The University of New Mexico
Public Affairs Department
Hodgin Hall, 2nd floor
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0011
Telephone: (505) 277-5813
Fax: (505) 277-1981
Cathy Abeita, (505) 346-7712
Horton Newsom, (505) 277-0375
Steve Carr, (505) 277-1821

In conjunction with the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), the University of New Mexico has received a three-year, $402,000 grant from NASA for a new program titled Stars on Earth. The program provides under-represented high school students with research experience in space science and technology-based academic preparation in math, science, engineering and technology (MSET). SIPI college students will also benefit from the establishment of new course in Earth and Planetary Science, and the opportunity to be involved in related research projects.
The coordinator of special programs at SIPI, Cathy Abeita, is the principal investigator for the Stars on Earth program and will work with UNM research professor Dr. Horton Newsom of the Institute of Meteoritics and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
"The NASA program is one of several student outreach programs at SIPI," says SIPI president Carolyn Elgin. "The program is designed to support high school students in preparing for math, science, engineering and technology programs in college through research experiences in space science and technology-based academic preparation."
The centerpiece of the Stars on Earth program is a six-week residential experience at SIPI, which will include a research experience component that will impact both the high school students and the SIPI faculty and students involved in the outreach program through special training at the Institute of Meteoritics (IOM) at UNM.
The research activity focuses on the establishment of a Meteorite Identification Laboratory, which will be housed in SIPI’s soon-to-be-reality 60,000 square foot Advanced Technical Education Applications Building. The building will serve as a teaching and research laboratory for the NASA program and ensures that American Indian students who select science, mathematics, and engineering fields will have access to a state-of-the-art facility and equipment at SIPI in collaboration with the IOM.
Identifying meteorites requires a basic understanding of meteorite properties and the ability to conduct a logical investigation using basic geological equipment. In suspicious cases or samples, advanced analysis will be conducted at UNM using a scanning electron microscope with the assistance of SIPI students.
"Students who participate in the summer program will have an opportunity to live on a college campus and discover firsthand what it is like to attend college," Abeita says. "The students find out that college can be a reality for them. We are very pleased to be working with Dr. Newsom and UNM’s Institute of Meteoritics on this project."
In addition to the programs for students, activities for the student’s high school teachers and parents will provide a source of support and reinforcement for choosing a technical career path. The Stars on Earth program builds on successful outreach programs at each institution.
"The Stars on Earth program will encourage large numbers of students, especially Native American students, to pursue technical careers in fields of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences," said Newsom. "I am excited that students who participate in this opportunity will obtain training that can benefit NASA and the students’ communities."
Abeita, who has a master’s in education with a focus in science education and curriculum development from UNM, has extensive experience in the implementation of mathematics and sciences programs, recruitment and selection of program participants, academic instructors, residential staff, program evaluation, follow-up and data/tracking systems.
Newsom brings experience in research about the origin of the Earth and Moon and impact cratering processes on Earth and Mars. He has participated in numerous outreach programs, including a $300,000 grant from NASA’s PACE program which began in 1998 as an outreach program to middle school students.