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Editorial: Sandia, UNM a good fit

The work done at our nation’s national defense labs is important to our security and freedom. It becomes even more valuable when the public is able to benefit in other ways from some of the research being conducted there.

The recent extension of an ongoing research partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico – which since 1997 has resulted in more than 300 joint research projects – is a shining example of how a lab and a public university can, and should, work together.

With the campuses of a major national lab and the state’s flagship university only a few miles apart, the symbiotic relationship is a natural one that leaders of both Sandia and UNM recognized early. But as leadership, technologies, funding resources and national security needs change, it’s important to renew and redefine the goals of such partnerships.

Earlier this week, outgoing Sandia president and director Paul Hommert and UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah signed a new agreement to expand their collaboration on research and efforts to recruit top scientists. The agreement – which replaces one signed in 2011 that was set to expire next year – calls for both partners to seek out collaborative research opportunities, jointly recruit and hire talented researchers and explore strategies on engineering as it relates to national security.

Through such partnerships, UNM students, researchers and faculty get to share the expertise of Sandia’s employees, and Sandia gets an unrivaled recruitment pipeline. Today, more than 400 UNM students work at Sandia, and about 2,400 UNM graduates work there, lab officials said. In recent years, joint research has led to a number innovations, including the development of inorganic nanospheres that act as carriers for cancer-killing chemicals and collaborative work on quantum computing.

The agreement is a fitting exclamation point to the conclusion of Hommert’s tenure at Sandia, which officially ended Friday, and a welcome mat for the labs’ new president and director Jill M. Hruby.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.