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Faculty successes

Engineering professor receives NASA grant 

NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project has awarded NMSU Civil Engineering Associate Professor Douglas Cortes a two-year, nearly $500,000 grant.

His project, titled MUREP Advancing Regolith-related Technologies and Education or MARTE, aims to meet the critical needs facing many Minority Serving Institutions’ research and educational efforts in three key areas of importance to NASA: access to reliable and affordable regolith simulants, which are commercially available mixtures that mimic lunar soil, along with testing facilities that simulate relevant environmental conditions and analog testing sites. 

The MUREP Space Technology Artemis Research, or M-STAR, awards are intended to help NASA support the Artemis mission’s promise to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon and have a robust human and robotic presence there.

“We’re looking at the technologies that are going to be needed to effectively have a human presence on the Moon and Mars, and I believe this is the beginning,” Cortes says. “I don’t see it as an end, I see it as a beginning of something much bigger.” 

Tiffany Acosta

Three-time Fulbright Scholar attends COP26

Sam Fernald, director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at NMSU, was among thousands of scientists and activists who converged on Glasgow in fall 2021 to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26.

Fernald served as a delegate for Queen Mary University of London – where he’s a Fulbright Scholar – and was part of the Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations constituency, representing scientists and universities in the climate talks.

Fernald says he came away from the talks having learned more about the impacts of climate change on the water cycle. 

In 2021, Fernald earned his third Fulbright Scholar award and relocated to London to join a research team at Queen Mary University of London working to examine biogeochemical, hydrologic and water-quality processes on rivers in the U.K. Fernald says the group’s research aims to guide the management of groundwater pumping for healthy rivers and inform appropriate adaptation to climate change. 

Carlos Andres López ’10

Biology professor recognized for efforts to increase diversity

Biology Assistant Professor Adriana Romero-Olivares received the Mycological Society of America Interchange Ambassador Award in fall 2021. The MSA Interchange Award is for members committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the field of mycology and MSA membership. 

Romero-Olivares also is active in the Ecological Society of America, where she is a mentor in strategies for diversity in ecology education. Her research focus is on cell microbes and how they respond and adapt to environmental stressors. She was recently awarded $5,000 from that organization.

“Ecology is one of the least diverse areas of research,” Romero-Olivares says. “There are not many researchers of color or first-generation researchers or LGBT researchers. This award is looking at being the bridge between those things: ecological research with an emphasis on climate change and incorporating social justice issues while involving people from historically excluded groups.”

Both awards will support Romero-Olivares’ efforts to connect with and encourage young researchers from underrepresented groups. 

Minerva Baumann ’13