The University of New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories have enjoyed a close partnership for many years, collaborating on numerous research projects, sharing expertise and knowledge through joint academic appointments, and hiring many UNM graduates as interns or regular employees.

To further strengthen that partnership, UNM and Sandia just signed a new 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a strategic alliance. The agreement focuses largely on how UNM and Sandia can collaborate to solve challenges relating to national security, said Diane Peebles, Sandia’s New Mexico partnerships manager.

“The purpose of this agreement is to further enhance the model we have created for a robust partnership between UNM and Sandia,” she said. “Our goal is to create stronger bonds between our organizations, increasing research and providing new pathways for interactions and collaborations among staff, faculty and students.”

In particular, the MOU focuses on three areas:

Solving Big Problems by leveraging the integrated full weight of the nation's intellectual capabilities and infrastructure in a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional manner.

Sustaining and Engaging Human Capital by exposing a pipeline of talent to problems of practical importance and complex nature early in their academic careers.

Accelerating Technology Adoption by introducing new ideas, science, and technology into the industrial and federal marketplace through diversified regional and market presence and appropriate alignment and dissemination of jointly developed intellectual property.

This MOU replaces and expands on an agreement that was signed in July 2015 between the two institutions.

Edl Schamiloglu, special assistant to the provost for national laboratory relations, said that the new agreement will serve to boost both institutions’ research efforts and impact, especially in areas that are critical to our nation’s current security needs.

The agreement will focus on several technical areas that intersect between Sandia and UNM, including:

  • Quantum information science
  • Extreme environments
  • Cyber physical security
  • Autonomous systems
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Nuclear engineering
  • Nano/micro/optical devices
  • Energy/water/materials
  • High-performance computing systems and algorithms
  • Bioengineering
  • Peace engineering

He said these areas will be explored and expanded in the future, and additional areas may be identified as needs evolve.

In addition, the agreement lays forth greater business engagement between Sandia and UNM’s Anderson School of Management, which have been partners for more than a decade. The agreement will seek to expand areas such as student internships and the establishment of nationally-recognized Project Controls, Project Management, and Program Management degree programs (covered by an agreement signed in 2018).

The agreement will also encourage greater engagement between Sandia and UNM researchers, faculty and students with joint research collaborations and various funded projects.

Carol Adkins, director of energy and Earth systems research at Sandia, and Gabriel Lopez, vice president for research at UNM, will discuss future strategic opportunities. Susan Seestrom, associate laboratories director and chief research officer at Sandia, and James Paul Holloway, UNM provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, signed the strategic alliance document in a virtual ceremony.

Sandia and UNM have previously committed to aligning their missions to tackle global challenges. UNM is part of the Sandia Academic Alliance, along with Purdue University, Georgia Tech, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Texas at Austin. This initiative promotes collaborative research to attract top talent to work on challenging problems. Highlights of that partnership have been documented in a recently-released collaboration report. And in 2019, UNM and Sandia signed the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to bolster national security and advance science and engineering.