NMSU Engineering continues graduation tradition


Taking part in a graduation tradition that began in 1989, some 274 NMSU engineering students participated virtually in the Sociedad de Ingenieros on May 14. The ceremony was established at NMSU in 1989 by deans and department heads of the College of Engineering. Dedicated to the graduating class of engineers, the society affirms the importance of future contributions they will make to society while practicing their profession.

At each ceremony, eminente members are inducted into the society. These recipients have distinguished themselves in the field of engineering and serve as role models for new graduates, receiving one of the college’s highest honors. Scott A. McLaughlin, executive director of Spaceport America, was named the NMSU College of Engineering Spring 2021 Ingeniero Emimente.

Scott is an NMSU electrical engineering alumnus with a diverse background spanning the realms of private business and government operations. His distinguished career as a technical innovator, founder and executive of a new business unit is a wonderful and inspiring example of the myriad opportunities facing new graduates. 

I’ve become fond of this unique and meaningful ceremony during my five-year tenure at NMSU. While COVID prevented us from gathering in person for this celebration during the past year, I am anticipating the return of a live ceremony to cap the fall semester and usher in a new cadre of engineering graduates to the next exciting phase of their lives.

Engineering faculty form research teams


COVID-19 hasn’t stopped our faculty from their collaborative research activities. In response to a college-wide call for Research Centers of Excellence, six teams have come forward to articulate interdisciplinary research themes ranging from particulate suspensions to multiscale materials modeling and characterization, and engineering learning. Each of these themes draws from research expertise of faculty from multiple departments within and outside of the college. While some of these already received internal seed funding from the Office of Engineering Research in the form of cost-share, graduate student support, etc., others are being evaluated to receive funding by a panel of research associate deans from the colleges of Engineering; Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; and Arts and Sciences. Our vision is to position ourselves in the near future to further enhance our research visibility and attract federal funding through multi-university and interdisciplinary ventures. These are exciting times to be working with NMSU engineering faculty.

Differential tuition approved for engineering courses


The Board of Regents approved differential tuition to be charged for engineering courses 300-level and above starting Fall 2021. In the academic year, ’21-’22, students enrolled in courses at or above 300-level will see an increase of $25 per credit hour. From the academic year ’22-’23 and forward, the tuition increase will be $39 per credit hour. The revenue from this tuition increase will support additional faculty positions in engineering programs and will help with course offering frequency, class sizes, and faculty retention. It will also help us meet accreditation expectations on student-faculty ratios. Nevertheless, our tuition rates will still remain more affordable than our regional peers (UTEP and UNM).

NMSU Engineering takes pride in being student-centric. We remain committed to quality of instruction and to student success. In the meetings with student groups, faculty, and advisory board members during the last several months, all of our constituencies expressed support for differential tuition. I thank the Board of Regents and our administration for approving this increase.

Unprecedented times present unprecedented opportunities


Our faculty members have adapted to the COVID-19 situation in unique ways. The instructional deliveries used have become learning opportunities for us. Analyses of the student performance during the past two semesters in engineering courses has highlighted for us areas on which to focus.  When used in the context of curricular analytics, these analyses exposed vulnerabilities in the design of our curricula. Our leadership team is now taking a close look at how we could make the curricular flow more suitable for student progress and success. We are deploying additional resources in terms of tutorials and one-on-one counseling to provide help to students who are at critical transition stages in their curricula. Our leadership conversations opened up new opportunities to further improve student retention and time to graduation. We are beginning to see how we can further improve the learning space for our students, both physically and metaphorically. Physically, our Thomas and Brown building replacement project is benefiting from these conversations. Metaphorically, we are creating a learning environment where all students will find instructional modes suited to their individual learning styles. 

Leadership institute prepares students to serve society


In fall 2019, the College of Engineering launched the inaugural year of the Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute, a two-year program with the goal of helping engineering students learn critical soft skills needed to become effective leaders and entrepreneurs who bring more than technical expertise to their profession. The institute is funded by engineering alum Ron Seidel and his wife Janice.

The first cohort comprised 10 students and this past fall, 13 additional students were added to the group. With the goal of exposing them to various ideas and approaches to leadership, the students are reading and discussing books written by various leadership authorities. In fall 2020, the group read The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life  by Len Fisher. This semester, they will read Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: A Guide for Students by Marcy Levy Shankman and Scott J. Allen.

This spring, the students will participate in a two-session workshop that will include discussions with successful entrepreneurs and a hands-on learning experience led by Arrowhead Center Studio G, NMSU’s student business accelerator. They will be challenged to brainstorm ideas for innovative solutions to one of three global challenges that also impact our local community: water, agriculture and clean energy. The students will form teams, complete and present a business model for their solution.

Engineers’ contributions to society touch all of our lives in myriad ways. The Seidel Leadership Institute emphasizes the responsibility that our students hold as they apply their knowledge in a way that benefits society.

You know you’re in the right place when…


You know you’re in the right place when students are making outstanding suggestions on how the college can handle instruction delivery during the current COVID crisis. In one of my periodic meetings with our student leadership in E-Council, the feedback I received resembled one that a family member would receive from extended family member. The constructive feedback on how online courses are working in the college, and the understanding our student leaders showed toward the untested instructional processes, indicates the maturity of NMSU engineering students.

You know you’re in the right place when a faculty member contemplating voluntary retirement is insisting that he be allowed to come back to help students and engage them in outreach projects. Entertaining metaphor, of course, but the actual quote from the faculty member was, “I’ll mop the floor if I should…, but please find a way to allow me teach a class and be engaged with NMSU students.” NMSU engineering is blessed to have faculty members in its ranks who view teaching and student-engagement not as a paying job but as a life-long passion well beyond retirement.

You know you’re in the right place when researchers step up to apply their knowledge and solve societal problems, not to build their CVs but to sincerely help communities. Two of our associate deans are actively engaged in developing tools to mitigate COVID spread. Our research faculty are self-motivated to effectively manage their laboratories and prioritize safety above all else.

You know you’re in the right place when good behavior does not need to be legislated.

CEMRC, Carlsbad, reorganized under a new leadership structure


The U.S. Department of Energy recently renewed a five-year $14.5 million grant to NMSU’s College of Engineering to administer the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center. CEMRC is a 26,000-square-foot, internationally recognized research facility that conducts environmental and human health monitoring for4 the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant—the nation’s only deep geologic repository for defense-related transuranic nuclear waste. WIPP is the world’s third deep geological repository and is licensed to store radioactive waste for 10,000 years. The WIPP facility is located some 40 miles outside of Carlsbad.   

With the start of this new funding cycle, I am pleased to announce new leadership to meet the diverse needs of CEMRC.

Dr. Punam Thakur will serve as technical director to supervise and provide technical guidance to all CEMRC programs, ensuring that all projects and tasks are on schedule and meet the performance objectives of CEMRC’s funding sponsors. James E. Monk will serve as the facilities director with oversight of all facility activities, while supervising facility personnel, enforcing internal procedures and controls, and problem resolution. He will continue as field program lead and radiation safety specialist.

I extend my sincere appreciation to Dr. Lambis Papelis who served as interim director for the past seven months. During this time, he maintained responsibilities as a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering while achieving significant improvements in the CEMRC organization and supporting the relationships with funding agencies, positioning the research center for an upward trajectory.

CEMRC is an internationally recognized facility and is a very important and valuable asset to the mission of the college providing unique research and educational opportunities at one of the world’s leading facilities of its kind.

Second student cohort joins Seidel Leadership Institute


Engineering isn’t just about numbers, designs, and materials—it’s about leadership. One of the key attributes to becoming a leader in engineering practice is to bring together teams from various disciplines, communicate, make decisions, be self-directed and ethical. These attributes are not part of the everyday engineering curriculum, but they are critical for the future of our student’s professional lives.

I’m happy to report that the second cohort of the Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute has begun this semester. The 10 students who began last fall have completed the first of the two-year program and are now continuing into their second and final year. Thirteen new students have begun their first year.

This unique program was created by engineering alumnus Ron Seidel and his wife, Janice, with the purpose to give students leadership and interpersonal skills that go beyond the classroom and greatly contribute to their success as engineers. Students who have a 3.0 GPA may apply for the program to begin in their junior year. They meet with engineering leaders—this year Richard Leza, a top Hispanic venture capitalist and start-up entrepreneur,  and Debra Hicks, president and CEO of Pettigrew & Associates. Both are NMSU engineering alums. They hold discussions and maintain a journal based on readings—this semester’s reading is “The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life,” by Len Fisher. In the second year, they add public service activities to the mix, putting leadership into action.


NMSU Engineering starts Academic Year 2020-21 with good news, new challenges and opportunities


Dear Colleagues,

I would like to welcome each of you back for the fall semester, and I hope the extended families of NMSU Engineering are all safe and healthy.  

There has been a lot of activity on campus over the summer getting the facilities ready to keep us safe. It has been a challenging time during the past six months adjusting to our new reality. We are fortunate in the College of Engineering to have colleagues who are caring and empathetic. I encourage all of you to continue to reach out to one another and show kindness as you go about the work of the college.  

We’re starting academic year 2020-21 with some good news—new research awards last year went up by 50 percent, perhaps the largest increase in the history of the college. And our initial enrollment numbers this fall appear to be holding steady so far; no negative impacts due to COVID. The first batch of students in our new Professional Master’s program in Information Technology have been enrolled. Six new faculty and an equal number of staff members have joined the NMSU Engineering family.  

I’m sure that you are aware of the budget difficulties facing NMSU. I want you to know that our leadership team is brainstorming to find the best way forward without negatively impacting our core mission of providing our students with the best engineering education possible. I would even venture to say that this will bring some new opportunities to enrich our programs, and make our program offerings more efficient and relevant. Our engineering leadership team is pondering some administrative efficiencies which could make our program offerings effective yet result in cost savings.   We will keep you posted. 

Thank you for enduring the rapid transition in the spring and summer to deal with the COVID19 challenges. I’m proud to work with all of you.



Lakshmi N. Reddi

Dean, College of Engineering

NMSU Engineering increases research productivity


NMSU Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute explores six senses of a Whole New Mind


The first cohort of 10 students selected for the leadership institute are engaged in a discussion of Daniel Pink’s right brain senses – design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. In an effort to develop these senses and become engineering leaders of tomorrow, the students selected one or more of these six senses and contextualized them with their learning experiences and current public health crisis. Honors College Dean Miriam Chaiken participated as a guest at these discussions, and Tony McClary, Engineering Learning Communities director; Tony Garcia, associate dean of academics; and I, served as moderators. We are amazed at how each one of us contextualized these senses, and together we learned a great deal about how crises become opportunities to a true leader. Our students dwelled on such difficult senses as meaning. Story-telling was not a challenge to this group. Bringing playful attitudes to what we do in engineering, and orchestrating a symphony of project components in a design that’s both functional and aesthetic are the right-brain leadership dimensions that we explored together.

Every crisis is a learning opportunity at NMSU Engineering


NMSU engineering is navigating through these unprecedented times with a true family spirit. Our top priority is the safety of our faculty, staff, and students. During the past two weeks of remote working, our faculty and staff have shown that physical separation is no barrier to help each other and to learn from one another. To follow safety guidelines and minimize transmission risk of the COVID-19 virus, our faculty and staff have embraced the challenge of changing our course delivery mode to online including those courses with laboratory component. Faculty members experienced in online delivery are mentoring their peers in need of help. And they are ready to help our students, one student at a time, with whatever they need to complete spring semester successfully. The Eloy Torrez Family Engineering Learning Communities stand ready to help our students by transforming themselves to virtual communities. Our Aggie Innovation Space is in conversations with community leaders and engaging itself in coming up with ways to help the community with new technologies needed to face the challenges. In the end, we are all about creating a learning environment that can use any challenge or crisis as a learning opportunity. Together, our NMSU engineering family will transform to a more learned and wiser community while weathering through the Corona crisis safely. 

Century-old student-centric focus of NMSU Engineering


In my preparation for an interview on the historical impact of Ralph Goddard on the NMSU College of Engineering, I found out that the student-centric culture in the college is as old as the college itself. During the humble beginnings of the college, the second decade of the twentieth century, the troubles on the Mexican border created a “feeling on campus … one of goodwill, hard work, and mutual support.” It was noted that faculty members frequently made small loans to students or invited them home for dinner. Dean Goddard was known to have traveled all around the state giving lectures and demonstrations aimed at attracting new students for the young engineering college. He organized a radio club at his home in 1919 with students invited to listen to the receiving set he had constructed in his basement. In the words of Hugh Milton, who himself served as the NMSU Dean of Engineering, NMSU President, and went on to become the Undersecretary of the U.S. Army in the ‘50s, “the decade of the Goddard administration [1914-29] was characterized as one of consolidation and formalization of the engineering program. The objective was to strengthen the curricula, secure a fully competent faculty and provide the best equipment with the available monies.” Milton, a speaker, writer and historian himself, also writes, “… to him [Goddard] must be given great credit for the future prestige of the Engineering College of New Mexico State University.”

How interesting it is, that the student-centric DNA of this college has persisted for over a century now, with the same underlying themes and challenges.

A Loss to the College of Engineering


The College of Engineering recently lost one of its own community members. Dr. Hong Huang, electrical and computer engineering associate professor, recently passed away unexpectedly.  He has been part of the NMSU faculty for 17 years with research interests in wireless, sensor and optical networks. He is survived by his wife, Mei Shi, and daughter, Kaixi. Please join me in keeping his family in your thoughts and prayers. 

A GoFundMe site has been established to support the family: https://www.gofundme.com/f/4rmytd-dr-hong-huang-memorial-fund

A memorial service for Dr. Huang will be held Saturday, February 1, at 10 am in the Event Center at 522 E Idaho Ave. Friends and colleagues are invited to attend.  If anyone would like to speak, please contact Dr. Ruinian Jiang, rjiang@nmsu.edu, 646-2236.


AIS takes on a new look


It gives me great pleasure to show the Aggie Innovation Space to our visitors. We had an opportunity this week to showcase our facility to State Representative Micaela Lara Cadena and NMSU President, John Floros. In less than a year, the Innovation Space has been modernized significantly, with 95 percent of its equipment replaced. We are now more ready than ever to take up an increased number of economic development projects from Arrowhead, provide students with modern equipment for laboratory learning, and engage more faculty members with research and ideas for commercialization. Efforts are underway to use the facility as part of a formal structure to increase the number of women and first-generation students in engineering entrepreneurship programs. The facility has just begun attracting funds from donors who would like to sponsor student projects in the AIS. 



NMSU Engineering aspires to be a top value and impactful college


As we launch our new strategic plan, I am faced with an important question that several of our constituents have been asking me repeatedly, including our new faculty members, research faculty, and graduate students: What do we aspire to be in the next five years and what’s our vision?  In developing our strategic plan, we consulted with almost all of our stakeholders and we used extensive data. It is clear that it is in the DNA of our college to provide value to our students who are predominantly first-generation and/or financially challenged. It is no wonder that we are ranked 12th among the Best Value Schools, above several of our peers but below two (Iowa State and Oklahoma State).  Our current make-up of faculty researchers and doctoral students is such that we are uniquely positioned to be one of the most impactful engineering colleges in terms of research and scholarship. Although programs like Aerospace Engineering are placed Top 50 in some rankings, we do not yet belong to the top 10% of all engineering colleges in the U.S. in terms of overall parameters that US News and World Report uses. I am grateful to be surrounded by leaders in the college who articulate the unique combination of strengths in this college, value and impact. We will articulate an aspirational vision statement in the near future with the goal of taking this unique combination to higher levels.  I am thankful to our Associate Dean of Academics, Dr. Antonio Garcia, who is providing thoughtful leadership in this area.  

Innovation Imperative


An important takeaway highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Intelligence Report, The Innovation Imperative: The Buzz, the Barriers, and What Real Change Looks Like,” is that we need transformative innovation along several dimensions. In its summary of 15 cases of how colleges have confronted challenges and brought meaningful change to their campuses, several struck me as relevant to NMSU engineering. The University of Washington is creating a lifelong-learning model for the changing workforce by developing a 60-year curriculum. Plymouth State University is tearing down its silos by instituting interdisciplinary clusters to sustain and distinguish itself in the face of demographic declines. The University of Cincinnati is creating an innovation district with multi-use space for the university and corporate partners where faculty members, students and local residents can gather to facilitate connections between higher education and industry and contribute to local workforce development. To close the achievement gap of its students, University of Minnesota, Rochester, offers four “Just Ask” centers staffed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty members to advise students who may be too intimidated to go to a professor’s office. From these case studies, it is clear to me that mid-sized colleges such as ours offer fertile grounds to implement such changes. As negative as it may sound, it is convincing that “colleges that fail to address the changing landscape face peril, and their excellent programs or their hallowed traditions may not save them.”

Development of hybrid programs to make engineering degrees more relevant


With the rapid pace of advancements in engineering, traditional disciplines such as civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering have evolved to encompass specialties that interface across the disciplines. Our engineering programs are named for these traditional disciplines; however, they no longer adequately reflect new opportunities for engineering education and engineering employment. Our faculty members are engaged in scholarly work that involve interdisciplinary areas of expertise. We are closely examining the inventory of our faculty expertise and interests to identify and facilitate growth in engineering fields that span interdepartmental areas. We are investing program leaders, with the help of our industry partners, to develop these programs and increase their visibility to both students and potential employers. Our aerospace, advanced manufacturing, energy and water programs already enjoy well-developed research and educational programs. They will be made even better and more relevant to the needs of employers through the expansion of formal curriculum development, resource sharing and faculty collaborations. Our administration fully supports this effort and I am looking forward to some exciting new developments in the College of Engineering in the near future.


The Paradoxes of Learning Spaces


In “Courage to Teach,” Parker Palmer offers six paradoxical characteristics of a learning space, which are very useful as we design our learning environment in the college:

  1. The space should be bounded and open.
  2. The space should be hospitable and “charged.”
  3. The space should invite the voice of the individual and the voice of the group.
  4. Space should honor the “little” stories of the students and the “big” stories of the disciplines and tradition.
  5. The space should support solitude and surround it with the resources of community.
  6. The space should welcome both silence and speech.

These are, in essence, the challenges ahead of us as we commit ourselves to a student-centered and learning-focused (as opposed to teaching-intensive) environment. We are guided by these characteristics in our Eloy Torrez Family Engineering Learning Communities, Aggie Innovation Space, and Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute.

NMSU Engineering faculty productivity is among the highest of our peers


Among a group of 16 engineering colleges at peer institutions listed below, NMSU ranked high in terms of our faculty scholarship. Our faculty are prolific in publishing their scholarly work. Chemical and Materials Engineering is second only to Iowa State in terms of publications per faculty in 2018, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering came in third behind Iowa State and Washington State. Google Scholar, the source used for this data, also helps us with the number of citations per faculty and the average h-index. Civil Engineering is second only to University of Arizona in terms of citations per faculty and average h-index during 2013-18. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is in the upper half of our peers in terms of citations per faculty and is in the fourth place for average h-index during the same time period. Given that our annual research expenditures place us at right about the middle of our peers, it is clear that our faculty do more with less. I congratulate our faculty on these accomplishments and thank them for placing NMSU among the best.

Peer institutions used in the data: Colorado State University, Iowa State University, University of Texas at El Paso, University of New Mexico, Utah State University, Montana State University, University of Arizona, Washington State University, Oregon State University, University of Idaho, Texas Tech University, Oklahoma State University, University of Nevada at Reno, Kansas State University and University of Wyoming.

Energy-Water Desalination Hub puts NMSU at the top of national water research


I am exceedingly pleased to share the news of the selection of NMSU’s College of Engineering as part of a team that was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy five-year, $100 million grant to create the Energy-Water Desalination Hub to address water security issues. 

I offer congratulations to Professor Pei Xu, PESCO Endowed Professor and Ward Family Endowed Interdisciplinary Chair in Civil Engineering, who will lead the NMSU collaborative team effort as part of the hub. Professor Xu has an exemplary track record of research in desalination and treatment of produced water. Our reputation in water research over the years was built on the shoulders of many successful researchers at NMSU, such as Nagamany Nirmalakhandan, civil engineering professor and campus principal investigator for the NSF Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure program.

Success in receiving this grant is also due to the hard work and leadership of a number of behind-the-scenes people. Our Associate Dean of Research, Phillip DeLeon, worked tirelessly to identify cost-share resources and assist in proposal preparation. Vice President of Research Luis Cifuentes was highly supportive of this initiative during the process of applying for this grant.

I am grateful for the talents and hard work of all the people who helped to realize this achievement. It puts NMSU at the top of institutions involved in water research nationwide and will help us leverage other large-scale projects that are currently underway.

New collaborative opportunities at NMSU Engineering


I’m very pleased to share with you news about two recent events that are of great significance to the College of Engineering.

Arrowhead Center welcomed Spaceport America as a new tenant this past week. At the same time, NMSU and Spaceport America signed a memorandum of agreement to form a collaborative effort to advance student success in the STEM fields, along with research, economic development and community outreach. This strengthened relationship expands the learning environment for our students through offering real-life engineering challenges, particularly for our aerospace engineering students. I’m looking forward to working with Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America and College of Engineering Advisory Council member, in forging new opportunities for our students.

Also this past week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a memorandum of understanding between the New Mexico Environment Department and New Mexico State University, which will create a produced water research consortium. Through this consortium, New Mexico will continue to lead the country in advancing scientific and technological solutions related to the treatment and reuse of produced water generated by the oil and gas industry. This provides a unique opportunity for our water researchers to develop new solutions to the treatment of produced water and at the same time, develop new source of usable water for communities experiencing water shortages. Faculty in the Colleges of Engineering and Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences are already working on collaborative research plans toward the development of novel solutions.

Education for Life and Work


In its efforts to shape development of transferable knowledge and skills, the National Research Council Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills made two important conclusions in 2012:

  1. Cognitive competencies have been more extensively studied than have intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies, showing consistent, positive correlations (of modest size) with desirable educational, career and health outcomes. Early academic competencies are also positively correlated with these outcomes.
  2. Among interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies, conscientiousness (staying organized, responsible and hardworking) is most highly correlated with desirable educational, career and health outcomes. Antisocial behavior, which has both intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions, is negatively correlated with these outcomes.

I consider this research-oriented study by the committee to be profoundly significant in shaping our collective views on student success. About two weeks ago, NMSU engineering had a kick-off meeting with the first student cohort of Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute having the primary goal of producing citizen engineers who will have demonstrated all three competencies to be successful in life and work (cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal). I am proud that we have support from Ron Seidel’s family to be doing this and to position NMSU engineering as a leader in its awareness of the need for, and operationalizing a framework to develop, these three sets of competencies.

NMSU Engineering welcomes AY 2019-20 with plenty of good news


The campus is full again and students and faculty are making the corridors of our buildings live again with all types of creative conversations. I’ve been particularly looking forward to welcoming our faculty and staff to this academic year because I have great news to share. We received final notification last week that all of our programs received full accreditation. Congratulations to our leadership team, and in particular to our Ex-Associate Dean Sonya Cooper, for a job well done. Alumni giving has increased by 42 percent, as measured by the number of first-time donors of more than $10K. FY 2019 research expenditures are 27 percent higher than in FY 2018. New funding awarded in FY 2019 is 52 percent higher. More importantly, several large-scale and group efforts are in the pipeline, making the next few years look very promising. Our faculty members across all departments have stepped up to increase our research productivity. The college has received funding for a major million-dollar endowed college-level chair and another is in progress. We have new members in our leadership team, which include Dr. Tony Garcia, Associate Dean of Academics, and we’re welcoming six new faculty members. This is indeed a great time to be at NMSU Engineering.

US-Israel Visit on Strategic Initiatives


Twitter Photo: “Meeting at Ben Gurion Negev Water Institute with Director Noam Weisbrod and Professor Jack Gilron (pictured here), Head, Dept. of Desalination and Water Treatment.” Dan Arvizu

I had a wonderful experience last week traveling to Israel with our Chancellor Dan Arvizu and the ACES Dean Rolando Flores, visiting with Israeli universities and researchers. With climate and water/energy challenges very similar to New Mexico, Israel universities offer ideal partnerships to establish joint initiatives and strategic projects. The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research has its experts on water treatment processes interested in collaborations with our researchers. The Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva offers outstanding models for cybersecurity initiatives for us to emulate. Electrochemistry research at Bar Ilan University provides alternatives to how we approach brackish water treatment. The Volcani Center offers unparalleled opportunities for our researchers interested in food-water-energy nexus. And finally, Tel Aviv University researchers exemplify the numerous research opportunities at the interface of agriculture and engineering.


Aggie Innovation Space gets new funding from the State of New Mexico


Chancellor Dan Arvizu, center, and his wife, Sheryl Arvizu, center left, tour the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center, talking with Luke Nogales, left, Engineering Technology associate professor. Thursday January 10, 2018

NMSU Engineering has done very well at the legislative session that has just ended in Santa Fe. The legislature has approved close to $860k of capital outlay funds toward modernizing equipment, and $150k of recurring funds toward personnel, in Aggie Innovation Space. These funds, along with the endowment established by Dan and Sheryl Arvizu, give AIS the jumpstart it badly needs. State Representative Micaela Lara Cadena (District 33) and Senator John Arthur Smith visited AIS during the holidays, and they were very helpful in championing our needs in the legislature. In addition, Senators Ron Griggs and Gregg Fulfer co-sponsored the bill, “Engineering and Surveying Scholarship,” which will provide funds for student scholarships.

We have a lot to be thankful for in this year’s legislature.


The case for “A Whole New Mind”


Even after two reads, Daniel Pink’s case for a whole new mind continues to be entertaining to me. This book must be a required reading for every STEM teacher/scholar/researcher. The book revolves around the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain and presents a compelling case for cultivating six senses to succeed in our times – Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He writes,

“Today, the defining skills of the previous era – the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age – are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous – the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning – increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. For individuals, families, and organizations, professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind.”

Hope the STEM readers of my blog will find time to read this book and challenge their “right-brains.”

Retention rate in engineering shows increase


It looks as though the student-centric initiatives that have been implemented in the College of Engineering are having some positive effects on our first-year retention rates. The college has regained, and in most categories has surpassed, some of the ground lost since 2014, particularly from 2017 to 2018. I believe that the efforts of our faculty, focused on student success, have played an important role in contributing to this gain. I’m pleased by this progress and eager to see what the next years bring with the added support of programs such as the Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities, Aggie Innovation Space and the Engineering Design Capstone Program. These programs are fairly new and still being developed, along with others like the Ron Seidel Leadership Institute. Let’s keep up the good work and continue to help our students be successful in their quest to become engineers.

NMSU Family of Engineering


NMSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors gather in the Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities in Engineering during the ribbon cutting of the space in EC III.

We celebrate family reunions in the College of Engineering two times a year: during National Engineers Week (E-Week) in the spring and Homecoming Week in the fall. Last week was E-Week, and we had the pleasure of having our Advisory Council meetings on campus and spending some time with our alumni. About 20 dignitaries came from out of town to be with us, and to contribute to the collective decisions on the direction and strategies of the college. This year’s meetings were special for me. We met in the new Eloy Torrez Family Learning Communities in Engineers and Chancellor Arvizu joined us to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Approximately 10 donors among our visiting alumni and advisory council members contributed toward the completion of this beautiful facility. Students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni gathered as an extended family of NMSU engineering in celebration of a place entirely dedicated to student success. Other highlights of the week were the 44th Bromilow Lecture, “Engineering Education: A Story of Equity and Empowerment,” delivered by Dr. Allyson Yarbrough, one of our accomplished alums, and an awards banquet Friday evening to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our faculty and staff. We may gather as the larger College of Engineering family only twice a year, but there is cause for gratefulness and pride every day of the year.

Opportunity in Crisis


File Photo: Students learn the basics of Geomatics and Surveying on the Horse Shoe during class. March 2018

Looking back at Fall 2016, we were operating in a crisis mode when Surveying program was slated for elimination, a decision made due to low enrolments in that program. I remember collecting no less than a hundred letters from practicing surveyors all over New Mexico and beyond. What followed after that was a great example of how an opportunity could present itself in the guise of a crisis. The NMPS (New Mexico Professional Surveyors) and our faculty began a series of meetings to design a new curriculum, Geomatics, modernized and online, to attract enrolments and to reflect the evolving profession of Surveying. The industries have put in funding to the tune of about $110k/year during the last two years, and NMPS has helped us with aggressive recruiting efforts. NMSU upper administration has noticed the promising potential of the program and it has agreed to allocate two faculty lines back into the program, after the cuts made in 2016. The enrolment trend has reversed now, and the program is expected to take in 40 new students by 2020 (from a single digit enrolment in 2016). The newly-designed program has received NCEES innovation award, and it now serves as a classical example for an industry-engaged design of an academic program, recognized by many of our peers. I hope the discussion in State Legislature committees this week on the requirements of surveying education for licensure considers the progress our faculty and staff made in this important program.

Engineering dean appointed as roundtable member by NAS, NAE


Alfredo Zendejas Rodriguez, environmental engineering graduate student at NMSU, looks at a sample of water collected from a fracking plant.

I am pleased to be appointed by the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering (NAS and NAE) to serve as a member of the Roundtable on Linking Academic Engineering Research and Defense Basic Science for a two-year term. The roundtable will provide a forum for ongoing high-level strategic dialogue and information exchange between Department of Defense leaders of research activities and leaders of US engineering schools and research universities to substantively support the Department’s research goals. It will meet twice a year to discuss issues of research and engineering relevant to the mission of the Basic Research office of the Department of Defense. There are 30 members in the Roundtable, and they include Deans of engineering schools and University Vice Presidents/Provosts for Research, across the country.

I view this as a very timely opportunity to contribute to the development of research activities of strategic importance to NMSU.

Diversity is all about attitudes


I wrote these two newspaper articles in 2006 on diversity. I think they’re still relevant.

From Animatronics to Forensic Computing


Cover of the December 2018 ASEE magazine.

I have enjoyed reading the current issue of ASEE PRISM magazine; in particular, the article on Breakthroughs and Trends in the World of Technology pages 8 to 13 on the December 2018 issue. Animatronics – the Broadway making of King Kong, a 1939 classic movie; Liquid Sunshine – Swedish research on energy storage in a liquid form for up to 18 years!; Quantum Devices – British-defense funded research on developing navigation devices that do not rely on GPS; Targeted Medicine – Max Planck Institute’s research to deliver medicines to the retina using microscopic glass corkscrews and microscopic robots; Machine Learning – Creating artwork using artificial intelligence; Extraterrestrial Messaging – Sending signals to faraway corners into  deep space ( do we really need to expand our social network from what we have on planet earth?); Forensic Computing – machine-learning algorithms combing through Medicare datasets for potential fraud cases. 

These are exciting times, indeed, for engineering!



Wisdom of Crowds


File Photo: A group of NMSU industrial engineering students earned top honors for their personal urban mobility access device designs at the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education Global Annual Forum. AUG18

Having recently completed reading two books on diversity, I am compelled to put together these thoughts. Our success in learning is dependent to a large extent on cognitive diversity, in addition to ethnic diversity. When faculty and students fully recognize that “collective diversity trumps individual ability,” as Scott Page puts it by way of decoding his research, diversity makes bigger sense. Consider the following simple conclusions from research on group intelligence (Len Fisher, The Perfect Swarm):

  1. When answering a state estimation question, the group as a whole will always outperform most of its individual members. Not sometimes. Always.
  2. If most of the group members are moderately well-informed about the facts surrounding a question to which there are several possible answers (but only one correct one), the majority opinion is almost always bound to be right. If each member of a group of one hundred people has a 60 percent chance of getting the right answer, for example, then a rigorous mathematical formulation proves that the answer of the majority has a better than 99 percent chance of being the correct one.
  3. Even when only a few people in a group are well-informed, this is usually sufficient for the majority opinion to be the right one.

In the areas of problem solving and prediction, our collective differences are as important as how good and able we are individual. These differences grouped under cognitive diversity are: knowledge – specifically, a range of different areas of relevant knowledge within the group; perspectives – different ways of viewing a problem; interpretations – different ways of categorizing a problem or partitioning perspectives; heuristics – different ways of generating solutions to problems; predictive models – different ways of inferring cause and effect (Len Fisher, The Perfect Swarm) .


14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century


I’m so glad that our Chancellor, Dr. Dan Arvizu (ME ‘73), highlighted the 14 grand challenges for engineering in his acceptance speech as the 2018 Ingeniero Eminente of NMSU Engineering. These grand challenges, which were identified by an international group of leading technological thinkers brought together by the National Academy of Engineering, fall into four cross-cutting themes of sustainability, health, security and joy of living. It’s important that all of us spend some time wondering if and where our expertise and interests fall among these disciplines:

1. Advance personalized learning      8. Secure cyberspace
2. Make solar energy economical 9. Provide access to clean water
3. Enhance virtual reality 10. Provide energy from fusion
4. Reverse-engineer the brain 11. Prevent nuclear terror
5. Engineer better medicines 12. Manage the nitrogen cycle
6. Advance health informatics 13. Develop carbon sequestration methods
7. Restore and improve urban infrastructure 14. Engineer the tools of scientific discovery




Wilson’s Consilience


Stock Photo: A field of red Poppies during golden hour.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” – EO Wilson

Two metaphors have helped me in trying to visualize the “Consilience” Wilson is championing. First, the metaphor of a rose flower in its natural state contrasted with all of its petals bound together by a rubber band. It is a powerful visual to suggest the difference between synergistic presentation and putting things together. Second, the metaphor of a chick breaking out of its enclosed world in a shell and entering a wider world of perceptions. Disciplinary identity and boundaries are needed in the early stages of comprehension and learning, like a shell is needed in the formative stages of a growing chick. However, just as the shell needs to be broken for further growth of the chick, the disciplinary boundaries need to be transcended by a learner to reach higher stages of learning.

Aggie Innovation Space Receives Support on Giving Tuesday


I am pleased and honored that NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, mechanical engineering alum, and his wife, Sheryl, have chosen the Aggie Innovation Space for their support. The $250,000 gift they pledged will help the Aggie Innovation Space in its efforts to engage students, not only from engineering but from all colleges, in experiential learning and allow them to interact with faculty researchers and industry professionals. By providing a community-style of engagement, Aggie Innovation Space activities are expected to improve student retention at NMSU. I am confident that this pledge will encourage other alumni and local industries to be engaged in the activities of this valued resource and provide further support.

NMSU Engineering Gains Visibility in South India


With our focus on increasing master’s-level students and establishing collaborations with key engineering colleges in South India, I have completed my week-long trip to Vijayawada, the new Capital City of Andhra Pradesh. Thanks to Dr. Kumar, our liaison and coordinator for Indian universities, NMSU engineering gained quite a bit of newspaper and TV coverage. Our signing of Memoranda of Understanding with eight colleges was televised to an audience of approximately 18 million people. All major Telugu (local language) newspapers and one national English (Hindu) newspaper covered the unique strengths and opportunities available at NMSU. In a 14-minute television interview, I was able to address Indian students and their parents about the degree and research programs available at NMSU and about their uniqueness and relevance to Indian students. I was accompanied by Dean Rolando Flores, College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and by Luis Cifuentes, vice president of research and graduate school dean, who focused on agricultural and other research collaboration opportunities. 

Where were your songs, my bird, when you spent your nights in the nest?


File Photo: Goddard Hall peeks through the autumn trees. 

There was a beautiful poem belonging to Mediaeval India, recited by Tagore, which not only describes function of poetry but also allows us to draw out an analogy with what a scientific mind creates.  The poem contains question and answer: 

Where were your songs, my bird, when you spent

          your nights in the nest?

Was not all your pleasure stored therein?

What makes you lose your heart to the sky, the

           sky that is limitless?

The bird answers:

I have my pleasure while I rested within bounds.

          When I soared into the limitless, I found my songs! 

Using this poem, Tagore describes the function of poetry as a detachment of an individual idea from its confinement of everyday facts and to give its soaring wings the freedom of the universal.  Isn’t this the purpose of creative interdisciplinary research as well? – detaching from the confines of disciplinary boundaries and allowing our imagination to soar into the limitless reality?

Virtues of Learning Community 


File Photo: Jessica Houston, New Mexico State University’s associate professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

I have enjoyed reading about the virtues of a learning community presented by Parker Palmer in his The Heart of Higher Education:

  • We invite diversity into our community not because it is politically correct but because diverse viewpoints are demanded by the manifold mysteries of great things.
  • We embrace ambiguity not because we are confused or indecisive but because we understand the inadequacy of our concepts to embrace the vastness of great things.
  • We welcome creative conflict not because we are angry or hostile but because conflict is required to correct our biases and prejudices about the nature of great things.
  • We practice honesty not only because we owe it to one another but because to lie about what we have seen would be to betray the truth of great things.
  • We experience humility not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen – and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.
  • We become free men and women through education not because we have privileged information but because tyranny in any form can be overcome only by invoking the grace of great things.

The great things Palmer was referring to in these virtues are the subjects around which truth-seekers gather to know, to teach, and to learn.

Engineering alum helps build student leadership

File Photo: Peer tutoring in the Learning Communities at New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering.


Engineering today is a team-based, multidisciplinary endeavor that requires skills beyond technical abilities, but also the ability to work with diverse groups of people, communicate effectively and develop entrepreneurial skills.

I am pleased to announce that a donation from engineering alum Ron Seidel, will help students develop those essential “soft skills” with the launch of the Ron Seidel Engineering Leadership Institute this coming spring.

A group of 20 students will be selected to be the first cohort in the two-year, self-paced program that includes professional training in leadership, communication, wellbeing and time management, and community engagement. They will work with mentors and attend professional development, leadership and communication seminars and workshops. They will apply their skills through community service and recruiting projects. Seidel’s gift will provide participating students with stipends, funding for books and supplies and travel to conferences. It will also support distinguished lectures from well-known leaders in engineering fields.

Engineering isn’t just about numbers, designs, and materials—it’s about leadership. One of the key attributes to becoming a leader in engineering practice, is to bring together teams from various disciplines, communicate, make decisions, be self-directed, and ethical. We are grateful that Ron Seidel knows the importance of leadership in engineering and is generously supporting this critical focus for our students.


We’re proud of our distinguished alum, Ms. Dion Messer (BSEE, ’84)

Dion Messer holds her distinguished alumna award at the 26 Annual Scholarship Breakfast.


Dion’s career path started out as a communications engineer with a NASA contractor at White Sands Missile Range.  With a Master’s degree from UT Austin, Dion became recognized worldwide as a digital signal processing expert who co-invented nine U.S. patents and authored numerous peer-reviewed IEEE publications. 

What makes Dion unique is that she moved on to get a law degree at UT School of Law and has led a successful career defending a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning 9-0, while creating a patent portfolio of more than 150 patents in less than five years.  With her service on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors, and her philanthropic support to NMSU, Dion serves as an outstanding role model  for our students.


Remembering Dr. John W. Hernandez

File Photo: Dr. John W. Hernandez, former professor, department chair and dean of engineering at NMSU. 


Recently, the college held a celebration of life for John w. Hernandez. Hearing about his life deeply inspired me.  He was a professor, department chair and dean of engineering at NMSU, as well as an athlete, politician, EPA appointee under Ronald Regan.  He was also the embodiment of what we call student-centric: taking student calls at all hours for homework assistance, recruiting at high schools, editing student papers, etc.  There has been some amazing talent at this college: Hernandez, Dad Jett, Ralph Goddard, Frank Bromilow.  Their attributes are something that we should strive for today.



Leisure time is important to our mission


File Photo: Clock of Dreams sculpture adjacent to the Ed and Harold Foreman Engineering Complex on the NMSU campus (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Do you find leisure to do some real thinking?

Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet and Nobel Laureate of India, puts poetically the requirement of leisure for perception of truth:

“It [truth] has its atmosphere of infinity in a width of leisure across which come invisible messengers of life and light, bringing their silent voices of creation.” (Tagore, Selected Essays, Page 321). 

I have not seen anything more powerful than this to describe the need for leisure if we are to engage in creative and scholarly activities.  In a rush to produce, and get it over with’ we often miss golden opportunities to interact with the voices of creativity within and external.  

We have a lot going on in CoE at NMSU, but let’s find some leisure now and then, interact with each other, and have fun along the way.




Learning: The common denominator in everything we do on campus 

File Photo: Jessica Houston, associate professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, teaches at the Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classroom. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)


Seeking higher levels of learning in a community setting is an opportunity that is exclusive to land-grant institutions.  It is indeed the collective purpose of teaching, research, outreach and service, often presented as mutually exclusive activities. Both freshmen and advanced research faculty share the common ground of seeking higher levels of learning; it is perhaps no accident that we use comparative degrees to refer to our enterprise as higher education, and we don’t use its superlative – highest education.  This paradigm shift, from teaching versus research versus community engagement to the common denominator of collective learning, is needed to give all of these activities their rightful and non-conflicting place on campus.




NMSU to offer Master of Engineering degrees


File Photo: The colorful hoods of the academic regalia signify where the wearers received their masters or doctorate degrees.

I am excited to know our proposal for Master of Engineering degrees has been finally approved by the Higher Education Department of New Mexico.  We can now move quickly to develop the various educational programs including those online, and move our graduate enrollments to the next level. The timing couldn’t be better: we have completed initial round of discussions on the development of interdepartmental programs, ex. manufacturing, bioprocesses and bioengineering, aerospace engineering, etc.  Very soon, we will develop marketing and communication plans for our MEng degree programs and identify the interdepartmental program directors.

These are exciting times indeed, at NMSU Engineering. 


Engineering Dean’s Blog

Greetings Friends and Colleagues,

I’m very excited about the opportunities and positive things in the College of Engineering and would like to share with you news, plans and thoughts through this blog. I invite you to follow my postings. If there is anything which you think might be a good topic, please send me a note at engrdean@nmsu.edu.