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NMSU to play role in new biological research facility

Ground was recently broken for the New Mexico Consortium's new biological research facility in Los Alamos, N.M., where New Mexico State University researchers, collaborating with consortium scientists, can assist with various projects including those related to renewable fuels.

Enloe and Lammers smile at an animated Sen. Udall as they stand in front of construction equipment at the ground breaking ceremony for New Mexico Consortium's
From left, William Enloe, CEO of Los Alamos National Bank, Pete Lammers, director of NMSU's Algal Biofuels Program, and Sen. Tom Udall have a discussion at the groundbreaking ceremony for the New Mexico Consortium's biology laboratory. (Submitted Photo)

The New Mexico Consortium, or NMC, is a nonprofit organization that coordinates large interdisciplinary research projects between NMSU, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Pete Lammers, director of the Algal Biofuels Program at NMSU sat on NMC's board in years past and helped recruit Richard Sayre, the current director of biofuels projects at NMC. Lammers will now work with Sayre on biofuel research and expects to use NMSU's outdoor algae beds to test algae cultivated in the new laboratory.

"The interactions between NMC and NMSU offer an ideal platform for the interdisciplinary science and engineering studies needed to commercialize renewable fuel production in the U.S.," Lammers said. "The new NMC biological research facility can also be a place for student exchange, training and workforce development that can have a far-reaching impact."

NMSU acquired a 4,000-liter photobioreactor last year that is currently being used by Lammers and his algal cultivation team. The team includes faculty from several disciplines across NMSU including molecular biology, chemical engineering and plant and environmental sciences.

The research being done by the algal bioenergy group at NMSU is partially funded by the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts. The collaboration with NMC represents another opportunity to expand algal research.

The NMC biological laboratory itself is the result of a partnership between the New Mexico Consortium, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Bank. Because of these collaborative efforts the NMC was able to secure $6 million in new research programs and has $20 million in pending proposals.

The research done at NMC's biology lab will not be limited to biofuels, but may also include work relating to national security issues around food safety, animal health, border issues, environmental monitoring and infectious diseases. Construction on the lab is expected to be completed by the spring of 2013.