Christina Salas has spent 15 years doing orthopedic biomechanics research at the University of New Mexico, and now she’s ready to expand the work after setting up shop in the City of Vision.

Christina Salas
Courtesy of UNM Health Sciences Center

Salas, an assistant professor with UNM’s Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, has spent the past month getting situated at the Center of Excellence for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation in Rio Rancho, where she will have more than just 8,000 square feet for her work.

“I have more of a commute just coming out here. But honestly, I’d much prefer to be in one location where all my students can find me at any time, and I can always be present if there’s an issue in one lab. They’re all within steps of each other. It’s much nicer than it was before,” said Salas, who moved into the center just before Thanksgiving.

Aside from the biomechanics research space, she said she will be steps away from the building’s full anatomy lab, walk-in freezers and refrigerators, and a full-size mechanical engineering machine shop.

Some of Salas’ latest research includes transforming joint implants and using six types of 3-D printers to make face masks and other ceramic items.

She said the new space, which is more than 10 times the size of the previous collective space she had for her research at the Health Sciences Center, will allow her to continue her own line of independent research on things such as tissue regeneration to help treat ailments like bone cancer. She said that area of work is done via her department’s orthopedic tissue engineering lab.

She also said the building’s mechanical engineering machine shop can accommodate custom test fixtures for implant testing and design, as well as human cadaver tissue testing for surgical treatments.

“I help facilitate all of the basic science research that is conducted in orthopedics, that all of our surgeons are actually interested in. But our long-term goal is to hire additional faculty, post docs, students and so forth, where some of the other faculty coming in could help address some of the other areas of research,” said Salas, who’s served in her faculty role the past seven years.

She said that while her background’s in mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, her research team would look to recruit people with biology and biochemistry backgrounds to address expanding research, such as stem cell studies that run parallel to work currently being done.

She said having tissue storage on site will allow researchers to use those samples for future research.

“Let’s say it’s a knee study; we can simulate walking in our test lab… It’s definitely very helpful to have that space immediately adjacent to the testing lab,” she said.

Going forward, Salas said she’s looking to incorporate more animal orthopedic studies in the next few years, as well as more joint and sports medicine-related research.

In all, she had to work in very small spaces across two labs on the Health Sciences Center campus and two labs in the school of engineering building — trekking across campus to go from point A to point B, sometimes carrying tissue samples.

“It was very time consuming,” she said.

Now that’s no longer the case.