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Regents Weigh In: Keep the VLA Name

SOCORRO, N.M. November 22, 2011 – The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents approved a resolution urging the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to keep the name Very Large Array.

The Board met in regular session Monday, Nov. 21, in Albuquerque. Board member Jerry Armijo, a native of Socorro, introduced the resolution and said that, “In my opinion, it’s a bad idea [to change the name]. The VLA is a very unique and well-established name.”

The NRAO has pumped millions of dollars into a massive upgrade, which is now called the Enhanced VLA. Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said NRAO director suggested changing the name because the new instrument hardly resembles the original telescope installation.

Romero said “Very Large Array” is the second-most searched astronomy facility on the Internet, after the Hubble Space Telescope.

Armijo said the general sense in the Socorro community is that the VLA should keep its name. He also said he hopes the City and County both adopt similar resolutions.

In other news from the meeting:

  • Tech President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez reported on the progress to create a new funding formula for higher education in the state of New Mexico. He said the new formula incorporates a matrix that accounts for the level of school, including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. He said the formula is moving away from headcounts as an important variable and leaning toward goals and outcomes. Tech will benefit because the areas of science, technology, engineering and math are valued higher than liberal arts. “I’m not a big fan of the new formula, but I am a big fan of its objective,” Lopez said. “We didn’t achieve simplicity. It’s still a complex formula. But we are developing an adequate allocation for our mission.”
  • The Board learned about seven professors who are taking sabbatical either this year or during the 2012-13 year:
  • Dr. Paul Fuierer of Mechanical Engineering will be doing research at the University of Bayreuth in Germany during the 2012-2013 school year.
  • Dr. Bixiang Wang of the Math Department will be doing research and lecturing at the University of South Florida, the University of Minnesota and other schools.
  • Dr. Ashok Ghosh of the Mechanical Engineering Department will spend the spring 2012 semester launching a company along with the university to market and develop a patented water desalinization system.
  • Dr. Dongwan Shin of the Computer Science and Engineering Department is currently on sabbatical. He is working with a colleague at Arizona State University on privacy controls for online social networks.
  • Dr. Diedre Hirschfeld of the Materials Engineering Department is on sabbatical for the 2012-12 year. She is working with Sandia National Laboratory to develop tamper-indication markings using pulsed laser irradiation.
  • Dr. Michelle Creech-Eakman of the Physics Department and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer is on sabbatical in Socorro. She is examining interferometric data from the Keck Observatory, developing a exoplanet instrument for the 2.4-meter telescope and laying the groundwork for the operational phase of the interferometer.
  • Dr. Ali El-Osery of the Electrical Engineering Department will spend 2012 on sabbatical. With Applied Technology Associates, he is developing a plan to fund more graduate students. With the University of New Mexico, he is working on a structural health monitoring system and exploring future collaboration opportunities.
  • Lopez announced that the Bureau of Geology has aborted its first attempt to hire a new director. Interim director Greer Price said the position is being advertised again and he hopes to have a new director in place by the summer of 2012.
  • Romero told the board that Tech is spearheading a coalition of traditional mining schools to lobby Congress for research funding. He said that last year only 60 degrees were awarded in the entire nation in mining engineering (or mineral engineering, as the degree is called at Tech). Romero said he is tracking two bills that are making their way through committees in Congress. Mining industries have been filling research positions with engineers from other disciplines, such as civil or mechanical engineering, Romero said. Additional federal funding for research professors would create new opportunities for students interested in mining, he said.
  • Vice President of Research Lonnie Marquez reported that a campus committee is reviewing proposals from health insurance providers. The university is likely to switch from HCH Administration’s self-insured plan to a fully-insured plan from a different provider. Due to claims exceeding revenues, Tech will have to raise rates by 20 percent if it stays with HCH. Marquez said the cost to employees will still increase if Tech switches plans, but he hopes to minimize the rate hike. The committee is trying to find a plan that offers the same level of health coverage with the lowest possible rate hike.
  • Marquez presented the financial analysis for October 2011, stating that revenues and expenditures are within budget.
  • The board approved a list of property to be removed from inventory.
  • The board approved seven restricted fund purchases
  • The Petroleum Recovery Research Center is spending $3.45 million with Gordon Creek LLC for carbon sequestration.
  • EMRTC is spending $206,500 with STAR Dynamics to support an Air Force Space project.
  • EMRTC is spending $221,120 with Protection Engineering Consultants for engineering of a blast structure
  • EMRTC has three contracts with Command Post Technologies to provide role players for military training exercises. The contracts are for $683,937, $463,622 and $334,380.
  • Tech is spending $355,484 with Princeton University for modeling of carbon sequestration in the Illinois Basin.
  • The board approved two purchases with unrestricted funds that exceed $250,000. Tech will pay $564,517 to Sound and Signal Systems of N.M. for fire alarm systems in four dorms. The university will also pay $282,118 to Mountain West GolfScapes for athletic field renovations.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech