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UNM dean: Growing a high-tech workforce takes support

Christos Christodoulou

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering can be a powerful tool for economic development across New Mexico, as long as there’s state-level investment and buy-in from the business community, according to the school’s dean.

The Economic Forum of Albuquerque hosted Christos Christodoulou, UNM dean of engineering and computing, in a webinar Wednesday. During the presentation, Christodoulou said economic development is part of the mission for the engineering program. Additionally, he said, many of the program’s key research areas overlap with city and state economic development priorities, from bioscience to aerospace.

“We do know that Albuquerque wants to become a hub of the aerospace industry,” Christodoulou said. “Well, we already have a lot of activity in that area.”

With around 2,800 students and 100 tenure-track professors, Christodoulou said, UNM’s engineering school is the largest in the state. The school has a number of partnerships with large employers, including Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Air Force Research Lab. For example, Christodoulou said the school of engineering is planning to partner with AFRL and Sandia on a new collaborative center that will be built on UNM’s South Campus.

“This will be a unique example where you have a national lab, a federal lab and a flagship university all working together … to create the workforce that we need,” Christodoulou said.

Christodoulou added that the school has partnered with AFRL on a ground station that can track satellites from Earth. The school is also one of five university members of the Sandia Academic Alliance, a partnership between the laboratory and universities across the country.

Christodoulou said he wants the school to grow its quantum computing, which he said has the potential to be an area of strength.

“UNM is going to become a big player in the area of quantum computing and quantum information,” he said.

Although Christodoulou praised support from the school’s alumni, he said the larger business community in New Mexico hasn’t been directly involved with the school. Additional support from the state and the business community could help grow both the school and the local workforce, Christodoulou said.

“If (state leaders) want a better engineering school out of UNM, they have to invest in it,” he said. “… You’ve got to invest into these youth.”

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