Grants and Research | Fall 2013

NMSU astronomy professor receives CAREER Award to study sun, predict space weather

By Tonya Suther 

James McAteer, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award. He will receive $750,000 over the next five years to continue his astrophysics research.

An astronomer at New Mexico State University will receive $750,000 over the next five years to study the sun thanks to the National Science Foundation. James McAteer, whose research involves how energy is stored and released on the sun, has won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

“It is a massive career milestone,” said McAteer, assistant professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Science funding is getting harder and harder to win, and so this award really sets up the solar physics group to concentrate on research, and builds up the national reputation of our research here at NMSU.”

Highly competitive CAREER awards help support junior faculty who integrate research creativity and innovative teaching. McAteer will use the award for graduate and undergraduate science and engineering projects, focusing on atmospheric changes of the sun and the evolution of sunspots. Both of these interdisciplinary projects will involve working closely with NASA.

“We know that magnetism plays a key role in both these projects, but we’re not sure exactly how it works,” McAteer said. “One of the key goals is the science behind space weather prediction. This looks at how flows of plasma and storms on the sun can impact us on Earth.”     Read more

NMSU research aimed at reducing disease-transmitting mosquitoes

By Isabel A. Rodriguez 

Professor Immo Hansen has been awarded a $1.4 million NIH grant for his study of the characterization of amino acid transport and signaling in the mosquito body fat. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

An assistant professor at New Mexico State University will receive $1.4 million over the next four years to characterize amino acid transport and signaling in the mosquito fat body through funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Immo Hansen, of the Institute for Applied Biosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Biology Department, is partnering with colleagues to study how amino acids obtained from blood proteins are transported and interact with nutrient signaling pathways inside mosquitoes and trigger egg production. Their research could lead to the development of novel insecticides to reduce the spread of mosquito-transmitted viruses, such as Dengue fever.

“Mosquitoes have killed more people than any other animals and all wars combined,” Hansen said. “They take up more than their own weight in blood when they bite someone.”

Hansen was recognized for his work and recent grant at an NMSU Research Rally Friday, Nov. 15. He gave an overview of his research, including an explanation of how and why mosquitos obtain blood when they feed from a person.     Read more

NMSU computer science research may help understand, analyze biological systems

By Isabel A. Rodriguez 

NMSU student Yang Zhang and his mentor, Professor Joe Song, scored first place in one of three HPN-DREAM Breast Cancer Network Inference sub-challenges. The New Mexico State University team presented their research at the DREAM conference in Toronto Nov. 8-12.

Outperforming 80 teams from around the world, Joe Song and his student, Yang Zhang, scored first place in one of three challenges in a computer science competition that encourages researchers to develop software systems that could help understand how cell reproduction leads to breast cancer.

Sponsored by Synapse, the Heritage Provider Network-Dialogue of Reverse Engineering Assessment of Methods Breast Cancer Network Inference challenges participants to create predictive algorithms in various competitions. The New Mexico State University team  presented their research at the DREAM conference in Toronto Nov. 8-12.

Song, who teaches computer sciences at in NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, explained that the goal was to develop a software system that can be broadly used for studying biological systems, although breast cancer was used as a testing platform to evaluate performance of computational methods within the challenges.     Read more

NMSU College of Arts and Sciences professors awarded prestigious NSF grants

By Isabel A. Rodriguez 

NMSU geology professor Frank Ramos speaks at a research rally. (photo by Darren Phillips)

New Mexico State University will soon see the arrival of two new research devices in the College of Arts and Sciences; a multi-collector inductively coupled mass spectrometer and laser sampling system, through the efforts of Frank Ramos, associate professor of geological sciences, and an instrument for research in irregularly parallel big data computation, thanks to Jonathon Cook, associate professor of computer science.

Ramos and Cook were recognized for their work at an NMSU Research Rally Friday, Oct. 11. Both projects will be funded by the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation grants.

Ramos is working to establish a laboratory at Gardiner Hall, where users can conduct their research using innovative techniques involving isotopes. The mass spectrometer is designed to measure isotope ratios of different elements.    Read more

NMSU professors discuss solar physics, DNA repair at Research Rally

By Isabel A. Rodriguez

New Mexico State University celebrated the accomplishments of College of Arts and Sciences faculty members James McAteer and Shelley Lusetti at a Research Rally held Friday, Dec. 6.

McAteer, assistant professor of astronomy, has received a $750,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation to fund his project INSPIRE, INtegrated Solar Physics program In Research and Education.

NMSU Professor James McAteer discusses solar physics and his new grant during an NMSU Research Rally.

His work examines the sun and its activities, including how energy is stored and released on the sun. McAteer will use the grant to fund interdisciplinary projects for graduates and undergraduates in science and engineering. He is also working with collaborators at NASA.

“The sun is plasma, and it’s very hard to study in a lab because it’s so hot. It is a complex subject that moves and evolves in various ways,” he said. “In order to learn why it works the way it does, we need to take the data and be able to break it down into different subsets so we can understand little bits at a time and then build it all back up again. That was the goal.”

McAteer’s research interests include fundamental solar physics, advancement through the design of high-cadence imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy instruments and the sun’s relationship to Earth.

“My research is focused on applying new techniques to study the solar sources of space weather – solar flares, coronal mass ejections and the solar wind,” he said. “My major areas of study are space weather monitoring and solar cycle studies, understanding the physics of solar flares and coronal mass ejections and the heating of the solar atmosphere.”     Read more

NMSU computer science research may help understand, analyze biological systems

By Isabel A. Rodriguez 

NMSU student Yang Zhang and his mentor, Professor Joe Song, scored first place in one of three HPN-DREAM Breast Cancer Network Inference sub-challenges. The New Mexico State University team presented their research at the DREAM conference in Toronto Nov. 8-12.

Outperforming 80 teams from around the world, Joe Song and his student, Yang Zhang, scored first place in one of three challenges in a computer science competition that encourages researchers to develop software systems that could help understand how cell reproduction leads to breast cancer.

Sponsored by Synapse, the Heritage Provider Network-Dialogue of Reverse Engineering Assessment of Methods Breast Cancer Network Inference challenges participants to create predictive algorithms in various competitions. The New Mexico State University team  presented their research at the DREAM conference in Toronto Nov. 8-12.

Song, who teaches computer sciences at in NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, explained that the goal was to develop a software system that can be broadly used for studying biological systems, although breast cancer was used as a testing platform to evaluate performance of computational methods within the challenges.     Read more

NMSU astronomer leads international collaborative exploring galactic evolution

By Tonya Suther 

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute recently awarded Chris Churchill, professor of astronomy at NMSU, 110 90-minute observational orbits from the Hubble Space Telescope. He and an international team of scientists will study deep space light sources at the farthest edges of the universe. (Submitted Photo)

The flow of gas in outer space may hold the key to understanding how galaxies form and evolve, and why the Milky Way looks the way it does today. Astronomers at New Mexico State University will take the helm of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in October for an international study into the evolution of galaxies.

“We will be using the observational data and comparing them to high powered cosmological simulations in which galaxies are modeled with very high resolution,” said Chris Churchill, associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator for the project. “Our goals are to measure the detailed properties of the gas surrounding 50 different galaxies in order to determine how the gas flows around galaxies.”

Churchill’s group was recently awarded 110 90-minute observational orbits on Hubble from NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute for the study that will include $350,000 in research funding. The project, “A Breakaway from Incremental Science: Full Characterization of the Circumgalactic Medium and Testing Galaxy Evolution Theory,” is in collaboration with scientists in Australia, India, Spain and the Netherlands.     Read more