Campus News - April 23, 2001

Lopez seeks flexibility in research

By Michael Padilla

Lopez in his laboratory with UNM chemical and nuclear engineering students.Gabriel Lopez likes diversity and it shows in his research.

Lopez, associate professor in chemical and nuclear engineering, is on sabbatical from UNM, but is completing five grants and working on a number of projects for the University.

“When I started college I wanted to be flexible and be able to work across disciplines,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do biology, work on silicon chips and do math as well.”

His dream became a reality and it helps him with the research he is conducting today.

Most of his projects are collaborative. He said he enjoys multidisciplinary work and he said collaboration is important to achieve a common goal.

One of his projects is to help simplify medical tests. Lopez and researchers from UNM’s Medical School are developing fluorescent micro systems. The idea is to inject small fluid samples from a patient into a chip to conduct various analyses. “Instead of sucking fluid out of patients for every test, the idea would be to only have to get the fluid once,” he said. Another focus of the project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is to develop new tools for drug companies.

In addition, Lopez and a team of researchers are creating a chemical sensor that can detect chemical and biological species at the same time. The sensor could be useful in medicine for doing blood and urine monitoring. The project is funded by the Office of Naval Research.

“It’s exciting to be part of multi-displinary research,” he said, adding that he is working on establishing collaborations with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Lopez serves as a member of the chemical and nuclear engineering graduate recruiting committee. His focus is to recruit native New Mexicans who attend out-of-state schools back to UNM.

“It’s important to reach out to students and make some sort of connection,” he said. “We need to create a better environment for them and offer them as much support as possible.”

Committed to creating a support system for students, he serves as advisor of the Bio-Medical Engineering Society.

He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. For two years he worked on his post doctoral studies at Harvard University. But his heart was set on returning to New Mexico. After his post-doc at Harvard, Lopez began working at UNM in 1993.

Although he studied in several states and travels extensively recruiting students across the country he always manages to go back home to his hometown of Peñasco in northern New Mexico.

He said he enjoys the outdoors and living in a small community. He and his wife Kaori have one daughter Ciana, 8, and a son, Jose, 4.

Even though Lopez lives in the high tech world professionally, at home he enjoys the quiet simplicity northern New Mexico offers.

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