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UNM’s R1 research mission aims high

There is excitement in Albuquerque – we are one of only six finalists for the permanent location of Space Command headquarters.

This delights me, not just as a New Mexican, but also as an engineer and researcher. I know firsthand that trailblazing research is the foundation to creating knowledge to solve our greatest challenges and to advance our economy.

Putting that power in the hands and minds of the next generation of leaders, students at our state’s research universities, creates the environment where critical operations such as Space Command will thrive.

The value of strong public research universities is undeniable – the health, economic success and security of our nation are reliant on them.

As previous Albuquerque Journal letters and editorials observe, New Mexico’s three public research institutions, including the University of New Mexico, are central to meet the criteria for an opportunity such as housing Space Command. In fact, university research directly leads to most of the advances that protect and improve our lives – from the powerful computers we call smartphones, to the medical breakthroughs and advances in response to a worldwide pandemic.

For 132 years, UNM has had both the privilege and responsibility of being an anchor institution to a dynamic research community and culture in Albuquerque and New Mexico.

We blend traditions and build upon knowledge to create something totally different. This is New Mexico innovation, and we would welcome Space Command to become a part of and enhance our research community even further.

UNM is a place where cutting-edge research and creative endeavors flourish, and our students study, explore and create with faculty who are at the forefront of their disciplines.

With nine research centers and institutes founded on broad interdisciplinary representation, UNM produces a diverse high-tech workforce. The UNM School of Engineering alone graduates more than 500 engineers annually in its undergraduate and graduate programs, and add to this our hundreds of graduates in biosciences, mathematics, physics, and other STEM disciplines.

UNM’s Space Systems Engineering master’s degree program is one of the first master’s-level space systems engineering programs in the country, developed with input from the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, and we produce graduates with exactly the kind of skills that are needed by the U.S. Space Force and other high-tech employers.

UNM’s collaborations and creative collisions with partners from across all dimensions of academia, health care, industry, national labs, and the public sector result in UNM being an engine of innovation. Our Center for Quantum Information and Control, an interdisciplinary research center that brings together researchers in chemistry, physics, and engineering works closely with universities, industry and national labs to address challenges and maintain U.S. leadership in next-generation information technology.

UNM’s COSMIAC research center is actively involved in millions of dollars of aerospace research with the U.S. Space Force, AFRL, the Department of Defense, and other national agencies to address critical U.S. security needs.

UNM is the only university in New Mexico classified by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education as R1: doctoral universities with very high research activity, and holds the Carnegie Elective Classification on Community Engagement, making UNM one of only 28 universities in the nation classified as both.

These designations are reflections of the incredible talent of the people who drive our mission, our increasing drive to be responsive to our local, national and global communities, and to our deep passion for serving the public good.

Both opportunities and challenges have driven 2020, and will continue to do so this year. Opportunities to find cures, address social injustice, and to adapt to new ways of, well, doing just about everything. Research is all about the opportunity to collaborate and create.

We are excited by the opportunity that Space Command would create for New Mexico. After all, opportunities aren’t just found, they’re created. And research is opportunity, defined.

James Paul Holloway is a professor of nuclear engineering at UNM.

 

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