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UNM: Our ties to federal labs in New Mexico benefit students

Collaborations between federal labs in the state and the University of New Mexico provide critical workplace experience and other benefits for the school’s students.

That’s according to Joseph Cecchi, associate provost for national laboratory relations, who presented how the university works with federal labs to a committee of state lawmakers earlier this week.

Cecchi, also the dean of the school of engineering, highlighted the benefits students receive thanks to Sandia’s nearness. Currently, 368 students are interning for the summer and another 367 intern year-round. More than 2,400 Sandia employees have degrees from UNM.

“Our mission is to educate students but, in engineering, there’s no better way than giving students a hands-on experience with research, and a lot of that happens with our collaborations,” said Cecchi.

The Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee is a committee made up of state representatives and senators. They meet Monday and Tuesday at the University of New Mexico’s Science and Technology Park, a site that houses the Advanced Materials Laboratory, a research facility that is home to university and Sandia staff.

Cecchi’s speech comes at a time when UNM has joined a team led by The Boeing Co. and Battelle in a bid to operate Sandia National Laboratories. In a Monday announcement, Lockheed Martin said it partnered with New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico State University and Indiana’s Purdue University in its bid to run Sandia.

Meanwhile, Cecchi also praised the three tenured faculty members who also work at Sandia. These individuals, Cecchi said, attract students. And he added the school is looking to hire another joint tenured faculty professor in scalable computing.

The collaboration also means patents. The school has 180 joint patents with Sandia, 39 with LANL. Of those patents, seven startups have emerged.

Cecchi’s presentation largely recapped the university’s recent work with labs, but he said the future will present more opportunities for UNM students.

“Over the next five or 10 years, both Sandia and Los Alamos will have to replace probably a third of their workforce,” Cecchi said. “I think it’s very important that (we’re) educating students to step into those roles and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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