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NMSU establishes Institute for Energy and the Environment

The New Mexico State University College of Engineering is combining the resources of three programs to create a new institute that will address issues related to energy and the environment.

The Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) will be an umbrella program comprising WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development, the Southwest Technology Development Institute (SWTDI), and the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC).

The new institute will be directed by Abbas Ghassemi, executive director of WERC.

"Traditionally the development and consumption of energy and the associated environmental impacts have not been treated in a holistic manner," Ghassemi said. "By combining the resources and capabilities of these three organizations, the IEE will play a significant role in helping meet our nation's energy needs while conserving our natural resources and protecting the environment."

WERC was established under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy in 1990 with the mission to develop the human resources and technologies needed to address environmental issues. WERC's threefold program addresses environmental issues through education, public outreach and technology development and deployment.

SWTDI, established in 1977 as the New Mexico Solar Energy Institute, has active research programs in energy and environmental systems. SWTDI is a nonprofit, university-based organization that provides applied research and development services to private and public sector clients.

CEMRC was established in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Energy to measure environmental radioactivity in the Carlsbad area. CEMRC monitors radioactivity for any changes in the environment that might be related to activities associated with the operation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant southeast of Carlsbad. CEMRC has evolved into a permanent center of excellence for responding to emerging health and environmental needs at the national level.

IEE will utilize the strengths WERC has in environment, the strengths SWTDI has in energy and combine them with the strengths that CEMERC has in nuclear waste-management and monitoring to create a crossover of information that will provide leverage for new developments in energy.

"Providing cheap, clean sources of energy to support continued economic growth is one of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years," said NMSU Dean of Engineering Steven Castillo. "IEE will be a focal point for NMSU faculty from disparate disciplines to solve difficult technical problems and support the production of world-class engineers in these important areas."

Ghassemi has directed the WERC program since 1991. He earned his doctorate in chemical engineering at NMSU. Ghassemi initiated and directed several innovative WERC programs, including the international Environmental Design Contest that convenes each year at NMSU.

For more information contact Ghassemi at (505) 646-2038 or aghassem@nmsu.edu.