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New Mexico State University awarded $5.77 million NIH grant

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a four-year, $5.77 million grant to New Mexico State University to support research in the molecular life sciences. It is the largest NIH grant ever awarded to NMSU.

The grant, awarded through the NIH's Support for Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE) program, will support eight research projects and two pilot projects by faculty members from several NMSU departments. Grant amounts range from $386,263 to $513,495 per faculty investigator.

"This is a super grant," said biochemistry professor Glenn Kuehn, who will serve as administrator of NMSU's SCORE program. "The emphasis is on giving faculty the resources to do excellent research in the biomedical fields."

The grant is the result of a year-long series of reviews of a proposal submitted to NIH in February 1999 by a group of faculty from seven departments located in three of NMSU's academic colleges, Kuehn said.

The purpose of the SCORE program, according to the NIH, "is to provide financial assistance to competitive research programs in all areas of biomedical and behavioral research at institutions with significant under-represented minority student enrollment." About 48 percent of NMSU's undergraduate students are Hispanic, Native American or African American.

Five of the 10 research projects that will be supported by the SCORE grant are headed by faculty members in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry: Jeffery Arterburn, Amudhu Gopalan, James Herndon, Colleen Jonsson and Glenn Kuehn.

Two faculty members in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, Mary O'Connell and Champa Sengupta-Gopalan, will also receive SCORE funding. Two projects are located in the Department of Biology, with faculty members Elba Serrano and Kevin Oshima. One is a collaborative effort by Laura Thompson of the Department of Psychology and Wenda Trevathan of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

The SCORE grant will generate $265,000 for new laboratory equipment and $1.88 million for basic laboratory supplies, Kuehn said. It also will allow the participating departments to hire 10 new technicians and postdoctoral research assistants.

"Like all recent programmatic grants from funding agencies, the SCORE Program will be guided by a continuous formalized system of program evaluation and review that will use Internet and Web-based methods of data collection and analysis," Kuehn said. A full-time program evaluator will be hired to oversee the new methods of project evaluation, assisted by Liz Mares, who will be the Web site designer for the new program.

The long-term objective of the SCORE Program is to increase the number of under-represented minority students who become biomedical researchers. The projects supported by the NIH create opportunities for NMSU to get hands-on research experience working with faculty mentors.

"Ultimately, the best way to improve health care for all minority populations is to get more minority researchers and practitioners to conduct biomedical research," Kuehn said.

The NIH is the federal focal point for medical research in the United States. Its mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone.

Karl Hill
Feb. 29, 2000