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Employee Council gives "A" Mountain staff award to chemistry and biochemistry manager

Employee Council gives "A" Mountain staff award to chemistry and biochemistry manager

A woman on the left and right stand with a man with a plaque
Jaime Rodriguez, center, is joined by Monica Dunivan, left, and Shawna Arroyo after Rodriguez was presented with the "A" Mountain Staff Award during the annual 2013 employee picnic. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The New Mexico State University Employee Council honored Jaime E. Rodriguez, an instrumental laboratory manager in the chemistry and biochemistry department, with the "A" Mountain staff award at the annual Employee Appreciation Picnic, Friday, Oct. 18.

Graciela A. Unguez, Tanner Schaub and Gary A. Eiceman nominated Rodriguez for the award.

"Jaime is deserving of this award because of his level of commitment to his work and the level of attention to detail and his greater than expected devotion to serving others and to trying to make the department a better center for research and teaching," said Eiceman, a distinguished professor in chemistry and biochemistry.

The NMSU Employee Council presents the "A" Mountain Staff award twice a year and accepts nominations of exemplary full-time, regular NMSU staff employees who represent the qualities of integrity, dedication, skill, endurance, resilience, determination and passion in performance of their duties. Nominees are considered for their innovation, responsiveness, service, spirit and teamwork.

Rodriguez has been a member of the NMSU community for more than 20 years. He arrived in Las Cruces in 1992, when he began his graduate studies in chemistry. Rodriguez has worked in his current role as instrumental laboratory and building manager since 2010. Rodriguez oversees all of the chemical instrumentation in the department.

Rodriguez revealed that his favorite part of his job is troubleshooting and repairing instruments, and he is well known on campus for his expertise. He provides technical support to many departments outside of chemistry including plant and environmental sciences, biology, chemical engineering and animal range science.

"If I have the knowledge about the instrument and I'm not afraid of opening it and checking what's wrong, my service speeds up the repairs a great deal, saving time and money to NMSU by avoiding the expensive service contracts with companies," he said.

"A lot of the instruments in the department are up and running because of Jaime's commitment to finding those parts that are obscure and yet necessary for instruments to run, helping faculty keep their labs up and running," Eiceman said.

Rodriguez has represented NMSU internationally a number of times. He traveled to Germany this summer and gave two presentations at the International Society of Ion Mobility Spectrometry annual conference. He also has been a co-author in 30 scientific publications and had his work published for four consecutive years.

"When he first came here in 1992 and he finished his master's degree in this department, I could see at that time that he saw in the position, he has now, an opportunity to be engaged with people, engaged with technology and a helper," Eiceman said.

After earning his master's degree in analytical chemistry, Rodriguez was a senior research specialist that designed and developed new chemical instrumentation from 1996 to 2001.

Rodriguez was an instrumentation laboratory manager for the agronomy and horticulture department from 2001 to 2004, when he created the medicinal plants of the southwest program's laboratory under Mary O'Connell as principal investigator.

For five years from 2004 to 2009, Rodriguez was an instrumentation laboratory manager and research specialist for the chemistry and biochemistry department. During that time, he was a co-principal investigator in several national security projects. Rodriguez designed experiments, setup testing, collected and processed data for many government agencies such as U.S. Army, Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and private companies. He also worked on design, development and maintenance of chemical instrumentation for Homeland Security and space exploration.

In addition to his work with instruments, Rodriguez manages the chemistry and biochemistry building.

"Something that isn't described in my job description is that I've been remodeling the building," he said. "We still have desks from the Second World War and that's in the whole building, so I'm replacing things little by little."