New Mexico Tech is a research university
The school’s tech curriculum crosses disciplinary boundaries. Grants fund programs to increase diversity
and improve campus engineering and science facilities
The scenic Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico is the home of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where students pursue advanced degrees in STEM fields and connect with government agencies as well as industry.
“We do transdisciplinary research here,” says Lorie Liebrock, dean of graduate studies. “Our students and faculty understand multiple disciplines and apply them together to solve problems that cross disciplinary boundaries.”
The nicotine patch is an example of a product developed at New Mexico Tech, the result of research in biology, chemistry and materials. A current student is researching how cellular biology can be applied to cybersecurity.
A quarter are in grad programs
New Mexico Tech is small, with a total of 2,009 students, 555 of them grad students. Graduate degrees are offered in sixteen STEM areas, including environmental engineering, engineering management, materials engineering, computer science, mineral and petroleum engineering, as well as a range of traditional science and engineering disciplines.
Liebrock takes a personal interest in the grad students. She and her staff help each one connect with the program that will suit him or her best. Her signature program is the NSF-funded Scholarship for Service, which pays tuition and a stipend to students in cybersecurity headed for government agency work.
Women and minorities want human impact
New Mexico Tech, with 32 percent female students, 13 percent Hispanic grad students and 3 percent Native American grad students, aspires to increase the underrepresented groups on campus. The campus has student chapters of professional societies like IEEE and ACM as well as minority engineering societies like SWE, SHPE and AISES, for which Liebrock is the advisor.
Liebrock hopes to attract more women and minorities to CS. She thinks that changing the image of computer science careers could make the field more enticing for women and minority students.
“Women and minorities are drawn to areas that have human impact,” she says. “The directions you can go in computer science are almost unlimited. When students see that they can create careers that maximize that impact, it resonates with the groups we’re trying to attract.”
Diverse students earn top academic awards
In 2013, women and Native American students won all the top academic awards in the graduating class. Michaela Gorospe, of the Santo Domingo Pueblo, won the Founder’s Award for her work in remediation of uranium legacy issues near the Laguna Pueblo, her father’s home pueblo. Kalyn Jones earned the women’s Cramer Award for completing her BSEE in four years with a 4.0 average. Reynaldo Yazzie, who led the senior design team in designing and constructing a steel bridge for competition, won the men’s Cramer Award for earning his BS in civil engineering with a 4.0 average.
Geographic and age diversity are also part of New Mexico Tech’s campus. Many grad students got their undergrad degrees there, but students from other parts of the country and the world also come for graduate degrees. Some students return for advanced degrees after their own children go to college.
“The group is more dynamic and interesting when we have students coming from other institutions,” Liebrock says. “It’s another piece of diversity.”
Grants fund improvements
New Mexico Tech became a Hispanic-serving institution in 2009 when its Hispanic enrollment topped 25 percent, making Department of Education grants available. A Providing Post-baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans grant, $2.8 million over five years, has led to a 23 percent increase in minority enrollment in graduate programs and an 11 percent overall increase in retention of grad students.
This grant and others supported sixteen Smart Classrooms, two Smart Labs and several other “learning spaces” with the latest multimedia learning technology, plus new programs to improve oral and written communication for grad students.
Student research opportunities are plentiful
Those improvements, added to the $80 million research budget, make the campus cutting edge, Liebrock says. It’s sometimes called a research institution that happens to have a university. Students at all levels are engaged with research.
The Energetic Materials Research Testing Center (EMRTC) is New Mexico Tech’s largest research division. It conducts research projects for corporate and government clients, focusing on explosives. With more than 200 employees, EMRTC has ample work and research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering and other fields.
The Petroleum Research and Recovery Center works with funding from state and federal government agencies on projects that maximize oil and gas exploration and production. The Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis (ICASA) is a computer security and forensics division that develops and implements software and hardware to combat cyber terrorism and computer-based crimes. Computer science students find ample opportunities to work and research at ICASA.
SFS students receive funding
Communicating well is a priority for all students, especially those preparing to enter government service in the Scholarship for Service (SFS) program. Professional development is part of SFS. Each student is assigned a subject on which to develop a short training package for the rest of the class.
“They have to be able to take technical detail and communicate it so the person understands the technical piece and why it’s important,” says Liebrock.
SFS provides two years of funding for undergraduate and masters students, three years for PhD students. It is funded by the National Science Foundation. The required commitment is two years of service, but the goal is to place lifelong employees. Liebrock works with graduating students to find the agency, location and job that will suit each one best. About fifty students have gone through the program since Liebrock started SFS in 2003.
“We make sure it’s a good fit, that they really want to be in government service,” she says. “Yes, the money is good, but the payback is government service.”
U.S. citizenship is required for SFS students, but other programs are available for those who are not citizens.
Students stay in touch with Liebrock and the faculty after they graduate. She often attends weddings and meets the babies of former students.
“It’s really fulfilling to help them find the right placement and do the work they want to do,” she says.
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
|Graduate & UG tech
||BS: ChE, CE, IT; BS,
MS: EE, environmental engineering,
ME, mineral engineering; BS, MS, PhD:
CS, materials engineering, petroleum
engineering; MS: engineering
|Ways to matriculate:
||Full time on campus;
available via distance