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James Conca named director of Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center

James Conca has been named director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC), a division of the New Mexico State University College of Engineering. He will assume the position Sept. 7.

s a geochemist with more than 18 years experience in academia, private industry and the National Lab system. He currently is working in Carlsbad for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Prior to joining LANL, Conca was president and chief scientist for UFA Ventures, a soils and materials testing laboratory in Richland, Wash.

Conca holds a master's degree and Ph.D. in geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. His academic experience includes serving for six years as a faculty member in the Department of Environmental Science at Washington State University. He currently has an appointment as an adjunct professor of chemistry at NMSU.

"Jim's educational background and vast experience at LANL was a perfect fit for this position," said Steve Castillo, dean of the NMSU College of Engineering. "Filling this position with the right person was important because of CEMRC's importance to safety issues associated with the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, research at NMSU, and the city of Carlsbad."

The Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center was established in 1991 with a seven-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). That grant was subsequently extended for an additional 10 years to 2008. The center's original purpose was to develop and implement an independent health and environmental monitoring program in the vicinity of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a DOE facility that serves as a repository for waste generated by the federal government's nuclear defense research and production activities. The CEMRC can perform a wide range of environmental and radiochemistry work, and also helps educate the public about issues related to radioactive waste.

In recent years, CEMRC has started to expand its focus to include work for other clients. Richard Arimoto, a senior scientist at the center, recently received a $404,930 grant from the National Science Foundation to study radioactive contamination of atmospheric dust. Arimoto also has an NSF grant to study the chemistry of the atmosphere over Antarctica. The center currently has 21 employees and nearly $2.4 million in grants.

Conca said his vision for CEMRC is to develop a mix of research, contract and service work that will make CEMRC the scientific and analytical center of southeastern New Mexico. He said the center's expertise could easily be applied to other areas such as nuclear medicine and homeland security.

Deborah Moir has been serving as interim director of the Carlsbad center.