Science + Tech
Are you interested in STEM? New Mexico has a long and storied history in these areas. The Manhattan Project—which produced the world’s first atomic bomb in order to end World War II—was developed 45 minutes north of Santa Fe at Los Alamos National Laboratories and first established our region as a pioneering scientific center. In the 1960s, countercultural migrants came to Santa Fe seeking new ways of living and became pioneers of the sustainable building and alternative energy scene. In the 1980s, New Mexico hosted Space Shuttle flights and still serves as a NASA training ground. Today, creative tech workers are drawn to the region for its independent spirit and easy accessibility to outdoor adventure, arts, and culture. Together, these industries provide rich internship and job opportunities for Johnnies.
Like the City Different itself, science tends to happen differently in Santa Fe as disciplinary walls fall and innovation emerges. Scientists come together with artists and intellectuals to solve complex problems at the renowned Santa Fe Institute, social scientists and Native American artists convene to advance indigenous culture research at the School for Advanced Research, and the traditional boundaries of academic disciplines fall at our own St. John’s College where Euclid, Ptolemy, and Einstein are studied alongside Aristotle, Bach, and Du Bois.
Most recently, Santa Fe is becoming a home for creative science and tech workers, who are drawn to the area’s outdoor opportunities, openness to new ideas, innovative spirit, and reasonable cost of living when compared to the West Coast’s tech centers. Newcomers like Descartes Labs and Pebble Labs, as well as the engineers and coders who bring art to life at destinations like Meow Wolf and the Currents New Media Festival, have recently joined Santa Fe’s older tech companies like Open Eye and Flow Science in making Santa Fe a growing home for the young tech and research class.
Santa Fe and its surrounding areas have long been home to scientists. The Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first atomic bombs during World War II, was developed 45 minutes north of Santa Fe at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Today, Los Alamos National Labs is the senior laboratory within the U.S. Department of Energy and its mission is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence. Employing more than 10,000 people, the Lab is a major economic driver in the region with an annual operating budget of $2.5 billion. And the town of Los Alamos has one of the highest per-capita rates of PhDs in the nation.
New Mexico is also home to Sandia National Laboratory, a multiprogram engineering, technology, and science lab focusing on national security and technology innovation. Located an hour south in Albuquerque, it is one of three National Nuclear Security Administration research and development laboratories and employs more than 11,000 scientists, engineers, technologists, and support staff. Like LANL, Sandia’s economic impact in New Mexico is significant and includes an annual operating budget of $3.6 billion. St. John’s graduates often land internships and jobs at the Labs, where Johnnies are known for their discerning research abilities.
In the 1960s, the countercultural wave hit Santa Fe and the area’s conservation movement was born. Back-to-the-land transplants brought with them a desire to live simple lives in harmony with the earth. These often well-educated “hippies” studied and attempted to master ancient building practices—like the creation and utilization of sunbaked adobe mud bricks—while also making innovations in areas like passive solar gain, solar and water catchment systems, and xeriscaping.
Far ahead of their time, they laid the groundwork for what we now call sustainable living practices and many became early experts in their growing fields. Today, New Mexico has a thriving solar energy sector, wind energy sector, sustainable building sector, and water conservation sector thanks to these early architects, engineers, builders, artisans, gardeners, and growers—often considered the pioneers by the new generations who are now leading the field. Together, they have helped to develop Santa Fe and northern New Mexico’s reputation as an innovative leader in the field of sustainable building and living. They also mentor and employ Johnnies.
Because of New Mexico’s dark night skies, it is the perfect location for celestial observations and experiments of all kinds. The Very Large Array, which is located in southern New Mexico, is the most advanced radio telescope array on Earth. The Array is a customizable interferometer that spans up to 22 miles across and is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The nearby White Sands Space Harbor has served as a Space Shuttle runway, a test site for rocket research, and the primary training area used by NASA for Space Shuttle approach and landing practices. The state is also home to Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. Operated by the state of New Mexico, its tenants include Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Branson continues to press ahead with his dream of launching private space exploration flights.