Centered on Success: Interdisciplinary research spurs growth at centers

UNM’s research centers were established to foster collaborative research between various
disciplines and the public and private sector as well as to facilitate interdisciplinary advanced
degrees for students. They’ve achieved those goals and, at the same time, have garnered
international recognition for their work. Here are highlights on four of those research centers.

Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBME)
Director: Andrew Shreve

Transforming a bulky hospital instrument into a true bedside device. Inventing new fabrics that actively kill bacteria. And figuring out how subtle changes in the shape of a human protein can
lead to debilitating disease. These are a few of the many top-notch projects at UNM’s seven-year old Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBME). CBME researchers use engineering know-how to solve real-world medical problems, with a special emphasis on the huge problem of rising health care costs. To achieve this, their work spans the practical to the fundamental, from near-term inventions to long-term research. CBME’s director, Andrew Shreve, is actively developing new partnerships around the university and with industry. “This is a really exciting cross-disciplinary area,” says Shreve. “We’re building a collaborative community of researchers at all levels from faculty to high school students.” The center also focuses on education, including a class on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), a new doctorate in engineering
with an emphasis on biomedical engineering, and a new master’s degree in biomedical engineering. Students are being prepared for positions in academia and in laboratories across the nation and worldwide as well as in the large number of biotech companies in New Mexico. “These programs set the stage for some exciting opportunities and careers for our students,” says Shreve.


  • Technology from David Whitten’s Lab has just been licensed to a new start-up company
    (see page 16).
  • The number of students in UNM’s brand-newBME graduate programs is currently 19 and
    growing, well above the initial forecast.

Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET)
Director: Andrea Mammoli

The Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET) supports research on a range of technologies that can meet society’s future energy needs, are scalable, and don’t rely on finite resources or scarce materials. While energy conversion materials are still CEET’s largest enterprise, Director Andrea Mammoli is expanding CEET’s scope to systems and devices. Research activities will span three levels: materials science at the nanoscale, devices ranging from millimeters to centimeters in size, and systems that can measure from meters to several kilometers in size. In order to manage that breadth of research, Mammoli is increasing the number of collaborations to achieve shared goals in emerging energy technologies. CEET’s newest partnership is with the Fraunhofer Institute’s Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE). Fraunhofer is a German non-profit organization that supports the transfer of technical knowledge into real-world applications. CSE shares CEET’s interest in photovoltaics research, building energy systems and power grids, and it has a photovoltaic testing facility in Albuquerque. The partnership will help the center expand its research while providing internship and education opportunities for students.


  • In May, CEET and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) unveiled a state-of-the-art microgrid facility outside of Albuquerque designed to be a showcase for future smart grid projects. (See UNM Engineering, Fall 2011.)
  • CEET will be the first US academic participant in the DESERTEC Foundation, a global civil society initiative aiming to shape a sustainable future.

Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM)
Director: Steven Brueck

Founded in 1983, the Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) is a preeminent center for interdisciplinary research and a powerful economic development engine in New Mexico. CHTM’s annual research budget of $7M to $8M is funded by external research contracts from both federal agencies and industry. CHTM researchers and students study intelligent imaging from photonics to semiconductors. “We go from theoretical models to machines that build real focal plane arrays and we take the images with them,” explains Steven Brueck, director. “Very few universities run that whole gamut.” (See page 7 for an interview with Brueck.) The center’s most active research areas include quantum dot infrared detectors, lasers, and superlattice detectors. In 2010, CHTM researchers developed the first multi-watt quantum dot VECSEL (vertical externalcavity surface-emitting lasers) to operate at long wavelength and high power, a significant step towards high power laser applications in display technology, telecommunications, and circuits. Lithography research is another of CHTM’s biggest successes. Researchers have managed to shrink the process down to scales of only a few atomic spacings and are using lithography in many applications, including creating a revolutionary tunable laser. “In this process, we’re finding new physics and new capabilities that will give us new devices,” comments Brueck.


  • To date, 117 patents have been awarded and CHTM has helped spin off 11 start-up companies.
  • More than 47 technologies (40% of CHTM’s patents — a very high average) have been licensed. Some very large companies, including Samsung, Toshiba, and NEC, have licensed technologies developed by CHTM researchers.

Center for Micro-Engineered Materials (CMEM)
Director: Abhaya Datye

“Our center is focused on building an environment for collaborative, interdisciplinary nanomaterials research,” explains Abhaya Datye, director of the Center for Micro-Engineered Materials (CMEM). “Nanoscience enables advances in many fields such as porous materials, catalysts and most recently, drug delivery for treatment of cancer,” he says. Datye notes that the new Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center (CNTC) grant originated from collaborations created through such interdisciplinary research activities. CMEM provides state-of-the-art facilities for the generation and characterization of powders, mesoporous materials, nanomaterials, thin films, and coatings. CMEM also manages highly specialized nanomaterials characterization facilities in collaboration with the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department. Two state-of-the-art x-ray diffraction spectrometers were recently installed in a newly renovated lab. These machines give researchers the power to focus x-rays on small particles, thin films, and nanoscale materials such as meteorites to get high quality data. “This facility has unique in situ capability; not many places in the U.S. have that ability,” explains Datye.


  • The Chinese Institute of Engineers - USA (CIE - USA) awarded Research Professor Hongyou Fan the prestigious Asian American Engineer of the Year Award for 2012.
  • CMEM also supports the Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering program, a joint degree program with the College of Arts and Sciences.