Christine Gleicher is the first in her family to go to college. Raised in the South Valley of Albuquerque, Gleicher started her college work at CNM before transitioning to The University of New Mexico in 2020.

In March 2022, she was named a Goldwater Scholar, chosen from a pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors nominated by 433 academic institutions. The foundation provides scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

“My family has always pushed me to go to college because they see it as the key to getting out of poverty. I’ve also always wanted to earn a degree and cultivate my knowledge about the world, so I chose to attend college,” Gleicher said. Knowing her family couldn’t financially support her moving to attend an out-of-state college, she completed her prerequisite requirements for a degree in chemical engineering at CNM before transferring full time to UNM.

“During that semester in 2020, I was still transitioning between the two schools as I was taking Organic Chemistry at UNM and the rest of my other classes at CNM. That’s also when COVID hit the world and like everyone else, I had all my classes switch to being online. I then entered the next semester and, being online still, I hadn’t met any of my fellow Chemical Engineering peers at UNM. It was hard not having friends in my degree to do homework with, but I finally got to meet my peers two semesters ago and have made some awesome connections,” she recalled.

"UNM has allowed me to reach for my dreams of becoming a researcher and contribute to the universal goal of making the world a better place to live in for future generations."

- Christine Gleicher, Goldwater Scholar

Various experiences prompted Gleicher’s interest in microbiology, chemistry, environmental engineering, bioengineering, and ecology, including the courses she had taken as an undergrad and research experiences in two different labs. She is currently a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Chemistry.

“When I first applied to UNM, I was asked to choose a concentration within Chemical Engineering. I knew that I was interested in both Bioengineering and Environmental Engineering. I also knew that I wanted to have research experiences in both fields so that I could make an educated decision when having to choose one field to study for my graduate degree,” Gleicher explained. She started performing research with professor and Regents’ Lecturer Eva Chi in the Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) lab at UNM. 

“I learned a vast amount of research techniques and how to perform benchtop experiments in this research position. After one year of working in the CBE lab, I wanted to explore the research topics offered in environmental engineering. I luckily found my current mentors, [assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Anjali] Mulchandani and [CCEE graduate student] Taylor Busch, who conduct fascinating research and partake in wholesome outreach activities.”

Besides conducting research for Mulchandani, over the summer 2022 semester, Gleicher participated in the McNair Program/Research Opportunities Program where she performed research with Busch. The objective of their research project is to determine the arsenic uptake by fungi in solution relevant to conditions at the Jackpile-Paguate uranium mine Superfund site on Laguna Pueblo. The goal of this project, she explained, is to inform potential bioremediation methods using plant endophytic fungi, which are fungi found in plant roots. The results of this project will inform the potential use of these fungi for bioremediation of metals in the environment that is contaminated by toxic mine waste.

Gleicher also received a scholarship from the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation Program to enable her research for the Fall 2022 semester. Her plans for the future include applying for fellowships, applying to grad school, and getting a Ph.D. Eventually, she’d like to conduct research in Neurology and develop a company that researches, develops, and creates biomedical technologies and treatments for neurodegeneration.

Besides Mulchandani, Chi, and Busch, Gleicher also credits Fahimeh Maghsoodi, Ph.D. candidate in Nanoscience and Microsystem Engineering, for giving her the opportunity to perform research. 

“Also, I am forever grateful for my family and friends for always supporting my academic journey.”

When she’s not pursuing her courses and research, Gleicher participates in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and also the Mountaineering Club. She is secretary for the mountaineering group, which encourages students to participate in outdoor activities including rock climbing, hiking, and camping.

“UNM has given me so many opportunities to grow and excel in my courses, research, and personal goals,” Gleicher remarked. “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have multiple research experiences at UNM that have not only given me priceless technical skills but have also led to lifelong relationships with my mentors and fellow peers. UNM has allowed me to reach for my dreams of becoming a researcher and contribute to the universal goal of making the world a better place to live in for future generations. I truly believe that UNM has given me the tools to succeed in my future aspirations and goals through my education, research, and community outreach experiences.”