Pair of New Technology Doctoral Degree Programs Approved for New Mexico Tech

Pair of New Technology Doctoral Degree Programs Approved for New Mexico Tech
Biotechnology, Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. programs available this fall


New Mexico Tech student performing biotechnology researchSOCORRO, N.M. – Two state-of-the-art doctoral graduate degree programs have been approved for the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) , both expected to fill a critical need and to stimulate economic development opportunities in the state’s technology sector.

New Mexico’s State Board of Finance approved New Mexico Tech to offer Doctorates of Philosophy in Biotechnology and Mechanical Engineering - Intelligent Energetic Systems in Santa Fe Tuesday afternoon. The two programs are slated to be available to students in time for the start of the Fall 2016 semester.

The approval concludes a multi-year effort by New Mexico Tech to add the new programs. It is the first time in 10 years that New Mexico Tech has added a doctoral program to its degree offerings.

“These two degree programs hold vast potential for our students that will benefit the state of New Mexico,” New Mexico Tech President Dr. Stephen Wells said. “These are two significant Ph.D. programs. There is a tremendous need, specifically in this state, that we can now start to meet.”

Tech’s Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Lorie Liebrock says both degree programs have waiting lists of students looking to enroll.

“New Mexico has biotechnology in its new strategic plan from the Governor as one of our major growth areas, and we have a great deal of biotechnology programs here in New Mexico,” Liebrock said. “As an example – the 600 new jobs at Los Alamos National Labs, 300 of which are scientist positions, a number of those are biotechnology related.”

“From our development of extracting minerals using biochemical processes all the way through the development of the nicotine patch, we have a long history of biotechnology research here at New Mexico Tech.”

Liebrock also sees tremendous growth potential in the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D.

“It’s the intersection of systems thinking with explosives and high-energy systems. “So, we’re talking about rockets and bomb dispersals, all of that sort of instruction,” Liebrock said. “It provides the sort of work needed at places like Spaceport America and Sandia National Labs. It’s explosives, defense work and developing intelligent defense systems. That’s all related to the new Mechanical Engineering Ph.D.”

Action items 16 and 17 from Tuesday’s meeting presented each request for approval for the degree programs. New Mexico Higher Education Department Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Barbara Damron, presented the Ph.D. in Biotechnology, as well as Dr. Bridgette Noonen, Senior Policy Analyst, New Mexico Higher Education Department; New Mexico Tech’s Lorie Liebrock, Dean of Graduate Studies; Tom Kieft, Professor of Biology and Snezna Rogelj, Chair and Professor of Biology. They were supported by Dean of Arts and Sciences, William Stone.

The Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (with Dissertation in Intelligent Energetic Systems) was presented by Secretary Damron and Dr. Noonen and New Mexico Tech’s Kevin Wedeward, Dean of Engineering; Jamie Kimberley, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering; and Andrei Zagrai, Chair and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

“This is really a great moment in Tech’s history,” Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Warren Ostergren said. “Dr. Kieft and Dr. Rogelj from biology and Dr. Kimberley and Dr. Zagrai from mechanical engineering really took the lead with this project and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the work they’ve done to make these programs a reality. They developed the programs and had to work out all of the details, including collaboration with other research institutions and industry.”

Although New Mexico Tech is the only university in the state to offer these degrees, collaboration with New Mexico’s other two research institutions, the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, is part of the plan for each new degree program.

“Once the two programs are up and running, we’re going to share courses with these other universities,” Dr. Ostergren said. “We have 11 departments on campus that are already set up to support these degrees. All of the infrastructure is in place to start these programs today.”

- NMT -