universally shared sentiment. I felt it in recent weeks as news of a failed presidential search, an unexpected retirement of the provost, and the prospect of reporting to, yet another boss unfolded. Organizational change accompanies leadership transitions, whether interim or permanent. An excess of such change can lead to what is termed as "change saturation," negatively impacting both individuals and the organization.

Drawing insights from a recent Prosci publication and reflecting on the present situation at NMSU, it is likely that faculty and staff are experiencing disengagement, frustration, and heightened stress amidst the turmoil. I certainly am. Organizational repercussions may manifest as higher turnover, decreased productivity, and a general erosion of morale and focus.

Throughout my administrative career trajectory, I have held the office of the president in high esteem. Persistent turnover undermines the respect due to this position. From my perspective, the turnover problem does not lie as much with individuals holding the office, as it does with fundamental undervaluation of consistent, long-term presidential leadership.

As we approach the next presidential transition, I express my gratitude to interim president Gouge for steering NMSU through the challenges of the past year relying on immense experience to do so. I applaud the Regents for their choice of Dr. Monica Torres as our next interim president, acknowledging her academic record, servant leadership, and the respect she commands within the community. I urge fellow Aggies to join me in standing beside Dr. Torres as we traverse unsettling, yet familiar galaxies. 

While I wish to be working at NMSU when the next eclipse crosses America, that is not in the cards. My hope is to still golf the NMSU course spraying balls throughout the links and enjoying the camaraderie at the 19th hole overlooking Las Cruces and NMSU. Perhaps by then, I will raise a toast, reflecting on the past 20 years and celebrating the advent of enduring, visionary leadership at NMSU.



 NMSU Hadley Building





A Word of Thanks to Our Faculty Researchers


By Dr. Tanner Schaub, Assistant Vice President for Research

I want to thank the faculty researchers who dedicated their time and effort to submit their ideas to the FY24 Technology Enhancement Fund. Despite the challenges posed by the ever-changing rules of this state program, your perseverance and innovation have been truly inspiring. Working with you has been an enlightening experience, providing me with a deeper understanding of the diverse research activities on our campus. Please know that your contributions are greatly valued, and we are committed to finding ways to support and fund your ideas. I am honored to advocate for your research.

Special thanks to:

  • Hameed Badawy
  • Ludi Maio
  • Jay Frankel
  • Tim Wright
  • Shelley Lusetti
  • Pei Xu
  • Abdu Abdelkefi
  • Wiebke Boeing
  • Alina Corcoran
  • Nancy Chanover
  • Jess Waller
  • Alexa Doig
  • Brad Shuster
  • Di Shi
  • John Idowu
  • Huiyao Wang
  • Olga Lavrova
  • Shayan Abotalebi
  • Jacob Wilson
  • Marcella Shelby
  • Eric Sanchez
  • Krishna Kota
  • Paulo Oemig
  • Fengyu Wang





News from Workforce and Strategic Engagement


By Dr. Patricia Sullivan, Director, Workforce and Strategic Engagements

The Office of Workforce and Strategic Engagement recently presented strategies for workforce development as a panelist at the Electrify New Mexico conference in Albuquerque.  Hosted by the Renewable Energy Industries Association of New Mexico as a “business to business” event, Electrify New Mexico brought together thought leaders, policy makers, business executives and elected officials to discuss partnerships and collaborations to support diversification of the state’s energy demands.  Governor Lujan Grisham encouraged attendees to create partnerships to pursue extensive federal funding available for infrastructure and workforce development.  Focused discussions included opportunities for sustainable building practices, expanding renewable energy resources, growing a statewide supply chain, and ensuring an aligned and career-ready workforce. Arrowhead Center was also featured for their energy sprint accelerator and entrepreneurship programs.



Electrify New Mexico 


News from the Arrowhead Center


By Ms. Dana Catron, Deputy Director, Arrowhead Center

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program, funded by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, provides an avenue for making a significant impact in New Mexico's burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem. It offers technical assistance to New Mexico startups by connecting them with faculty and graduate students for feasibility assessments and product functionality validations through research or lab testing. The program provides faculty or graduate students with a $3,000 stipend and enables them to apply their expertise in support of industry efforts. Previous projects span various disciplines such as food safety, agricultural studies, wind turbine testing, and market analyses and the program is looking to expand offerings. For more details, contact Milica Tenic at tenic@nmsu.edu  or John Waller at jcwaller@nmsu.edu, or visit Arrowhead Center NMSBA Program and NMSBA Program Website.




New Mexico Small Business Assistance 

Recognizing Recipient of Large Award (March 2024)


By Dr. Hamid Mansouri Rad, Senior Proposal Development Specialist, RAS 

Congratulations to Dr. Catherine Brewer, associate professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, and her team for garnering a $4.8 million competitive award from the Department of Energy’s Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program.

This three-year project aims to expand the size and diversity of the available workforce with skills to manage radioactive tank waste through capacity building, interdisciplinary training, and hands-on experiences. In the long-term, the program will develop a new interdisciplinary graduate certificate at NMSU that can be completed remotely by students from science, engineering, and business backgrounds to enhance their knowledge and experience in DOE Office of Environmental Management’s needed areas. In addition to scientists at NMSU’s Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, a number of faculty across NMSU collaborate on this project. Those include Drs. Paul Andersen (Chemical and Materials Engineering), Cory Windorff (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Frank Ramos (Geological Sciences), Victor Pimentel (Management), as well as Donovan Fuqua and Faruk Arslan (Accounting and Information Systems).

External collaborators on this project include the University of Texas at El Paso, Georgia Institute of Technology, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Savannah River National Laboratory.

For more information about this project please contact Dr. Brewer at cbrewer@nmsu.edu.


Dr. Catherine Brewer, NMSU 

Dr. Catherine Brewer, NMSU


Recognizing Large Proposal Submitters (March 2024)


By Dr. Hamid Mansouri Rad, Senior Proposal Development Specialist, RAS 

Congratulations to Drs. Enrico Pontelli, Huiping CaoStefan Zollner, and Ramesh Chinnasamy for submitting proposals exceeding a million dollars in the month of March. 




Drs. Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of Computer Sciences and Huiping Cao, professor of Computer Science, co-led a $4.9 million proposal to the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM program. The goal of this proposal is to create a consortium titled Diversity Alliance for sTudent Advancement (DATA) S-STEM comprised of two research institutions, NMSU and New Mexico Tech as well as three two-year colleges: Dona Ana Community College, El Paso Community College, and San Juan Community College, all Hispanic-Serving Institutions of Higher Education. If selected for funding, the Consortium will provide scholarships to predominantly Hispanic undergraduate students from 2-year and 4-year Computer Science and computing-related programs, who are academically talented and have demonstrated financial need. The program will guide these students to graduate programs and ultimately careers in computing. “The Consortium will contribute to the training of talented students that will meet the workforce needs in two fastest growing and high-demand areas of computing: Cybersecurity and AI,” states Dr. Cao, the principal investigator of this proposal. “The need of trained computational scientists in this area is severe.” 

For more information please contact Dr. Enrico Pontelli (epontell@nmsu.edu) or Dr. Huiping Cao (hcao@nmsu.edu). 

 Drs. Enrico Pontelli and Huiping Cao

Drs. Enrico Pontelli and
Huiping Cao, NMSU

Dr. Stefan Zollner, Head of the Department of Physics, coordinated a $4.2 million proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program. This proposal aims to conduct studies related to the superconductivity of ruthenates and their heterostructures, the infrared response of topological insulators and semimetals, and sodium ion batteries with improved charge storage capacity and lifetime. In addition, it plans to broaden participation of underrepresented minority students in materials research and education through various activities such as targeted high school and community college recruiting.

Other NMSU faculty involved in this proposal are Drs. Boris Kiefer, Igor Vasiliev, and Ludi Miao from the Department of Physics as well as Dr. Meng Zhou from the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. This proposal establishes a partnership with peer scientists at the NSF Quantum Foundry at University of California Santa Barbara.

For more information about this proposal please contact Dr. Zollner at Zollner@nmsu.edu.

NMSU Stefan Zollner 

Dr. Stefan Zollner, NMSU

Dr. Ramesh Chinnasamy, college associate professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, led a $2 million to the NSF S-STEM program. This proposal aims to provide scholarships to academically talented students, from low-income families, majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. The proposed project will also address the challenges students might face and provide academic support such as tutoring and personalized advising as well as and non-academic support, namely social gatherings with peers and faculty mentors to ensure the students’ retention and success.

The team members who collaborated with Dr. Chinnasamy to develop this proposal were Drs. Muhammed Dawood (professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Cecila Contreras (Research Scientist), Deanna Dunlavy (college professor of Chemistry) and Tony Marin (Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs).

For more information, please contact Dr. Chinnasamy at ramesh@nmsu.edu.

Dr. Ramesh Chinnasamy, NMSU

Arrowhead Center at NMSU Awarded DOE Prize to Establish Clean Energy Accelerator


By Ms. Adriana M. Chávez, Senior Communications Specialist, NMSU Marketing and Communications

In a landmark selection by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center has been honored not only as a recipient of the EPIC (Energy Program for Innovation Clusters) Round 3, Phase 1 prize but also as the chosen venue for the live announcement of the EPIC III awards. This designation underscores the vital role Arrowhead Center plays in propelling clean energy innovations and fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem that benefits communities – particularly those that are underserved – nationwide.

The DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions has identified Arrowhead Center among 23 incubators and accelerators awarded $150,000 each to bolster U.S. energy startups. This funding will be used to create the Arrowhead RenewTech Incubator and Accelerator, aiming to advance clean energy and water technologies in New Mexico and support an innovation-centric ecosystem.

“Programming designed specifically for energy innovators is relatively new for Arrowhead,” said Dana Catron, deputy director of Arrowhead Center. “Recognizing the hurdles our clients encountered in bringing clean energy solutions to the market, we strategically positioned ourselves to bridge this gap.”

Arrowhead Center offers a robust range of programs and resources for innovators and entrepreneurs within a broad service region. Arrowhead Center has achieved significant success in working with startups and underserved populations, including minorities, women, rural communities, and Native American tribes and pueblos.

“Our efforts are closely aligned with impacts and outcomes of programming, with over 70% of the New Mexico Clean Energy Resilience and Growth Cluster applicants and participants identifying as underserved,” Catron said.

In 2020, Arrowhead Center was awarded the Department of Energy’s inaugural EPIC prize, receiving $50,000 to spearhead the hybrid EnergySprint + SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) accelerator. The following year, Arrowhead Center secured a $1 million EPIC award to begin the NM CERG cluster, which provides targeted support for clean energy technology firms.

“This award is a testament to the collaborative ethos that defines us,” said Luis Cifuentes, NMSU vice president for research and economic development, about the EPIC Round 3, Phase 1 prize. “NMSU is a university not just focused on academic excellence, but on fostering a community that graduates successful individuals ready to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“Arrowhead Center’s commitment to supporting emerging energy and water technology companies through mentorship, industry connections and access to resources is truly inspiring,” said Victor Kane, director of commercialization programs in the Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions. “The Arrowhead RenewTech Incubator exemplifies the spirit of innovation and collaboration that EPIC seeks to foster.”

Hosting the live announcement of the DOE’s EPIC III awards at Arrowhead Center further amplifies its national recognition as a leader in clean energy acceleration. The EPIC program has committed $15.5 million to support over 230 startups across the U.S., highlighting the critical role of innovation in energy sustainability. For more information, visit https://www.energy.gov/technologytransitions/energy-program-innovation-clusters.






Dr. Mahdi Haghshenas-Jaryani Receives NASA RIA Award


By Dr. Paulo Oemig, Director, New Mexico Space Grant Consortium

Building up from a NM NASA EPSCoR seed award, Dr. Mahdi Haghshenas-Jaryani, Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Department, has secured $300,000 in funding (NASA award no. 80NSSC24K0839) to work on limbless robot locomotion for planetary and extreme environment missions. This funding is part of the NASA’s Research Initiation Awards (RIA) program. RIA is a Science Mission Directorate (SMD) program, which enables researchers from Minority Serving Institutions to expand their research infrastructure over the course of a two-year period to establish a sustainable project.

As part of his RIA project, Dr. Haghshenas-Jaryani will engage undergraduate students to gain invaluable first-hand knowledge in his Bio2Robotics lab. The project will research energy-efficient artificial muscle-driven limbless robot locomotion for planetary surface exploration. Dr. Haghshenas-Jaryani’s team has been able to dramatically improve the performance of muscle-driven mechanisms compared to conventional snake-like robots. This research will produce prototypes enhancing energy efficiency for extended, long-rage operations. Expanding the technological frontier of limbless robot locomotion on inhospitable terrains will require maximizing the dynamic performances of various muscle-driven snake robots and produce robust control algorithms for adaptive and optimal performance.

Limbless and pneumatic snake-like robots offer many advantages over conventional robots, their versatile mobility can address NASA’s needs in navigating difficult surfaces and tight spaces. They are affordable, lightweight, and thus can cover more terrain in swarm configurations. Dr. Haghshenas-Jaryani’s RIA project moves from fundamental knowledge to practical applications in the service of NASA’s space exploration. And his students will be contributing to this important work.




Ayala Valles, NMSGC

Ayla Valles, a NM Space Grant Scholar and Master’s student at the Bioinspired and Biomimetic Robotics (Bio2Robotics) Research Laboratory, works on the computer modeling and simulation of the artificial muscle-driven snake-like robot for planetary exploration applications

Funding Highlight: NEH Campus Visit and the Humanities Initiatives Grant


By Dr. Allison Layfield, Senior Proposal Development Specialist, RAS

NEH’s Division of Education supports education in the humanities by funding humanities education projects for faculty in K-12 and higher education. Through the Education division, Faculty have the unique opportunity to apply for funding to support the revision or development of educational courses or programs. In particular, the Humanities Initiatives at Hispanic-Serving Institutions provides up to $150,000 to “help strengthen the teaching and study of the humanities at Hispanic-Serving Institutions by supporting the development of new or enhancement of existing programs, educational resources, or courses that explore, interpret, and preserve the diversity of human cultures, ideas, and practices, past and present.” Early April is a great time to get started on this grant proposal; the NEH deadline is May 7, 2024.

On February 28, NEH Division of Education program officer Dr. Julia Nguyen visited NMSU to participate in Research and Creativity Week. Dr. Nguyen met with NMSU libraries and museums, consulted with faculty on grant funding for projects, and provided a presentation, “NEH Grants to Support Collaboration: Programs, Resources, Approaches.” The presentation provided an overview of NEH funding priorities and processes and highlighted funded grant projects from peer universities in our region. The recording can be viewed via this link, and additional NEH Resources can be found on the Arts and Humanities Funding Teams site. NMSU ID login required.

Faculty interested in applying for the Humanities Initiatives for HSI program will need to submit their applications through Research Administration Services. Proposal development specialists are available to assist with project design and writing grant applications. RAS contract administrators will assist with budgeting and application submission. For assistance with proposals or for more information about the internal NMSU submission process, email me at layfield@nmsu.edu.





NSF CAREER Workshop on April 19, 2024


By Dr. Hamid Mansouri Rad, Senior Proposal Development Specialist, RAS

The Office of the Vice President for Research, Creativity, and Economic Development will hold a one-day workshop on developing effective NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) proposals on Friday April 19. To be eligible to apply for the NSF CAREER funding, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Hold a doctoral degree in a field supported by NSF;
  • Be engaged in research in an area of science, engineering, or education supported by NSF;
  • Hold at least a 50% tenure-track (or tenure-track-equivalent) position as an assistant professor (or equivalent title);
  • Be untenured; and
  • Have not previously received a CAREER award. (Prior or concurrent Federal support for other types of awards for non-duplicative research does not preclude eligibility.)

Applicants may submit only one proposal in each cycle and only three proposals before obtaining tenure position.

This workshop is led by Ms. Lucy Deckard, the founder of Academic Research Funding Strategies (ARFC), LLC. Before leading the ARFC consulting, Ms. Deckard was an Associate Director of Research Development at Texas A&M University for 8 years and prior to that worked as a research engineer in industry for 16 years.

To register, please send email to hamid@nmsu.edu.





Welcoming Ms. Leah Pena to the Workforce and Strategic Engagement Team


By Ms. Cortney Castle-Chavez, Program Operations Director, RCED

The Office of the Vice President for Research, Creativity, and Economic Development is thrilled to extend a warm welcome to our newest administrative assistant, Ms. Leah Pena!

Leah’s arrival marks the beginning of an exciting journey as part of our team. Her role is pivotal in supporting Dr. Patricia Sullivan in Workforce and Strategic Engagement by ensuring smooth operations and enhancing efficiency across various tasks. Leah comes to us with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we are confident that her skills and dedication will greatly contribute to our collective success.

Please join me in welcoming Leah to our wonderful university! Leah can be reached at leahpena@nmsu.edu or via Microsoft Teams.



 Ms. Leah Pena NMSU

Ms. Leah Pena, NMSU

Limited Submission Funding Opportunities


By Dr. Hamid Mansouri Rad, Senior Proposal Development Specialist, RAS

Research Administration Services maintains a list of limited submission funding opportunities for NMSU research community. The list is accessible through a link on the Research website, through the Research Administration tab. NMSU users can also access the list directly on SharePoint.  We encourage NMSU researchers to periodically visit the site and if they are interested in any of the opportunities to please inform us by sending email to ras@nmsu.edu, subject line Limited Submission, and the name of the agency and the title of the funding opportunity in the body of the email.



Pivot Funding Opportunity Database


By Dr. Hamid Mansouri Rad, Senior Proposal Development Specialist, RAS

This is a reminder that in order to assist NMSU faculty and staff in locating external funding opportunities, the RCSI has purchased a subscription to ProQuest’s Pivot available at https://pivot.proquest.com/session/login.  

To create an account with Pivot for the first time

Click on the Sign up link.DO NOT CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT!
Choose New Mexico State University from the Institution drop down menu.
You will be prompted to log in using your NMSU username and password.
Follow the process for NMSU's 2-Factor Authentication (2FA).

 To request a one-on-one or group Pivot training, send email to hamid@nmsu.edu





Questions and comments regarding NMSU’s Research Digest should be directed to Dr. Hamid Mansouri Rad at hamid@nmsu.edu, (575) 646-6429.