Campus News - October 15, 2001

NSF funds Argentina institute
Consortium one of five in nation awarded

By Michael Padilla

The Consortium of the Americas for Interdisciplinary Science, a center of the College of Arts and Sciences housed in the Physics Department, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), with participation from the Department of Energy, to hold a two-week interdisciplinary institute in Argentina in Summer 2002.

The grant is one of only five grants of its type to be awarded in the nation. UNM received the honor for the second time in the last three years.

V. M. (Nitant) Kenkre, UNM professor and director of the consortium, said this award, which will enhance UNM’s presence in Latin America, will be used to bring together senior scientists of international standing and to educate, under their guidance, graduate and postgraduate students from Latin America and the United States. In a closely knit atmosphere, they will learn and carry out investigations in interdisciplinary subjects involving physics, mathematics, biology and chemistry.

“Up to 60 top-notch students will be selected to participate in this Pan American institute,” Kenkre said, adding that 12 distinguished lecturers from the USA, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina will lead the program.

Kenkre said that the institute, “Modern Challenges in Statistical Mechanics: Patterns, Noise and the Interplay of Nonlinearity and Complexity,” will allow close interaction between junior investigators who are the intellectual leaders of the future, and established senior scientists.

Kenkre hopes that such programs lead to bringing nations together in these difficult times.

Marc Price, chair of Physics and Astronomy, said that UNM receiving this grant is particularly timely given the international direction of the UNM Strategic Plan. The department recognized Kenkre this summer through an award for “outstanding contributions to international research outreach for the Department and the University.”

Subjects for the institute will center around the formation of patterns, the role of noise in inducing order as well as disorder and the validity of traditional statistical mechanics approaches when applied to complex systems in biology, chemistry, physics and other contexts. In addition to Kenkre, who is the primary investigator of the grant and the chief organizer, professors Horacio Wio from Argentina, Katja Lindenberg from California and Victor Romero from Mexico will organize the institute.

The Consortium of the Americas was established July 1, 2000 to encourage collaboration between Latin America and UNM in interdisciplinary science. The consortium has participation from more than 20 Latin American institutions of research and higher learning, and the national laboratories in New Mexico. Kenkre said the focus of research investigations is in three specific directions which are of crucial current importance: nanoscience, computationally complex systems and novel materials.

The consortium has held or supported, on behalf of UNM, seven workshops in the last year and half, six of them in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and one for Mexico in Albuquerque. More than 25 visitors have spent weeks to months at UNM under the auspices of the consortium.

Supported internally by the UNM College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, several departments, and the Center for Advanced Studies, the consortium has attracted substantial support and funding from external agencies including the NSF, the USA-Mexico Foundation and Los Alamos National Laboratory. A major role has been played in the consortium by LANL, specifically LANL’s Theory Division, Science and Technology Base Programs and the Directorate for Strategic and Supporting Research. LANL recently awarded the consortium a $150,000 grant per year which is planned for at least three years.

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