(l. to r.): Chaouki Abdallah, UNM Provost; Gabriel Lopez, vice president of Research; Ray Mabus, U.S. Secretary of the Navy; Peter Vorobieff, mechanical engineering professor; Bradley Hosmer, UNM regent; Anthony Menicucci, PhD candidate, CEET.

Ray Mabus, United States Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), visited the University of New Mexico recently where he took of a tour of the Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET) at the Centennial Engineering Center, followed by a talk with UNM ROTC.

When Mabus became SECNAV in 2009, he announced his plan to fuel half the Navy’s energy consumption through alternative fuels by 2020, and he wanted the sources to be American grown. “We buy too much fuel from potentially or actually volatile places on earth,” he said.

In that regard, Mabus was interested to meet with faculty from the UNM chemical engineering department who, along with students, are addressing the challenges of biofuels as the country transitions to an economy in which energy sources can be used more efficiently.

At a roundtable discussion, Mabus heard from UNM chemical engineers who are currently exploring better catalysts for fuel cell technology, and ways to make catalysts in diesel engines burn fuel more efficiently. 

“We buy too much fuel from potentially or actually volatile places on earth,” Mabus said.

“It's very important for someone like the secretary of the navy to visit UNM,” said Chaouki Abdallah, UNM Provost. “We learned about some of the challenges facing the Navy and he learned about the breadth and depth of the collaborations and research being conducted at the School of Engineering, the Department of Physics and Astronomy and other places at the university.”

Mabus also spoke with ROTC cadets who listened intently as he shared how his policies and priorities for the Navy and Marine Corps have helped shape the future of the 900,000-person organization. Among some of the new policies: tripling maternity leave to 18 weeks for women in the Navy and Marine Corps; changing physical requirements, the launch of the Green Fleet, an initiative that demonstrate efforts to transform energy use at sea. After the talk, a few cadets and audience members asked the Secretary questions ranging from differences in physical requirements for men and women to the use of certain aircraft still in use. 

"This has been fascinating for me,” Mabus said. “I wish I could have stayed longer. I will try to come back. But the important thing is that we continue to collaborate.”