Juchao Yan's 18 Year Relationship with NM EPSCoR

Dr. Yan and his group of ENMU students at the 2019 NM Research Symposium

ENMU group at the 2019 NM Research Symposium


Brittney Van D… January 17, 2020

Who has been a part of NM EPSCoR the longest? The answer may surprise you.

The distinction goes to Dr. Juchao Yan, who began his journey with NM EPSCoR in 2001 while working as a postdoctoral fellow and research assistant professor for the University of New Mexico (UNM) Chemical & Nuclear Engineering department. While at UNM, Dr. Yan learned about a faculty opening at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) and secured the job.

So, what does Dr. Yan have to say about this nearly two-decade long relationship with NM EPSCoR?

“It has been incredible. Some of the students I worked with early on already have their PhD, and two have become assistant professors in R1 institutions. Of course, I’m lucky to have such dedicated students, and the resources needed to help them succeed. ENMU is a small school, and with funding from EPSCoR grants, we have been able to purchase critical supplies and instruments to train our students and better prepare them for their ultimate degrees.”

“I’ve also gained an immense respect for mentoring. It is at the core of NM EPSCoR’s mission,” says Dr. Yan, recalling how his mentors, Drs. Gabriel López and Plamen Atanassov, were the ones who initially taught him how to apply for, secure, and manage grants.

“I truly believe my mentors are a big reason why I am here, and why I consider myself a product of NM EPSCoR. Now I get to do the same for my students.”

It is a job Dr. Yan takes seriously, over the years he has been a mentor to roughly 50 undergraduate and 30 Master’s thesis students at ENMU, and in 2018 he was one of the recipients for the 2018 NM EPSCoR Mentoring Award.

However, Dr. Yan has observed some remarkable relationships develop among New Mexico institutions as well. “There are more collaborations between universities, and students in New Mexico now have more development opportunities and a better chance of pursuing a career in STEM, especially first-generation college students, like many of those at ENMU.” Dr. Yan quickly adds the progress he has seen could not have happened without funding and a lot of support. “Building research capacity requires money, yes, but support is extremely important as well,” he explains. “For example, initially, I had only planned to stay at ENMU for a few years to get some teaching experience, but now, I’m probably not going to leave.”

Why? Because for Dr. Yan, like so many professors, it is about support.

“I have had incredible support here, from NM EPSCoR, my mentors, and ENMU administration. It’s why I’m still here. It’s what I want to do for my students.”

We consider that a win. Thank you, Dr. Yan, for all you do.


Juchao Yan’s EPSCoR Journey:

  • 2001: Post-doctoral fellow and research assistant professor, part of the first National Science Foundation (NSF) Track 1 Infrastructure Improvement project (RII1)
  • 2005–2008: Served as a co-Principal Investigator (PI) on the second NM EPSCoR NSF Track 1 project (RII2) on a team developing ENMU nanomaterials research capacity
  • 2008–2012: Co-PI on New Mexico’s first successful application for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) EPSCoR Implementation Award in 2008, which explored putting biofuels into fuel cells
  • 2013–2018: Senior researcher on NM EPSCoR NSF Track 1 project, Energize New Mexico (RII4), working on the Bioalgal Energy and Osmotic Power research teams
  • Present: Dr. Yan continues to bring students to the NM Research Symposium each fall and engage in training workshops like the recently held Team Science Leadership Training