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eNews September eNews 2021

Meet the Researcher, Frank Ramos, Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Frank Ramos, Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month, our featured researcher is Frank Ramos, a professor at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in the Department of Geological Sciences. He has been affiliated with NMSU since 2008 and has held his current position since 2019. Ramos typically teaches four classes a year, including undergraduate-level courses such as Introductory Geology, Petrology, Geochemistry, and graduate-level Isotope Geochemistry and Analytical Geochemistry. He is currently advising five masters students performing thesis-related research and consistently works alongside two to five undergraduate researchers at any one time. Ramos believes in “training students to critically think, integrate information from different sources, and write clearly and concisely, done in an honest and ethical context. [He tries] to train students in a direct and honest fashion, not only to be able to act as ethical scientists but to also appreciate the world and environment in which they work and live.”

Ramos has been involved with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) for several years as a key member in several research projects (i.e., Produced Water Chemistry in the Permian Basin), and as a student advisor to students funded through the NM WRRI Student Water Research Program. In 2020, he advised Lin Chen on a project entitled, Recovery of Rare Earth Elements and Potable Water from Produced Water. Ramos describes this project as being centered around creating a process to concentrate and extract Rare Earth Elements (REEs) while generating clean potable water from Permian Basin Oil and Gas extraction-related produced water in southeast New Mexico and west Texas. REEs are critical components used in creating cell phones and high-end ceramics, which makes them valuable commodities. The process of extracting REEs while also generating clean water for agricultural and industrial use could prove significant in potentially helping address some of New Mexico’s unique water challenges. To read more about Lin Chen’s research project, please click here.

Ramos graduated with his BS in Geology from Stanford University (1989). He earned his MS in Geology (1992), and PhD in Geochemistry (2000) from the University of California in Los Angeles. He has over twenty-five publications across a wide variety of journals and guidebooks. Ramos has also received multiple funding opportunities for his work from the National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences and other organizations.

Ramos has served his community and university by being an active member in several societies and outreach efforts. He is the director of the NMSU Johnson Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, which assists students and researchers in the use of analytical tools to address problems associated with Geochemistry and Petrology. Ramos is also the president of the New Mexico Geological Society Foundation board in Socorro, New Mexico, and sits on the NMSU Radiation Safety Committee. Ramos holds memberships to several professional organizations such as the American Geophysical Union, and the Mineralogical Society of America.

Ramos is currently active in several research investigations ranging from scavenging REEs from water and coal ash to remediating lands by removing radionuclides in water, soils, and plant materials. A critical project he is leading involves a group of student researchers attempting to identify the Ra/Th ages of crystals in lavas erupted from active or recently active volcanoes worldwide. This research and all methods associated with the project are being developed and tested at NMSU alongside ongoing research in the NMSU Johnson Mass Spectrometry Lab. Ramos intends to expand the laboratory’s capabilities to include inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry trace element analyses to supplement their current isotope ratio measuring equipment. With the acquisition of this new unit, he believes it would greatly expand the range of elements and isotopes available for testing. This would allow researchers to access a wider variety of analytical tools and assist NM WRRI researchers in their water-related projects by allowing more isotopes (87Sr/86Sr or 206Pb/204Pb) to be examined. In addition to the five scientists Ramos has trained that currently fulfill technician or lab manager positions, he plans to guide at least five more to operate and maintain mass spectrometers in state-, national-, and educational-related labs across the U.S.

To anyone interested in pursuing a career in the water research field, Ramos imbues this parting message: “Water is a critical component to our nation’s well-being. Especially with the challenges that are building as a result of climate change, we have to begin to address water issues in more coherent and insightful ways. As such, water and water-related employment opportunities will expand greatly in the foreseeable future, and scientists will need to be well-versed in multiple research fields. This is the time to expand yourself and learn to 1) think critically, 2) hone your ability to integrate information from multiple sources, and 3) better your writing and communication skills. Focusing on these attributes will offer big rewards in your future.”