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LANL, UNM commit to increased collaboration

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

They’ll be pretty sharp business cards: Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on one side, University of New Mexico faculty member on the flip side.

University of New Mexico faculty members now have greater access at LANL and lab employees can teach classes and work on projects at UNM as part of a newly signed Institutional Agreement between UNM and Triad National Security, which operates LANL.

The agreement was signed last month and both UNM and LANL announced it this week.

“It just makes total sense. We have world-class researchers at UNM; there are world-class researchers at the labs,” said Richard Wood, UNM’s former interim provost who signed the agreement. “And science is a collaborative thing.”

The LANL National Security Education Center and UNM’s Office of the Provost will oversee initiatives in which lab staff and UNM faculty will jointly participate. Employees will keep their salaries and benefits from their respective employers, but they will be granted credentials from the other institution to use on their papers, presentations, emails and on “two-sided” business cards, according to the agreement.

Prior to the agreement, UNM employees operated at Los Alamos as “visitors” which restricted their access.

Lab officials said their employees will also benefit from collaborating with UNM employees to apply for joint funding opportunities, according to the announcements.

Nan Sauer, the director of the partnerships and pipeline office at LANL, said the agreement will strengthen a long-standing relationship between UNM and LANL. About a third of LANL staff were educated at a New Mexico university and last summer, for example, about 150 of the summer interns at LANL, 10 percent of those at the lab, were UNM students.

“Across the board, for all areas in the laboratory, UNM is a great partner for us,” Sauer said. “This is kind of taking us to another level.”

The agreement doesn’t call for any financial exchanges between UNM and LANL, and it doesn’t set any number of joint appointments that will happen in a given year. But Sauer said the lab will be keeping track of the projects that spawn from the agreement.

Wood said it’s likely that many of the UNM professors who land an assignment at LANL will have engineering, mathematics, chemistry and physics backgrounds. But he said it will also be possible for faculty from any department, such as an art professor tapped to depict the cosmos, to get a lab assignment.

News releases announcing the agreement called it a “landmark Institutional Agreement” that will give employees from both institutions “unprecedented access to collaborative research.”

“This will allow UNM to more readily host interested Los Alamos researchers, and allow more UNM faculty and research staff to engage with colleagues at the Laboratory,” Wood said. “I trust that will undergird some great new research in the months and years ahead – and eventually stronger economic development in New Mexico.”