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Home | Tag Archives: New Mexico State University (page 4)

Tag Archives: New Mexico State University

NMSU Journalism Professor’s Discovery Reveals Different view of Slavery

An eight-year project has come to an end as New Mexico State University journalism associate professor Roger Mellen has published a scholarly article based on an accidental find in a few dusty pages of an eighteenth century almanac.

His article is published in the fall edition of scholarly journal “Journalism History” and is titled “Representations on Slaves in the Eighteenth-Century Virginia Press.”

Verse from a fragment of an almanac thought to be from Rind’s Virginia Almanack of 1768. Courtesy The Library Company of Philadelphia. NOV16
Verse from a fragment of an almanac thought to be from Rind’s Virginia Almanack of 1768. Courtesy The Library Company of Philadelphia.

History has shown that in eighteenth century Virginia slaves were treated as property, with very few legal rights. This article focuses on research that shows there were strong, divergent opinions that saw slaves as people with feelings, and to be treated humanely.

“While looking through some archives in the Library Company of Philadelphia (founded by Benjamin Franklin), I discovered a few pages of an 18th century almanac that no one knew had even been published,” said Mellen. “In this publication, never before studied, was a short but interesting verse about a slave.”

According to Mellen, another major source for his research was a newspaper from Virginia in 1764 that was not known to have existed before it was donated to the Rockefeller Library in Colonial Williamsburg.

NMSU journalism associate professor recently published an article that casts a different view of slavery in the eighteenth century. (Courtesy Photo) NOV16
NMSU Journalism Associate Professor Roger Mellen (Courtesy NMSU)

“When examined together, these two publications from eighteenth-century Virginia enable us to view attitudes towards slaves somewhat differently than we had previously,” said Mellen. “Rather than one single viewpoint toward Africans and African Americans as property and less than human, as we could easily assume from this area, these published works brought light to the fact that there were other opinions about these people, even in this time period.”

Though he spent years exploring this research, it is not his major focus. Mellen is currently working on a piece about the connections and ancestry of the Lee family and the constitutional right to a free press.

For more information about “Representations on Slaves in the Eighteenth- Century Virginia Press,” contact Roger Mellen at

Author: Taylor Vancel – NMSU

Mosquitoes that Can Carry Zika Spread to Sierra County

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N. M. – For the first time, authorities have trapped and identified the type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus in Sierra County, where the county seat is Truth or Consequences.

This summer, the New Mexico Department of Health, along with New Mexico State University, has been sampling the 24 southernmost counties, from the Mexican border up to Bernalillo County, and found the Aedes aegypti species in Sierra, Doña Ana, Eddy, and Chaves counties. In the past, the bugs have also turned up in Otero County.

Dr. Paul Ettestad, the state public health veterinarian with the New Mexico Department of Health, said the good news is that local mosquitoes haven’t been proven to actually spread the virus, yet.

“We haven’t had the situation in Miami, where there’s local person-to-person transmission going on,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid. We don’t want that to happen.”

Six New Mexico residents have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, but each of them are had recently traveled to South or Central America. Zika has been linked to severe birth defects in babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy.

Ettestad said local Vector Control workers need everyone’s help to prevent an outbreak.

“We’re hoping that people will look around their home and look for any standing water, especially after all the rains we’ve had lately,” he explained. “The Zika mosquitoes like to live right near people, and lay their eggs in a very little bit of water. It can be as small as a bottle cap full of water.”

Vector Control teams also have found a second mosquito species that can carry Zika in Roosevelt, Otero and Curry counties.

Author: Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM

NMSU Board of Regents Approves Requirement, Exemptions for Students Living on Campus

New Mexico State University will require first-time, full-time undergraduate students admitted to NMSU’s Las Cruces campus to live in a university-operated residence hall for their first academic year, or two semesters.

The requirement begins in the fall 2017 semester and is aimed at improving student retention.

“I think this is the right thing to do for our students,” said NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.

“We have evidence that living on campus contributes to greater success in college. Students who live on campus are more likely to be academically successful, graduate within four years, use campus resources, interact with faculty outside the classroom, have a positive experience as a student and engage as an alumnus.”

Regents also approved a number of exemptions to the requirement, which include:

• students who live with an immediate family member, which is limited to mother and/or father; legal guardian; aunt or uncle; or grandparent(s),
• students who live with their spouse, domestic partner or dependent children,
• students who are 21 or older,
• students enrolled in online classes only,
• students with current active military or veteran status,
• additional considerations, including financial and medical hardships, as well as other special circumstances, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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Author: Justin Bannister – NMSU

UTEP Researchers Lead Battle Against Mosquitoes

Humans are bigger, faster, smarter and more powerful than mosquitoes, yet we still can’t beat them. But for 50 years, Doug Watts, Ph.D., has been trying.

Well ahead of monsoon season – in fact, starting well before the first of the year – Watts and his team at UTEP’s Mosquito Ecology and Surveillance Laboratory (MESL) have been tracking the pesky insects’ travels around the world due to a concern that has since become a global crisis: Zika virus.

Of immediate concern is the fact that the particular mosquito that transmits Zika (as well as dengue fever and chikungunya, another disease on the rise) is the second-most abundant species in El Paso.

Watts knows this particular insect almost better than anyone. The internationally renowned researcher of mosquito-borne diseases is celebrating his fifth decade in the field and has amassed expertise in infectious disease all over the world. He began chasing down this species, Aedes aegypti, starting in 1977 in Bangkok, Thailand.

“At that time I recognized just how difficult it was to control this mosquito, to do anything to reduce the population,” he said.

Watts, who is also the co-director of infectious disease and immunology for the University’s Border Biomedical Research Center, was a research biologist for the Department of Defense (DoD) for 28 years, where he conducted field and laboratory research on the ecology and epidemiology of enteric, parasitic and viral diseases in Asia, Africa and South America. Watts also served as the scientific director of the Naval Medical Research Center’s Overseas Research Program.

After his retirement from the DoD, he worked as a scientific administrator and infectious disease investigator at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. There, his research was focused on emerging viral disease and the evaluation of candidate therapeutics and vaccines for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and West Nile viruses.

In 2013, Watts, UTEP and a team of fellow researchers from around the world were awarded a five-year, $6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and evaluate a Rift Valley fever vaccine for protecting livestock against the disease in Africa.

Watts continues to apply his vast experience to emerging viral diseases – or re-emerging, in the case of Zika, as it was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. For decades it remained obscure, non-problematic and undetected outside Africa. Yet more than 60 years later, the virus has become an international concern due to its unexpected spread and unpredictable biological effects.

Only 14 human cases of Zika virus were documented until 2007, when a Zika outbreak occurred on Yap Island, a tiny island in the North Pacific Ocean. Approximately 75 percent of the population was infected, exhibiting the symptoms that the majority of people who contract the virus will have: fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis.

“This was the alarm that Zika is on its way, it’s moving,” Watts said. “Nobody paid any attention.”

In 2013, Zika was identified in New Caledonia, 2,300 miles southeast of Yap Island. When it hit French Polynesia that same year (almost 3,000 miles away), it caused a major outbreak among an estimated 20,000 people. There, it was also first associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition that can cause a kind of temporary paralysis.

And then in 2015, the virus arrived in Brazil, and the world has been on high alert since.

Watts explained that Zika virus was probably in Brazil back in 2014, but no one knew to look for it, nor what to look for.

“By that time, it spread all over Brazil and probably to other countries, just like Ebola did in West Africa,” Watts said. “That’s one of the weaknesses in our surveillance programs throughout the world. We don’t have a very effective, proactive surveillance in place. We always respond retroactively. These viruses don’t wait; they move.”

The veteran researcher is keeping in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as health agencies around the Southwest. He hypothesizes that when – not if – Zika arrives in the U.S., it will first concentrate around the southern border of Texas, which offers an ideal mosquito environment. And despite ages of building civilization up to modern-day standards, the bugs still seem to be outsmarting humans.

Mosquito control boils down to reducing the bugs’ population density to a level that is not sufficient for transmission of a virus. To this end, the MESL has conducted studies over the past two years to gauge the local mosquito population. Watts believes it has resulted in an unprecedented amount of data valuable not just to El Paso, but also to the entire Southwest.

“I don’t think anybody in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas has that kind of data, and it has a lot to do with my having experience doing research and understanding what are the important questions to ask,” Watts said. “If you’re going to have virus transmission, you’ve got to have the vector for those mosquito-borne diseases. So, the first question I ask is, ‘Do we have them? And, if so, how many are out there?’”

Watts has teamed up on a grant application with New Mexico State University, North Texas University, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine and the Ministry of Health in Matamoros, Mexico. The team aims to determine the actual impact of dengue, chikungunya and Zika on human health in the U.S.-Mexico border community of Brownsville and Matamoros.

The study will provide comparative data that will identify possible ecological, biological and socio-economic differences that contribute to the incidence of these diseases in these communities. The emphasis will be on understanding the reportedly higher incidence of mosquito-borne diseases in Mexican communities versus the U.S. border communities.

Such information is particularly critical for designing and applying vector control measures, which are the only methods available for preventing mosquito-borne diseases.

Researchers working alongside Watts include UTEP undergraduate and graduate students as well as Laboratory Director Celina Crews. They are busy day in and day out trapping mosquitoes as part of their dedicated tracking program.

Watts’ team also is racing to develop a more accurate Zika-specific diagnostic test, which will be a tremendous step toward treatment and containment of the virus. But it’s not that easy. As Watts said, “It’s a big mess.”Mosquito-Deadliest-AnimalsWEB

“The patient becomes infected with Zika virus, the virus circulates in the blood and appears about three days after the patient is infected, then it circulates through the body up to about day eight, then the virus is cleared by antibodies,” he explained. “Now, what happens when Zika infects a person who has already had an infection with a closely related virus, like West Nile or dengue or yellow fever, the antibodies produced by Zika are very much like the antibodies produced by dengue, yellow fever and West Nile. So you test the person after they have cleared [Zika] virus to try to figure out if that person had the other viruses, and it’s impossible – we don’t have a test that will distinguish among those different antibodies, they’re so closely related.”

“You’re left with a very difficult situation to try to make an interpretation,” Watts added. “A lot of people don’t get sick when they’re infected with Zika – about 80 percent don’t get any disease and 20 percent get a very mild disease … After that five-to-seven day period when you start to recover, then it’s too late [to test].”

Furthermore, there is no vaccine. Watts estimates that about 300 mosquito-transmitted diseases have been identified with perhaps 100 of them causing human disease. In the United States, there is only one approved vaccine or therapeutic for any of those diseases – yellow fever.

“If mosquito control is ever going to work, the number one priority is education,” Watts said.

To this end, MESL informs mosquito control and health care professionals working to both eliminate the pests and treat anyone who becomes infected with the diseases after being bitten. It also provides bilingual preventive education to elementary school children, leaving them with coloring books that inform well beyond just providing an artistic outlet. Some of these are tactics as simple as not allowing toys or tires to stay outside where water can pool and attract breeding bugs.

“That’s why you have to tell the kids because they’re the ones who remind you,” said undergraduate researcher Marcela Diaz. She has been working with MESL since summer 2014 as one of the dozen students (both bachelor’s and master’s candidates) on the team.

For all the work that still needs to be done, Watts can point to one aspect that has been an undeniable success.

“What’s really satisfying is to see the students having an opportunity to take part in this kind of a project,” he said. “It gives them a lot of skills that are going to give them a job in public health, or if they want to go and get an advanced degree, it gives them a background that certainly is better than most students get, a practical application through theoretical knowledge of mosquito-borne diseases.

Albert Soliz is a field and lab technician who came to MESL in 2013 as an El Paso Community College participant in UTEP’s Bridges to Baccalaureate program. After graduating from EPCC, Soliz became a full-time employee with the lab.

“My little nephew, he’s six years old, and we took him one of these coloring books,” Soliz said. “Now, if he sees water outside, he’ll come inside and say, ‘You better go get rid of that water because there’s gonna be mosquitoes here tomorrow!’ When he goes to school, he tells everybody, too – ‘Close the doors, mosquitoes are coming in!’

Zika is receiving even greater news coverage now that summer is upon us, and Watts anticipates that we’ll only see more of this in the future, for as the population of human beings increases around the world, so does the opportunity for these viruses to be transmitted.

He added, “It’s going to be a never-ending profession to stay ahead of these crazy bugs.”

Thanks to Watts and the MESL, the world will be armed with many more well-trained researchers to fight those crazy bugs and, hopefully, win.

Author: Lisa Y. Garibay – UTEP Communications

NMSU graduate student awarded prestigious fellowship

New Mexico State University graduate student Derek Barchenger has been selected as the first ever NMSU student to be awarded with a U.S. Borlaug Fellowship and a trip to Taiwan.

Barchenger is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Plant and Environmental Sciences at NMSU.  Since a young age, Barchenger has been interested in plants, their genetics, plant breeding and ethnobiology, the relationship between people and plants.

Barchenger received his bachelor’s of science in horticulture from Oklahoma State University and his master’s of science in horticulture from the University of Arkansas.

The Borlaug Fellowship is a prestigious award named after the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug. The purpose of this fellowship is to provide United States graduate students with the opportunity to study with a researcher at a world agricultural center. Barchenger is among 23 awardees.

As a part of the application process, Barchenger was tasked with finding an international mentor to work with. Barchenger found Sanjeet Kumar who is the pepper breeder at AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center. Barchenger will be traveling to AVRDC in Taiwan – in May.

“I am really excited to see and experience Taiwan, but I am most excited to apply what I have learned here at NMSU for my work at an international research station,” Barchenger said.

While attending an American Society for Horticulture Science conference, he was introduced to Regents Professor Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of the NMSU Chile Pepper Institute.

“Later, I learned more about the Chile Pepper Institute breeding program at NMSU and decided it would be a great fit for me,” Barchenger said. “So I came here to study chile peppers!”

While attending NMSU, Barchenger has worked to become the research assistant at the Chile Pepper Institute and president of the Plant and Environmental Science Graduate Student Organization.

The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security graduate research grant program supports exceptional graduate students who are interested in developing a component of their graduate research in a developing country setting and in collaboration with a mentor from an International Agricultural Research Center, or a qualifying National Agricultural Research System unit.

Awards are made on a competitive basis to students who demonstrate a strong scientific foundation and leadership potential, propose a well-coordinated research plan that clearly articulates concepts and objectives that are innovative and feasible, and demonstrate a commitment to international development.

Author:  Shelby N. Herrera -NMSU

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