Marble Canyon
Researchers say Marble Canyon was carved out in the last six million years. Photo credit: Laura Crossey

Annually, the University Communication and Marketing (UCAM) Department compiles a list of its top-10 research news stories from the University of New Mexico during the course of the year. Below is the list of UNM's top-10 research news stories for 2014. The stories listed are in chronological order.

New research suggests Grand Canyon is ‘younger’ rather than ‘older’
The debate over the age of the Grand Canyon has carried on for more than 140 years with several different scenarios bandied about over the decades. Some scientists say the canyon is some 70 million years old, while others believe it is much younger – like 5-6 million years old. However, new research led by UNM Professor Karl Karlstrom in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the latest issue of the publication Nature Geoscience, points to a “younger” Grand Canyon.

Using physics to fight cancer
Physics applies to everything. So when UNM's Dr. Vittorio Cristini started researching cancer, he applied physics. The result he got was a set of mathematical equations that describe, for each person, how many of their tumor cells a cancer treatment could kill. Cristini and his collaborators have applied these equations to pancreatic cancer – an application that could soon help oncologists use the mathematical model to develop treatment plans for all cancer patients.

Crown elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences has announced that Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Patricia Crown has been elected as a member. This is one of the highest honors accorded to scientists and is given in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievement in original research. New members are elected by current members based on outstanding achievement and commitment to service.

Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3-D model. Photo credit: Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

UNM team plays a major role in establishing link between Ancient and Modern Native Americans
Her name is Naia, and for thousands and thousands of years, the skeleton of this young woman was buried underwater in an elaborate cave system in the Yucatan Peninsula after she had apparently fallen into what was then a dry deep pit. Now, a team of researchers, including Professor Yemane Asmerom and Research Scientist Victor Polyak at the University of New Mexico's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, have accurately determined the age of the oldest-known, well-preserved human skeleton.

Mesothermy in the Mesozoic: UNM researchers untangle energetics of extinct dinosaurs
Dinosaurs dominated the landscape for more than 100 million years, but all that remains today are bones. This has made it difficult to solve a long-standing and contentious puzzle: were dinosaurs cold-blooded animals that lumbered along or swift warm-blooded creatures as depicted in Jurassic Park?  The answer, according to scientists at the University of New Mexico, is neither. Instead, dinosaurs took a middle path between warm-blooded mammals (endotherms) and cold-blooded reptiles (ectotherms).

Making people smarter through brain stimulation
Brain stimulation used to be just a cool idea in science fiction movies, novels and other hard to believe tales when human subjects were stimulated using electrical currents and achieved near super-human feats. But now, thanks to researchers at the University of New Mexico and other collaborators, brain stimulation is a step closer to becoming a possible reality.

UNM Volcanologist Tobias Fischer samples high temperature volcanic gas at Poas Volcano, Costa Rica.

Living on the edge
Scientists at the University of New Mexico are conducting research at the edge of the Earth compiling volcanic data as part of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) Deep Carbon Degassing (DECADE) research activity. The research is part of a 10-year initiative designed to better understand and to establish baseline measurements from natural carbon emissions compared to humans and the potential effect on climate change.

Studies target substance abuse treatments
A UNM psychiatrist is hoping to shed more light on the most effective ways to treat people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Michael Bogenschutz, chief of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry in the UNM Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, is working on two studies that examine substance abuse treatments and interventions in primary care and emergency room settings.

What chronic marijuana smoking does to the brain
UNM Distinguished Professor Vince Calhoun led a research group that examined long term effects of marijuana use on the brain. The paper, released recently by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), underscores the difficulty of classifying it as either helpful or damaging.

UNM faculty research among ‘Physics World’s Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2014’
Innovative optical fiber, developed by researchers from the University of New Mexico, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Corning Incorporated and Clemson University, was chosen as one of Physics World’s Top Ten Breakthroughs of 2014. Physics World is the international monthly magazine published by the Institute of Physics.