Editorial: Promising New School Year for Students, NM

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What do undergraduate students at the University of New Mexico have in common with UNM-sponsored research in the field of nanotechnology?

This week, they’re the feel-good antidote to the collective anxiety we feel about the woes that seem to perpetually plague New Mexico: homelessness, murders, water shortages, low worker participation, low academic achievement. …

You get the picture.

But for the 1,800 students who moved into UNM’s residence halls between Thursday and Sunday in preparation for the fall semester, Albuquerque represents the excitement of a fresh start after two difficult years of pandemic crises that have disrupted learning path and social life.

(That same promise of new beginnings goes for students taking classes at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Western New Mexico University in Silver City, Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, Highlands University in Las Vegas, Northern New Mexico College in Española, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, and our many branch campuses and two-year college programs.)

“It’s really exciting to see so many faces back on campus,” Megan Chibanga, director of student housing and residence life at UNM, told the Journal. “It’s much more active and dynamic now that we’ve got everyone back.”

UNM lifted its mask mandate on March 19. Students, faculty, and staff are no longer required to wear a mask inside labs, studios, libraries, residence halls, restaurants, or the student union building. But they’re still needed in healthcare facilities, research spaces and on UNM shuttles, according to the university’s website.

All of that could change, of course, if there were an increase in positive cases, but the current conditions offer what so many students are looking for: a chance for a “real” university experience to rub shoulders with other students – without looking a computer screen in isolation. to listen to a conference.

The start of the school year coincides with another piece of good news. UNM researchers had not one, but two nanotechnology breakthroughs with commercial applications that could revolutionize dentistry and make it easier for oil and gas producers to eliminate emissions at the wellhead.

A team, led by nanomaterials engineer Leisha Armijo-Martin, has developed a remote-controlled magnetic toothpaste and toothbrush that injects antibacterial solutions into the nooks and crannies of gums and teeth. The product is still under development, but a newly created startup, MNT SmartSolutions LLC, is working to bring it to store shelves within the next few years.

MNT is one of 15 local companies formed by the New Mexico Startup Factory, which was launched 10 years ago to commercialize new technologies from research universities and national laboratories in the state. The Startup Factory recently signed a license agreement to commercialize MNT technology with UNM’s Rainforest Innovations, which manages the university’s technology transfer and economic development programs.

The other innovation is exciting, both because of the breakthrough product at the center of a partnership and because the partnership offers sink remediation with little or no upfront costs.

UNM engineers have created a nanotechnology-based sealant that could offer the oil and gas industry a permanent solution for abandoned, climate-polluting wells. UNM researchers developed the putty over 10 years, and they’re now bringing it to market through a new Albuquerque-based startup, TS-Nano, in partnership with two blockchain-based next-gen development companies, Devvio Inc. and DevvStream Inc.

The two sister companies invested $2.5 million in TS-Nano last month. The companies are now headquartered in Europe, but Albuquerque-based engineers built their original technology platform in New Mexico.

These developments, along with the new in-person school year, are emblematic of the promise that New Mexico’s institutions of higher learning hold for our students and communities.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.

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