MRN Moving into Neurosystems Engineering

One of the more interesting developments on campus this year is the growth and change at The Mind Research Network.

Technically MRN is an independent non-profit entity, located in Pete and Nancy Domenici Hall on the UNM north campus.  However, work at MRN is closely entwined with the university community; it hosts professors, many of whom hold dual appointments in UNM departments such as electrical and computer engineering, and is a laboratory in which 20 graduate students work with researchers.  There are also more than 100 undergraduate students currently volunteer at MRN; these students work with a principal investigator throughout the academic year.

Last spring MRN hosted the “Domenici Neuroscience Symposium on Neuroscience for National Security”  in Washington.  The purpose was to raise the profile of MRN in Washington D.C. and to let the public know that MRN is now doing research in neurosystems engineering in addition to its research into brain disorders.  MRN drew a number of speakers from industry and research entities and showcased MRN researchers in a variety of areas.

UNM worked with MRN to produce audio recordings of the conference.  Here’s a great chance to hear about everything from the latest research in Traumatic Brain Injury to new training techniques that may allow soldiers to quickly identify threats.  Just putting together the audio lectures was a fascinating experience.  It made me want to learn more about work at MRN.

Neuroscience for National Security

Normally this kind of research is done by individuals at various institutions.  MRN is trying to concentrate a group of researchers working in neurosystems engineering.

Financially, things are going well at MRN.  The non-profit corporation has over $75 million in active awards, about $10 million in pending grants, and several active applications for grants in progress.  Research collaboration with organizations like MRN is what makes UNM a more interesting place to be and lots of fun to write about.

UNM Athletics Celebrates December Graduation of 33 Athletes

University of New Mexico Athletics celebrates the December graduation of 33 student-athletes from 12 sports with degrees from 12 different academic areas of study.

Baseball

  • Kevin Atkinson, University Studies
  • Mike Brownstein, Psychology
  • Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Sociology
  • Daniel Grubbs, Business Administration
  • Dane Hamilton, Communication & Journalism
  • John Hesketh, Economics
  • Max Willett, Business Administration

Football

  • Jonathan Brooks, Exercise Science
  • Roland Bruno, University Studies
  • Benjamin Contreras, University Studies
  • Erik Cook, University Studies
  • Daryl Jones, University Studies
  • Chris Mark, Construction Management
  • Daniel Martin, Business Administration
  • Clint McPeek, Business Administration
  • Adam Miller, University Studies
  • Donovan Porterie, Communication & Journalism
  • Frankie Solomon, Business Administration

Golf, Men’s

  • Guillermo Chavez, Business Administration
  • Jacob Lestishen, Business Administration
  • Parker Pemberton, Communication & Journalism
  • Steve Saunders, Business Administration

Golf, Women’s

  • Morgan Grantham, Art History

Skiing, Men’s

  • Rick Grahn, Civil Engineering

Skiing, Women’s

  • Karin Ohlin, Business Administration

Soccer, Men’s

  • John Smithson, University Studies
  • Christopher Wright, Portuguese

Soccer, Women’s

  • Kaci Paetz, Communication & Journalism

Softball

  • Samantha Hughes, Business Administration

Track, Men’s

  • Anthony Fairbanks, Business Administration
  • Joseph Garcia, Nursing

Track, Women’s

  • Brittany Smith, Business Administration

Volleyball

  • Jeanne Fairchild, Comunication & Journalism

Congratulations to these athletes and all of UNM’s Winter 2009 graduating seniors!

– Benson and Carolyn

UNM Athletics’ Top 10 Stories

‘Tis the season for media outlets to come up with all of their Top 10 lists. Top 10 news stories of the year, top 10 Tiger Woods mistresses, etc. We at the UNM Underground decided to give you our own top 10 lists for the year.

And to start off, these are the top 10 Lobo Athletics stories you might not have heard about this year. In between all of the press that we received this fall, some really uplifting stories unfortunately fell through the cracks.

– Benson and Carolyn

Top 10 Lobo Stories for 2009

  1. For the first time in UNM history, four fall sports programs made it to the postseason: men’s soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country each made their respective NCAA Championships.
  2. Women’s cross country took its second consecutive Mountain West Conference championship and placed 13th in NCAA Championships, while men’s cross country was the MWC champions and placed 8th in the NCAA, the highest ever at UNM.
  3. Lobos were the MWC champions in men’s basketball, women’s golf and men’s tennis.
  4. UNM had 42 All-Americans in 2008-2009 and nine student athletes were named conference athlete of the year: Ola Abu-Zekry, MWC Women’s Tennis; Mike Brownstein, MWC Baseball; Lee Emanuel, MWC Men’s Indoor Track & Field; Jodi Ewart, MWC Women’s Golf; Jeanne Fairchild, MWC Volleyball; Lacey Oeding, MWC Women’s Cross Country Freshman of the Year; Johnny Parkes, MWC Men’s Tennis; Steve Saunders, MWC Men’s Golf; and Thomas Schwab, Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Skiing Association (RMISA) Alpine Skier of the Year.
  5. Four Lobo coaches were honored as Coach of the Year: Steve Alford, MWC Men’s Basketball; Alan Dils, MWC Men’s Tennis; Joe Franklin, MWC Women’s Cross Country; and Martin Kroisleitner, RMISA Alpine.
  6. Two UNM athletes were national champions in 2008-2009: Lee Emanuel won the mile at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships; and Malin Hemmingsson won the women’s slalom at the NCAA Skiing Championships.
  7. Lobos are good students as well as good athletes. They posted a school record GPA of 3.14 in the fall of 2008, followed by a 3.12 in the spring of 2009, the second highest all time.
  8. Simon Edejmyr was 2009’s top men’s soccer ESPN The Magazine academic All-American.
  9. 13 of the 17 sports had a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the spring of 2009; while the combined GPA of UNM student athletes has been 3.0 or higher for 13 of the past 14 semesters.
  10. Freshman graduation rate for athletes is 55 percent, which is 12 percent higher than the average UNM student body. Graduation success rate, which factors in transfers, is 72 percent for the class entering 2002-2003.

Nothing New on Locksley

I just checked in with the Athletics department and the Human Resources department at UNM.  For those of you who don’t know, the University of New Mexico head football coach Mike Locksley is under investigation for an altercation with one of his assistant coaches that left the assistant coach with a split lip.  After the incident the case was referred to Human Resources for an investigation of a violation of UNM policies.

Now earlier today there were reports in multiple media outlets that UNM was preparing to hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss the outcome of the investigation. After talking with people in Athletics and Human Resources, there was no reason to believe this is the case.  I was informed that the investigation is still going on and there is no expected announcement tomorrow.  That said, the investigation could end at any time, including today, tomorrow or next week. Once the investigation is over and there has been notification of the results to the people involved, then an announcement will be made.  I’ll keep y’all updated as this continues.

— Benson

Fisking Monahan

Update: We have an updated response to Joe’s post about us here.

Local blogger Joe Monahan fancies himself “New Mexico’s Leading Political Blogger,” or something.  And his posts tend to hit more than they miss, unless they are dealing with UNM.  I don’t want to say that a simple fact check of Monahan is in order, but Joe, it might have been better if you’d tried fact checking before clicking on “send.”

According to Monahan:

And what about that $10,000 a month freelance PR contract the UNM prexy signed? Can that still be going on?

Actually Joe, it’s not still going on.  It hasn’t been going on for a while.  The gentleman in question, public relations consultant Mike Collins, hasn’t been on contract with UNM since June 30. Collins was brought to UNM shortly after President Schmidly was hired in 2007, and did provide some strategic PR counseling and a connection with members of the media on the east coast, since his company was based out of Washington, D.C.

But to answer your question Joe. “No” it’s not still going on.

– Benson

Declining State Revenues Paint a Grim Budget Picture

On August 14, the Legislative Finance Committee heard the latest revenue forecast for the state, and the news was not good.

A Woeful Revenue Picture

The state anticipates a revenue shortfall of about $433 million for the current budget year – the one that just began in July.  In addition, the revenues for the previous budget year did not come in as expected, so FY 2009 is suffering an approximate $309 million deficit.

So all told, the state will have to plug an anticipated budget hole of more than $700 million, which would easily wipe out the New Mexico’s cash reserves.  In fact, the hole has made it imperative for Governor Richardson to call state lawmakers into special session in October to fix the problem.

The budget problem, however, is a moving target.

New Mexico has been slammed with falling oil and gas revenues, but those are not totally to blame for the revenue deficit.  Most of the recent decline can be blamed on weaker income and sales tax collections, and a drop in corporate taxes – all symptoms of the economic recession that continues to plague the nation.

There are some small signs that the recession may in fact be receding, but its continued impact in expected to be felt for the next few years.  And as has historically been the case, it has taken longer for New Mexico to feel the impact of the downturn.  It will also take the state longer than most to fully recover.

What Does This Mean for UNM?

At the present time, it is likely the university will face a mid-year budget rescission of 3 – 5% or possibly more.  If there is a sliver of positive news in all of this, it is that the fiscal year is still young, so there is time to take action.  As always, the university’s primary goal will be to protect its core mission and the well being of our students.

UNM’s projected enrollment increases will translate into new tuition dollars, and most of that new money will go toward lessening the impact of the budget cuts.  The administration is also committed to researching all centrally held funds to determine unrestricted balances that may be available.

Decisions on how to deal with the budget cuts on the academic side will be left to the schools and colleges and administrative units.  The Provost and the Deans have already engaged in strategy sessions, and the Deans will in turn engage their department chairs.

Faculty governance groups, the Staff Council and student government are being called upon to participate in strategizing and planning for how the university will deal with the cuts.  Input will be sought from all campus sectors with the goal of finding the most sensible ways possible to cope with the reductions.  All of these discussions and input will need to come to fruition by mid-September so we don’t have a lot of time.

A Realistic View to the Future

There is a real concern among economists that revenues will continue to decline.  That means this is not a short-term deal and there will be no quick fixes.

This fiscal year’s mid-year rescission will more than likely be followed by lawmakers being forced to make further cuts in the state budget for 2010-2011.  If the sluggish revenue picture continues, more cuts could follow.

Barring an economic miracle, UNM must prepare for the inevitable.  It cannot and will not be business as usual.  Though final decisions will rest with the Board of Regents, President Schmidly, his senior leadership team and a committed campus community will be asked to provide the scenarios for their consideration.  All actions will be carefully considered and there will be close communication with the entire UNM community throughout the process.