ENMU Professor Elected as Vice President of the New Mexico Academy of Science

Dr. Zhiming Liu (first on left) with his undergraduate and graduate students working inside the ENMU Greenhouse.
Dr. Zhiming Liu (first on left) with his undergraduate and graduate students working inside the ENMU Greenhouse.

ENMU Professor Elected as Vice President of the New Mexico Academy of Science

Dr. Zhiming Liu, professor of molecular biology at Eastern New Mexico University, is serving as vice president of the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS).

Dr. Liu discusses his new role and goals for the position:

Dr. Liu, you were recently elected to be the vice president of the New Mexico Academy of Science. What was the process for becoming vice president?

First, thank you very much for inviting me for this interview. Regarding the election process, in November of 2018 the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS) informed me that I was nominated to run for the position of vice president. In early December I sent a copy of my CV to NMAS, which was distributed to all board members, program directors, past presidents, and other members of the organization. A general election was held in late December of 2018, and the result of the election was verified and announced at the NMAS Board meeting on January 26, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What is the New Mexico Academy of Science?

NMAS is a statewide organization founded in 1905 that has been very active in promoting science education and scientific research across the state.

The organization's vision is to be the premier advocate and resource for science and science education in New Mexico. To achieve this, NMAS serves the state and its communities by publishing science and science education materials, giving recognition for contributions to science and science education, fostering scientific cooperation, raising public awareness of the importance of science and science education, and providing advice on matters related to science and science education. NMAS is affiliated with the National Association of the Academies of Science (NAAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

How did you become involved with NMAS?

About 17 years ago, I became a member of NMAS. As a member, I submitted research papers for publication in its journal, New Mexico Journal of Science, attended annual conferences, and presented research projects with my students at multiple events. One of the critical tasks of NMAS is to support science fairs across the state. For the past 21 years, I have helped the regional and state science fairs as a member of the organizing committees, chair of numerous judging committees and mentor for high school students completing science fair projects.

What are your duties as vice president?

As the vice president, I work with the president and 15 board members and program directors for NMAS. I am actively involved in overseeing six regional science fairs and the state science fair, selecting winners for international fairs, supporting a series of science lectures by distinguished scientists, organizing annual research conferences, selecting teachers for awards for excellence in science education and scientific research, assisting in the publication of the New Mexico Journal of Science, working with state legislators and advocating for science education policies across the state.

What are your goals as vice president?

My goal is to enhance science education and scientific research in New Mexico and improve collaboration between school science teachers, university faculty, state government officials, legislators and the general public. More specifically, I will assist the New Mexico Public Education Department with implementing Next Generation Science Standards, encourage more students (especially from rural areas) to participate in science fairs, seek more funding from multiple sources to expand the organization's capabilities and recruit more members into NMAS. I am trying to invite Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, to give a keynote presentation at the annual research symposium of NMAS. The social media giant recently built a massive data center in Los Lunas, New Mexico. Construction on its other six facilities is expected to continue into 2023. These facilities have provided hundreds of new jobs to New Mexicans. Both Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are very enthusiastic about promoting science education and scientific research.

Which part of being vice president do you enjoy the most?

I have met many enthusiastic science advocates, including our current NMAS executive cabinet and board members. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with these individuals and sharing ideas on how to achieve our common goal of enhancing science education in this state. Also, during this legislative session in Santa Fe, I met our new Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham. She is very supportive of science education in our state and has told me that education is the top priority on her agenda.

Degrees and year of graduation and location:

I received a BA in 1982 from Shanghai Ocean University; an MS in 1990 from the University of Washington; and a Ph.D. in 1994 from Texas Tech University. I greatly appreciated the scientific training that I received from my professors in these prestigious universities. My mentors are highly respected scientists of great integrity.

When did you start your job at Eastern?

I started as an assistant professor of molecular biology at Eastern in August 1998.

Are you working on research? Research details:

Over the past five years, my students and I have published 12 scientific papers in journals such BMC Plant Biology, Scientific Reports, World Journal of Educational Research, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Letters, etc. I have sponsored many high school and university students' research projects, with nine of my students receiving awards for excellence in research.

Currently, my students and I are developing new methods for mass production of jujube saplings. Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) is a fruit that is widely consumed in East-Asian countries but relatively unknown in North America. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture has identified jujube as an alternative crop with great economic potential, given its drought- and frost-tolerant properties, anticancer benefits, and high vitamin C levels. So far, we have established a jujube orchard for a farmer in Portales and are planting the trees in several other locations in New Mexico.

What courses are you teaching at Eastern?

Each semester I teach at least four different courses, such as General Biology, Cell Biology, Endocrinology, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, Developmental Biology, Undergraduate Seminar and Assessment, for undergraduate and graduate students.

Tell us about your family.

My wife, Jane Liu, and I came from Guangzhou in Southern China near Hong Kong. Jane is an instructor of Tai Chi in the Department of Agriculture, Food Science and Kinesiology. Our son, Sunny Liu, works for the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, which is responsible for making budget and policy recommendations to the state Legislature.

What kinds of accomplishments/awards have you earned?

In my early years at Eastern, I served as secretary, president-elect, president (two terms) of the ENMU chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society. During my service, the Chapter received two prestigious awards for outstanding performance from national Sigma Xi headquarters.

What other positions at ENMU do you hold?

I served as a graduate coordinator years ago for the Department of Biology and am now serving as a faculty senator at Eastern.

Any additional information that you want to include?

I have always appreciated the participation from New Mexico school teachers, students, parents, state government officials and legislators in many science-related activities over the past years. Their involvement is what continues to make science education happen in the state. As vice president of NMAS, I am excited to welcome new members and support for science education and scientific research in New Mexico! If you would like to become a new member or make a donation to NMAS, please contact any of our NMAS board members or directly send me an email: [email protected]. Thank you very much!