UNM School Of Engineering And LANL Celebrate Creation Of Mechanical Engineering Program To Meet Local Workforce Needs

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason chats with UNM-LA Chancellor Cynthia Rooney, right, and Rep. Christine Chandler. Photo by Sarah Jimenez/UNM-LA

UNM Provost James Holloway, center, and UNM-LA Dean of Instruction, left, and chat with UNM Associate Dean of Engineering Edl Schamiloglu at an event Monday to celebration the expansion of the Mechanical Engineering program at UNM-LA. Photo by Sarah Jimenez/UNM-LA

UNM-LA Chancellor Cynthia Rooney, left, UNM President Garnett Stokes, and Chief of Staff for the Office of the President Terry Babbitt. Photo by Sarah Jimenez/UMN-LA


UNM School of Engineering, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is celebrating the creation of a program in Mechanical Engineering to meet local workforce needs. UNM-LA hosted an event with a limited number of in-person attendees to recognize the partnership. The collaboration will expand the existing two-year pre-engineering program to a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) program on the UNM-LA campus.  

UNM–LA Chancellor Cynthia Rooney began the event with the observation that while many area students were succeeding in the university’s two-year, pre-engineering program, few could overcome the logistical demands of work-life balance and a lengthy commute to complete a four-year degree at the main campus in Albuquerque. LANL Director Thom Mason corroborated that a four-year program at UNM–Los Alamos could beneficial to Laboratory employees seeking to upgrade their skills while working full time. 

 “Partnerships like this are essential to providing possibilities for our current workforce and for preparing the workforce of the future,” said Mason. “I thank the University of New Mexico and UNM-Los Alamos for recognizing the need to train new mechanical engineers for high-paying jobs that are in demand at the Laboratory and nationwide.” 

There is high demand for skilled engineers in the face of a changing workforce and adoption of new initiatives in support of the national security mission, LANL’s technical staff is undergoing a significant transformation. This new technological and scientific landscape will present great opportunities for those hoping to work on the front lines of developing new innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. In recent years, the role of engineers in research and development and other areas at LANL has expanded. 

“This collaboration is a genuine community effort, spotlighting so many of the foundational values of the University of New Mexico. We’re giving students an amazing educational experience, and paving the way for a great career. We’re working as an entire university system to support, and play off of, the strengths and expertise of our main and branch campuses. And we’re creating a pipeline of qualified graduates to meet the needs of a regional employer – who just happens to be one of the most innovative laboratories in the world. This is a local collaborative that can truly change the world,” said UNM President Garnett Stokes. 

A pilot program began last year, and even with the challenges of the pandemic, during the Spring 2021 semester, a total of forty LANL employees were enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering program: fifteen in the pre-engineering program through UNM-LA and twenty-five in the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering program taking upper division courses. “This program serves as a model for innovation and cooperation – where UNM-LA, a branch campus-community college, works with the School of Engineering on the UNM-Albuquerque campus to serve as partners with LANL to provide the academic preparation needed in the local work force,” said Rooney. 

Secretary of Higher Education Stephanie Rodriguez noted, “Innovation and collaboration are key to unlocking the potential of New Mexicans and our state in meeting the needs of the 21st century. Thank you to Chancellor Rooney, Director Mason, President Stokes and Provost Holloway for paving the way for students to access meaningful careers in their own community.” 

Others who spoke at the event included UNM Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs James Holloway and Mario Medina, a current student completing the UNM-Los Alamos Pre-engineering program, a LANL employee, and a student who will transition into the new program. 

This was the first in-person event on campus since March of 2020.  Because of COVID-related restrictions, this event was limited to 30 invited guests. Photos from the event, additional quotes, and the information about the program will be available on the UNM-LA website. 

Interested students can apply now at unm.edu/apply/. To learn more about the program, contact Dr. Irina Alvestad, UNM-LA Associate Dean of Instruction and Mathematics and Engineering Division Chair at irina@unm.edu

UNM-LA is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. UNM-LA has an open admission policy that permits entry to all interested students. Small class sizes allow students a personalized educational experience. Student Success Associates work closely with students to provide advisement in academics and career counseling. The faculty are highly qualified; a majority are working professionals in the fields they teach. UNM-LA has strong ties to the Los Alamos community and LANL and is committed to creating educational and professional opportunities that benefit both students and local employers. In addition to the new BSME partnership, UNM-LA offers 27 degrees and certificate programs.