New Mexico Tech’s agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory will help with the recruitment of students and faculty, university President Stephen Wells said last week.
“I think this is going to set us up a mile high in terms of our ability to recruit,” Wells said after the signing ceremony at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Mineral Museum.
“First of all, you’ll see the names of people from Los Alamos in our departments,” Wells said. “The students will understand they have the opportunity to work with the people from the lab, and then maybe at some point work in the national lab. And that will be an exciting thing. I think not only will it help in recruiting students and faculty, but retaining faculty as well.”
LANL Director Terry Wallace also sees the five-year agreement helping the lab recruit staff as well.
“As of this morning (last Thursday), there are 275 degrees from New Mexico Tech at the lab,” Wallace said. “That’s 250 people. Some have more than one degree. Recruiting has always been important to us, too. New Mexico Tech graduates the right people.”
The number of New Mexico Tech graduates working at the lab includes Wallace. Wallace earned his bachelor’s in 1978 in geophysics and math. He served as New Mexico Tech’s commencement speaker during graduation exercises in May.
Tech students have also done internships at LANL through programs such as the cyber-security program headed up by Dean of Graduate Studies Lorie Liebrock.
Wells and Wallace said the agreement will increase student exposure to work at LANL.
Both Wells and Wallace see the agreement also helping the state economically.
“From my perspective, there is no reason we can’t look at the Rio Grande as a technology corridor,” Wallace said. “We can talk about that, but unless you have the right agreements in place, the natural tendency of bureaucracies is to build stumbling blocks. But the agreement really helps us.”
The two institutions have worked together before. But Wallace and Wells said bureaucratic tape placed a limit on what Tech and LANL could do together.
“New Mexico Tech is world class in explosives science,” Wallace said. “And believe me, we have to understand explosives science at Los Alamos as well. We’ve had some collaboration there. What’s different about this is that it allows us to cut through bureaucratic tape, which made it impossible to do some things. At Los Alamos, I can’t have a staff member prior to this agreement come to New Mexico Tech and participate in academic life by teaching because of cost accounting standards. … This agreement allows us to navigate that.”
“Likewise for us, when we go up there, we’re under visitor’s status, which gives you restrictive access to things, and now, we have less burdensome restrictions which allow our faculty to work hand-in-hand with their staff and do research,” Wells said.
Because the research at Tech matches the mission at LANL, the agreement makes sense, Wells and Wallace said.
“The fact of the matter is we touch every discipline,” Wallace said. “It’s not unlike New Mexico Tech. We have an environmental science department. We have a biological science department. Those things match pretty well (with New Mexico Tech). We have about 2,500 PhDs. And the biggest demand is people wanting to be part of an academic environment for renewal and refreshment. This is just great for us.”
“For us, Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of the most respected, highest ranking of the national labs,” Wells said. “Its history goes way back in the nation, and houses these elite researchers. Now, we will have them on our campus, exposing our students and faculty to those researchers. We think in the end, not only will this benefit both institutions, but the entire state of New Mexico. This is a win-win for everyone involved.”
“New Mexico Tech’s proud tradition of science, engineering and technology perfectly aligns with what we do at Los Alamos National Labs,” Wallace added. “So it’s a natural handshake.”