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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 6, 2003
Volume 39, Number 6

Consortium of the Americas earn NSF grant

By Steve Carr

KenkreThe Consortium of the Americas for Interdisciplinary Science at UNM, directed by Nitant Kenkre, professor of Physics and Astronomy, has been awarded a three-year grant in excess of $1 million by the National Science Foundation.

The consortium is charged with facilitating international collaboration between scientists in the United States and Latin America who will perform high caliber research in interdisciplinary science with linkage to education.

“The twin goals of the consortium, interdisciplinary science research and international collaborations, are important and timely,” said Kenkre. “The recognition given to this UNM initiative by the NSF is significant. It will help support the exciting research programs launched by the consortium in mathematical biology, complex systems, nanoscience and novel materials.

“This is the first international science center supported by the NSF, which regards this funding as a pilot activity on which to base further international science efforts.”

“It is an honor for UNM to receive this NSF grant,” said Bernd Bassalleck, chair, physics and astronomy. “Professor Kenkre’s untiring efforts to bridge across disciplines and countries in pursuit of science are appreciated within the university as well as outside.”

Kenkre is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society and scientist of international reputation whose research spans broad areas of theoretical physics. He introduced several years ago the idea of the consortium to the UNM administration, which supported it at all levels, in particular the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

More recently, the Provost’s office has recognized the overlap of consortium activities with UNM’s newly forming New Mexico Circle on Sovereignty and Sustainability and has lent the consortium strong support.

Of the external agencies that provided funding, the most important initially was the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which gave UNM $480,000 in a three-year contract for Kenkre’s consortium research. Many LANL scientists have collaborated under its auspices. “Los Alamos National Laboratory has played a major role in supporting the consortium scientifically as well as financially,” said Kenkre.

Activities supported by the NSF grant will include trimester plans of interdisciplinary projects, visits of Latin American scientists to New Mexico, international conferences, mini-workshops and lecture courses on interdisciplinary topics at UNM. They will also involve international student exchanges. Consortium activities are conceived, planned and implemented by Kenkre with input provided by an external advisory panel of internationally renowned and distinguished scientists and an internal advisory committee comprised of UNM faculty.

Since its inception less than three years ago, the consortium has organized 18 workshops at UNM and in Latin America, and hosted more than 30 Latin American scientists at all levels from graduate students to distinguished professors.

“The visits have also led to collaborations among the Latin American scientists themselves. The collaborations start at UNM and have continued after the scientists returned to their own countries,” said Kenkre.

He says that three factors make the consortium unique: the willingness of UNM (consistent with its Strategic Plan) to play host to a collaborative enterprise involving Latin American science, the Latin flavor of the State of New Mexico, unique among states, and current excitement and potential associated with the focus topics in interdisciplinary science.

For more information visit the consortium website at: http://panda.unm.edu/consort/consortium.html.