Sandia National Labs Academic Alliance & UNM Collaboration Report 2020-2021



Natalie Pitcher

Sandia and UNM launched the Research Spotlight Forum to foster research collaborations between Sandia, UNM and other academic partners. Since implementation, 11 spotlight forums have been held with the first event focused on autonomy for hypersonics and machine learning. Other hot topics included engineering mechanics, resilience for space systems, quantum computing, cybersecurity, resilient infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, social science and diagnostics, biosensors, bioengineering and bioinformatics, and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The series has seeded new collaborative relationships with universities by increasing faculty’s knowledge of Sandia program areas and providing Sandia staff with the opportunity to learn more about each university’s capabilities, faculty expertise, and their involvement in related programs. At the advanced manufacturing forum, researchers from Sandia, UNM, UT Austin, Georgia Tech, and NMSU presented on design optimization, in situ metrology and control, and understanding how processes and defects impact properties and performance. Discussion also included additive manufacturing at all scales—from nanotweezers for precise atomic manipulation to full component production—and addressed applications such as advanced microelectronics and energetic materials. Sandia materials science researcher and UNM National Laboratory Professor Randy Schunk presented on the thin- film coating and consumer products industries. Schunk is focused on growing a modeling and simulation community of practice at all scales, from sub-molecular to continuum to system, at Sandia’s Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory. At the forum, he discussed an LDRD project on the development and application of high-end simulation tools. This collaborative work is being done by the Schunk Research Group at UNM, which is an academic partner in NASCENT, a National Science Foundation Nanosystems Engineering Research Center.

Sandia University Programs technical lead Natalie Pitcher worked with Diane Peebles, NM Partnerships manager, to initiate the Research Spotlight Forum. Pitcher said, “Participation in the forum has grown steadily since the program’s inception, and UNM’s contributions have been vital. Forums provide an avenue for university scientists and Sandia staff to discuss ongoing research in the field followed by conversations that highlight possible avenues for collaboration.”


Sandia Academic Alliance Program

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