NMSU’s Aggie Innovation Space helps research flies’s eyes

Luke Sanchez, a NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar, biology major and student regent at NMSU, is working with a team of biologists under the supervision of Jennifer Curtiss in the Drosophila (fruit fly) Research Lab. The team seeks to better understand the effects of environmental stress on eye structure and function using flies as a model. Read more. NMSU Hotline.


NMSU-HHMI Alumna Nubia Rivas 2018 Selected as Fulbright Winner

Four students (Nubia Rivas, Sierra Grim, Ger Xiong, Ashley Page) from New Mexico State University were named 2019 Fulbright winners, the most NMSU has produced in a year so far. The students received the prestigious recognition following a record year for Fulbright applicants from NMSU.

Nubia Rivas, a pre-med student and biology major who will be teaching English in the Canary Islands and working as a volunteer with refugee and immigrant populations (NMSU Hotline, November 152019).


IMAV 2019: International Meeting on Arboviruses and Their Vectors

NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar Jordan Gass presented her research conducted in the Kathryn Hanley Lab in a poster session at the International Meeting on Arboviruses and Their Vectors in Glasgow, Scotland, September 5-6, 2019. This was the first time that a NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar presented at an international conference.


Best Poster Awards for Luke Sanchez (NMSU-HHMI) and Theodore Muka (NM-INBRE)

Two NMSU Biology majors won best poster awards at the recent UNM Health Sciences Center Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. Theodore Muka won for his study examining the role of RUNX2 in acute lymphoblastic leukemia conducted at UNM as an NM-INBRE Scholar. Luke Sanchez won for his research examining the effects of dietary stress on eye development conducted as an HHMI Research Scholar in Dr. Jen Curtiss’s lab at NMSU. Eight other posters were presented by NMSU students in the symposium.


A Special Graduation Story from Las Cruces

NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar and CAMP participant David Rodriguez earned his Bachelor degree in chemical engineering on May 11, 2019. David arrived in Deming, NM as part of a farm worker family at age 17 and faced a culture shock: “I spent almost all my education back in Mexico, so it was quite a different culture, different language, different people and a different type of education” (KRWG, May 11, 2019).


Michèle Shuster wins Truly Innovative Teaching Award

Congratulations to Michele Shuster for winning this year’s Truly Innovative Teaching Award from the Teaching Academy. The Truly Innovative Teaching Award was established in 2014 in memory of Harry and Jenny Truly by Elise “Pookie” and Michael Sautter. The award is presented to an NMSU educator (full-time, part-time, or graduate student) from any NMSU campus who has made an innovation in teaching that has positively impacted student attitude, motivation, or learning (NMSU, Department of Biology, April 29, 2019).


Arts & Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Spring 2019

Congratulations to NMSU-HHMI senior Research Scholar Carlos Campos from the Tim Wright lab for being recognized as the Arts & Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate in spring 2019. Additionally Carlos was awarded the best undergraduate talk at the Biosymposium held on April 6, 2019 in the Department of Biology.


Governor Lujan Grisham Names Luke Sanchez as Student Regent

Junior NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar Luke Sanchez was named student regent to the NMSU Board of Regents by Governor Lujan Grisham. Luke was appointed to a two-year student regent term through December 31, 2020. Luke is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and has been working as an emergency department medical scribe at the Mountain View Regional Medical Center and has various community service experience (Kemp Kesem director, member of the NMSU Outdoor Leadership Program and presidential ambassador (Sun News, February 27, 2019).


Good News on NMSU-HHMI Sustainability

On May 29, 2018 HHMI approved a revised sustainability plan in which they are providing the NMSU-HHMI program $380K to spend over the next two years on BioCats, the Biol CURE course, a new “Introduction to Scientific Thinking” seminar for early career students, and two cohorts of a restructured 1- year Research Scholar Program.


EXROP to be Discontinued

on May 21, 2018 HHMI announced that it plans to suspend indefinitely the HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP). The current class of 58 first-year EXROP students and the 23 second-year “capstone” EXROP students will engage in their 2018 summer research experience, and the 2018 EXROP alumni will be offered the opportunity to do a capstone experience with their 2018 labs in the summer of 2019 but a new competition will not be offered in the fall of 2018 (HHMI).


NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar, Nubia Rivas, places in Regional Entomology Contest

Nubia Rivas, a senior Biology major and NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar, placed first in the undergraduate poster presentation at the 66th Annual Meeting of Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America, March 25-29. The meeting was held in Albuquerque.


NMSU-HHMI Junior Research Scholar Trung Nguyen won the Honors College Scholarship for International Research

We can announce that the Honors College International Research Scholarship was awarded to Trung Nguyen. The Honors College Scholarship at NMSU awards $5000 for recipients to promote an independent research experience by self-generated international travel to the host country of their choosing. Trung is a Genetics and Biotechnology major and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scholar working with Dr. Barbara Lyons researching the role of protein kinase A (PKA) as a causative agent for a rare form of liver cancer. Trung’s project will take him to Fukushima Medical University (Japan) to conduct independent research aimed at improving our understanding of this disease’s pathogenesis.


Congratulations to NMSU-HHMI Junior Research Scholars Jocelyne Chavez and Prisila Ramirez for being accepted to participate in the HHMI EXROP Summer Program

The goal of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) is to ensure that a diverse and highly trained workforce is prepared to assume leadership roles in science, including college and university faculty who have the responsibility to develop the next generation of scientists. The EXROP Program links the resources of HHMI’s Science and Science Education departments to provide bright, motivated undergraduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences with outstanding summer research experiences. HHMI continues to work with EXROP students after their summer study programs to encourage them to pursue careers in academic science.
• 10 weeks of full-time research in the lab of an HHMI scientist
• $5,000 stipend
• Participation in a local summer research program with other undergraduate researchers
• Long-distance travel and housing arranged and paid for by HHMI
• Students will attend two annual EXROP meetings on May 16-18, 2018 and in May 2019 at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where they will meet former and current EXROP students
• HHMI scientists, nominators, and staff will continue to follow up and mentor the students beyond the summer experience
• EXROP students may be eligible for a second summer research opporunity in their EXROP lab (EXROP Capstone)
• EXROP alumni who pursue the PhD degree will be eligible for continued HHMI support in their PhD training through the Gilliam Fellows program


Research in Uruguay- Clara Hansen

NMSU Honors College student, Clara Hansen shares the research she conducted in Uruguay over a period of eight weeks in summer 2017. This research was made possible through the Honors College Scholarship and Aggies Go Global.


2017 Honors College Student, Sydney Salas, Shares Her Experience While Conducting Bacterial Communication Research in France in Summer 2017


College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Senior Award Spring 2017

Dean’s Undergraduate Award of Excellence Spring 2017

The College of Arts & Sciences has selected NMSU-HHMI alumna, Alejandra Lerma, as Outstanding Senior for Spring 2017. She also was awarded the Dean’s Undergraduate Award for Excellence. Alejandra graduated from the NMSU-HHMI Program in 2016. Alejandra will graduate from NMSU in spring 2017 with a Bachelor in Animal Science, Biology and Women’s Studies. As a Research Scholar of the NMSU-HHMI Program (2013-2016) she worked in the lab of Dr. Ryan Ashley in the department of animal science. Congratulations!


Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation

Senior Research Scholar, Dylan Gallegos, from the Hanley lab, won the award for best undergraduate oral presentation at the meeting of the Rio Grande branch of the American Society for Microbiology on April 8, 2017 at NMSU. Congratulations!


Honors College International Research Scholarship

Each year the Honors College at NMSU gives one or more awards to facilitate research over the summer in an international context. On Friday they interviewed the finalists for this prestigious award and selected Clara Hansen (biology) as the winner, with three additional students receiving smaller awards as Honorable Mentions. The research the students propose are all in STEM fields and they will be working in Uruguay, France, Germany, and Korea.The Honors College is working with other units on campus to help ensure adequate funding to realize these research plans, and is grateful to Gary Lowe and Aggies go Global for continued help for these deserving students (Activity Report Provost Office, March 11-17, 2017).

Also, Biology major and NMSU-HHMI Research Scholar, Sydney Salas, received Honorable Mention for the scholarship and will be receiving some support for her summer research project in France on squid-microbe interactions.


Las Cruces Academy students visited the electric fish lab, Biol 309

By Vince Gutschick, Board Chair Las Cruces Academy.

Ten of our students in grades 3-8 visited the research laboratory of Prof. Graciela Unguez for 3 hours. She and her group study weakly electric fish (Stenopygus species), who use their electrical sense to find food and avoid predators. They also can regrow their tails, providing a great study of tissue development, as well as genetics and physiology. The students along with Head of School Dr. Lou Ellen Kay and Board Chair Dr. Vince Gutschick caught the Las Cruces bus near our school and rode to campus. Graciela’s undergraduate students had laid out about 8 stations, where our students could learn about the fish with hands-on activities. Check out the pictures with students using the detector of the fish’s electric fields, and also the fish themselves, both hiding in favorite tubes or swimming with ethereal fins. At the end of the visit, many of us participated in a game of navigating by touch (hula hoops).


Two Junior Research Scholars accepted into HHMI EXROP in summer 2017

Please congratulate NMSU-HHMI Junior Research Scholars Eliana Griego (Brad Shuster lab) and Dante Avalos (Erik Yukl lab) for being accepted into the HHMI EXROP (Exceptional Research Opportunities Program). Application to the program is by nomination only and is open to undergraduate students who are from racial, ethnic, and other underrepresented groups in the sciences.

  • The EXROP program consist of 10 weeks of full time research in the lab of an HHMI scientist. Award recipients will be matched with a lab according to the students research interest
  • $5,000 stipend
  • Long distance travel and housing
  • Attending of two annual EXROP meetings at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where they will meet former and current EXROP students
  • EXROP students may be eligible for a second research opportunity in their EXROP lab (EXROP Capstone)
  • EXROP students who pursue the PhD degree will be eligible for continued HHMI support in their PhD training through the Gilliam Fellows program.


30th Annual Biosymposium, October 2016

Congratulations to NMSU-HHMI Research Scholars Lynsey Kovar for winning the 30th annual Biosymposium “Best Undergraduate Talk”, and Aldo Ramirez and Cindy Buraczyk for sharing first place in the category “Best Undergraduate Poster Presentation”.


NMSU biology professor retires after 23 years, plans next adventure

Dana Beasley, For the Sun-News 3:20 p.m. MDT April 16, 2016

LAS CRUCES – A couple of weeks ago, professor Ralph Preszler retired from New Mexico State University. Now, the former biology department head is off the grid.

“It’s another adventure,” he said of his retirement. Since the start of April, Preszler has swam in the Gila River, camped in the Guadalupe Mountains and made plans to brush up on his Spanish for a future trip to Patagonia.

With more than two decades of service to the College of Arts and Sciences, Preszler watched the biology department evolve from blackboards and handwritten reports, to interactive “flipped” classrooms and lectures in professional-level research facilities.

“I think the way we teach is much more engaging now, than it was when I started out,” Preszler said.

As a longtime director of NMSU’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute – a nationally-recognized program providing biological and medical research funding – Preszler introduced the department to curriculum reforms for lower level biology courses, and paved the way for peer instruction and faculty-mentored undergraduate research.

“What I admired so much about Ralph was his teaching and commitment to undergraduate education. He’s an incredibly creative teacher,” said Michele Shuster, associate professor of biology and NMSU-HHMI program director.

“If it wasn’t for Ralph and his openness to thinking about different ways of teaching, we wouldn’t be where we’re at with our undergraduates right now.”

Preszler also served as mentor for students like Chiann-Ling Cindy Yeh, an NMSU-HHMI research scholar and senior genetics and biotechnology major.

“He helped me with not only my undergraduate thesis, but also in applying for national scholarships and writing recommendations,” Yeh said. “He offered really great advice, and I don’t think I would be here today without him.”

In 2015, Yeh was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a highly competitive national award that supports outstanding students in the fields of math, science or engineering. This fall, she will begin graduate school at the University of Washington’s Department of Genome Sciences.

Preszler said some of his favorite memories of his time at NMSU include seeing undergraduates mature into nationally competitive researchers.

He began his work improving undergraduate education in 1993 as a postdoctoral researcher studying plant and insect ecology, joining the NMSU biology department fresh from graduate school at Northern Arizona University. When his funding ended, he accepted a staff position in the department to design new teaching laboratories for students.

“I ended up enjoying that quite a lot,” Preszler said. “After about seven years, the department opened a tenure track faculty line to hire someone who would conduct research in science education, rather than in biology directly, so I applied for that position and got hired as a tenure track faculty.”

 Nearly 20 years after joining NMSU as a postdoctoral researcher, Preszler was appointed as academic head of the Department of Biology, a position he held for four years until his retirement March 31.

“I’ve worked very closely with Ralph over the last few years,” said Angus Dawe, associate professor of biology and interim department head. “He has always been a particularly sincere and generous individual to work with.”

In recognition of Preszler’s 23 years of service to the biology department, dozens of faculty, staff and students gathered on the steps of Foster Hall for a group photo earlier this month.

“I think it’s rare to have a job that you find interesting,” Preszler said of his time at NMSU. “There are certainly parts of it that are just plain work, but there’s a lot of it that’s quite fulfilling. I’d like to thank the people at NMSU for giving me this opportunity – it’s been great.”

Dana Beasley writes for University Communications and can be reached at


Diving headfirst into research

Dana Beasley, Panorama spring 2016