Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Even though I took on the editor duties at Mirage seven years ago and have been immersing myself in Loboland ever since, I’m still surprised again and again at the network of connections that spread like a spiderweb among UNM alumni.

Here’s one example. 

Deb Haaland was tapped to lead the U.S. Department of Interior earlier this year and, of course, we immediately started to plan putting her on the cover of our next issue. She’s not only a double alumna, she’s only the second New Mexican (the late Manuel Lujan Jr. is the other) to lead Interior and the first Native American and UNM alum to serve in the post. 

After she was confirmed and took on the agency that Lujan once described colorfully as trying to handle a “sack full of cats,” she was, not surprisingly, very busy. And her press staff was, not surprisingly, very protective of her time. No, unfortunately she could not carve out time to speak to Mirage. 

Then came the July 4th weekend and Connie Beimer (’76 BA, ’79 MPA), UNM’s vice president for Alumni Relations, was out for a run in Albuquerque’s bosque. She and her running friends made room for another runner coming in the other direction and one of Beimer’s friends said, “You know who that was?” 

Haaland, who is training for a marathon, was home in New Mexico for the weekend and out for her morning run. Beimer turned around, turned on the gas and caught up with Haaland. 

After Beimer congratulated her, she made a pitch for Mirage, alumna to alumna. Of course, Haaland said, she would be happy to make time to be in Mirage. After all, she said, “I’m a Lobo!” 

Within the week we had our interview. 

In boardrooms, the Roundhouse, neighborhood shops and, yes, running and hiking trails, it’s not that unusual to encounter one or more UNM alumni.

Part of the reason is simple math. UNM is a large university and it counts more than 200,000 graduates. But it’s also about who UNM graduates become. Hire a lawyer or an accountant, go to a doctor, vote in a local election, grab a local coffee or IPA and it’s not unlikely you’ll find you’re dealing with a fellow Lobo. 

In addition to Haaland, in this issue we’re profiling some fierce and accomplished UNM alumni — including two sisters who managed to get COVID vaccines in the arms of 100,000-plus New Mexicans, internationally known attorneys Nancy Hollander and Teri Duncan, one very determined Lobo football coach and our own Alumni Association President Mike Silva. 

Silva has a vision to make that alumni connection even stronger by pairing current UNM students with alumni mentors who can help them across the commencement line and stay connected after graduation. 

All the more reason to keep your eyes open for those unexpected Lobo connections. 

Leslie Linthicum
MirageEditor@unm.edu

Photo of Leslie Linthicum
Green Chile, Red Planet

Green Chile, Red Planet

Photo of the exterior of Hodgin Hall looking West

Green Chile, Red Planet

UNM’s connection to exploration of planet Mars — a relationship that dates back to the 1970s — continues to grow. 

The latest Mars/UNM connection involves — what else? — growing green chile on the red planet. 

A proposal by UNM architects, biologists, computer scientists and engineers calling themselves the UNM CHILI HOUSE Team won first place in a NASA competition for design technologies. 

The UNM team’s winning submission uses small, simple robots and water sensors to water and tend to New Mexico chile peppers on Mars, the same variety of chile that will soon be growing on the International Space Station. 

Teaching robots to take care of plants is a big step toward having viable food source for astronauts when they land on Mars. 

“Astronauts will need to have freshly grown plants for nutrition as well for mental health,” explained Dave Hanson, UNM Biology professor and a faculty advisor for the team. “Ideally, fresh food would be available when astronauts arrive at Mars and maintained continuously on both the moon and Mars without human intervention.” 

The UNM team consists of five undergraduates, out of a total of 12 team members including graduate and faculty advisors, and draws from the departments of Biology and Computer Science and the School of Architecture and Planning. 

The team proposes using an inflatable dome covered with protection from radiation and small meteorites. The interior of the dome houses planter configurations outfitted with moisture and health sensors, which wirelessly transmit signals from the plant to a robot. When the plant needs watering, the robots collect water from a distribution point near the center of the dome and transport it to the plant. 

In essence, the plants are telling the robots when they need water, fertilizer or other care.

 “The on-plant sensors are working like translators for the plant. They monitor electrical and biophysical changes in the plant and provide an output that people, or computers, can understand,” Hanson explained. “We then program the robots to understand those plant signals or communications. It may sound far-fetched that we may be communicating with plants, but just imagine ways we might need to communicate with other life forms that don’t speak.”

Photo of the Sun at sunset

How Do You Spell Relief?

How Do You Spell Relief?

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How Do You Spell Relief?

On a scale of zero to 10, how nauseous are you? That question formed the basis of a UNM-based study of the effects of cannabis consumption on nausea symptoms, ranging from five minutes after consumption to one hour post-cannabis consumption. It showed that using cannabis results in an average symptom improvement of nearly 4 points on a 0-10 scale just moments after consumption, with increasing benefits over time.

Nausea, whether due to food poisoning, gastrointestinal disorders, chemotherapy or a host of other causes, is a common symptom but often difficult to treat. Cannabis has been used to lessen nausea for millennia, although its dosage and effects have been under-researched.

Although its effectiveness for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea is widely recognized, the use of cannabis for nausea remains under-researched in the general population, with no previous studies examining how quickly cannabis relieves nausea or how relief varies with product characteristics.

In a recent study, titled “The Effectiveness of Common Cannabis Products for Treatment of Nausea” published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, researchers showed that more than 96% of the study sample reported nausea relief within one hour. “Despite increasing clinical concerns regarding cyclical vomiting or hyperemesis syndrome in cannabis users, almost all users experienced relief,” said author Sarah Stith, an assistant professor in the UNM Department of Economics.

The study was based on data from 2,220 cannabis self-administration sessions recorded by 886 people using the Releaf App, a mobile software application designed to help users manage cannabis consumption by allowing them to record real-time changes in symptom intensity. 

The extent of nausea relief experienced by the study sample varied. Flower and concentrates yielded faster and greater relief than edibles or tinctures, while vaping yielded less relief than consuming cannabis via a joint or pipe. 

The study also compared the effects of THC and CBD among consumers of cannabis flower. Coauthor Jacob Vigil, associate professor in the UNM Department of Psychology, explained that “perhaps our most surprising result was that THC, typically associated with recreational use, seemed to improve treatment among consumers of cannabis flower, while our CBD, more commonly associated with medical use, actually seemed to be associated with less symptom relief.”

Photo of marijuana plant being grown and handled

Hello, Dean Lo

Hello, Dean Lo

Photo of the exterior of Hodgin Hall looking West

Hello, Dean Lo

Leo Lo is the new dean of the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences. 

Lo joins UNM from The Pennsylvania State University, where he was associate dean for Learning, Undergraduate Services and Commonwealth Campuses, overseeing operations at 20 campus libraries throughout Pennsylvania. He also led the strategic planning process of the University Libraries, supported the promotion and tenure process of Penn State library faculty and led the Libraries’ COVID-19 response. 

Provost James Holloway lauded Lo for his “experience, vision and strategy,” as well as his commitment to equity, inclusion and affordability. 

At UNM, Lo will oversee a busy library system that sees 1.5 million visits a year, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees and a doctorate in Organization, Information & Learning Sciences, and houses UNM Press. 

Lo said he is excited about that mix of a university press, degree-granting program and academic library, all housed in one college. 

“I believe there is tremendous potential, and I am looking forward to working with the talented faculty and staff to leverage the strengths of all these units,” Lo said. 

Lo was a first-generation college student and began his career as a Multicultural Studies Librarian at Kansas State University in 2009. He held positions at the University of Alabama and Old Dominion University, before moving to Penn State.

Headshot of Dean Leo Lo

Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Photo of the exterior of Hodgin Hall looking West

Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Photovoltaic panels are a tried-and-true way of harnessing the sun’s power and converting it to electricity ­— except when the clouds roll in. In UNM’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ph.D. candidate Guillermo Terrén-Serrano and Professor Manel Martínez-Ramón have developed an artificial intelligence algorithm that optimizes the performance of solar power by predicting cloud cover.           

Reducing the randomness of solar energy generation requires knowing when solar radiation availability is going to decrease due to cloud cover. Terrén-Serrano and Martínez-Ramón’s artificial intelligence algorithm learns about cloud patterns and predicts, based on recent cloud movement, the future output of a solar panel. 

The algorithm was trained using cameras and a solar radiation sensor installed on campus at UNM. The camera system was designed by Terrén-Serrano and Martínez-Ramón to follow the sun throughout the day, collecting data on both cloud cover and solar radiation at the same time. The apparatus collects one visual image every 15 seconds and one solar radiation sample every third of a second. 

The researchers plan to launch a website later this year that will allow anyone to see the data from their cameras in real-time. 

“The problem with solar energy is that it is of stochastic nature: it has a random component due to the presence of clouds,” Martínez-Ramón explains. “So, what we want to do is to reduce this randomness and when we know that we’re not going to have enough solar power then we will be prepared to supply this energy with other sources.”

Photo of an array of solar panels facing the sun

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