If you needed further proof that New Mexico is a hotbed for scientific research, here it is. This week six researchers with New Mexico ties will be among 96 U.S. researchers to receive the 2011 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.
Among the six is 29-year-old Francis McCubbin, a geochemist and a senior research scientist whose work at the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics suggests that Mars might support life.
McCubbin’s research focuses on the role of water, the essential requirement for life, in the formation of planets in the inner solar system. McCubbin’s studies of Martian rocks suggest volcanic activity brought water to the planet’s surface as recently as 150 million years ago. It also shows water could exist in liquid form close to the planet’s surface. Closer to home, his analysis of lunar rocks found that the moon has about five times more water than anyone expected.
Other New Mexico recipients and areas of study:
• Stan Atcitty, a researcher for Sandia National Laboratories — power electronics.
• Amy J. Clarke, a materials scientist for Los Alamos National Laboratory — uranium alloys.
• Justin Hagerty, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who earned three degrees at UNM — the early evolution of the moon.
• Dan Sinars, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories — plasma physics.
• Matthew Squires, a scientist with the Air Force Research Laboratory space vehicles directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base — controlling laser-cooled atoms.
New Mexicans should applaud these scientists for their work and the positive light it sheds on the state.