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NSF Grant to Fund Nanotechnology Research

Materials researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, including two engineering faculty, have won a prestigious $5.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant establishes a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at UNL, one of 27 such centers in the nation.

The MRSEC is an outgrowth of UNL’s Center for Materials Research and Analysis, and involves scientists whose research focuses on nanomagnetic structures. Their work in magnetic materials at the nanoscale (one-billionth of a meter) has applications in advanced computing and data storage systems, handheld electronic devices, advanced sensors, and possible future medical technologies. Brian Robertson and Jeff Shield, mechanical engineering, are participating in the new center.

SCOLA Broadcasts Get High Marks from Users

A research project directed by Hamid Sharif, professor of computer and electronics engineering, already is benefiting universities around the nation.

The project connects SCOLA’s (Satellite Communications for Learning) real-time foreign news, cultural and video language programs to universities and research institutions. Research activities focus on how to enhance the quality of video broadcasting in real-time over high-speed networks such as Internet2.

Sharif and his team currently provide three channels of SCOLA programs to more than 46 universities in the United States. Harvard University and Arizona State University are among the many institutions that report a high degree of satisfaction with the SCOLA broadcasts.

The project is funded by the Omaha World-Herald, the Peter Kiewit Institute and the National Science Foundation.

For more information, go to http://scola.unotelecommlab.org

$10 Million NIH Grant Establishes Nebraska Redox Biology Center

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has won a $10 million dollar award from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Nebraska Center for Redox Biology.

The center will be a collaborative research enterprise of UNL and UNMC’s Eppley Cancer Center. Stephen Scott, computer science and engineering, is participating in the grant.

The center’s research will look at how cells maintain a reduction-oxidation balance, a process called redox homeostasis, and study the link between redox homeostasis and complex diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cataracts. The studies also will advance understanding of redox regulation, which is important in cellular aging and controlled cell death.

Nebraska in 2nd Tier of Rankings

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln remains in the second tier of the “National Universities—Doctoral” category in the 2003 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” issue.

UNL solidified its position in the second tier by improving on its 2002 scores in five areas: peer assessment, graduation rate, freshman retention rate, acceptance rate and alumni giving rate.

In peer assessment, which accounts for the largest portion of the total score at 25 percent, UNL improved to 3.3 (of 5.0) from 3.2, putting Nebraska in the top third in that category among the 78 institutions in the second tier.

Patrick McCoy Dies at 61

Patrick McCoy, Leonard A. Lovell Professor of Civil Engineering, died Oct. 28 in Lincoln. He was 61 years old.

McCoy came to UNL in 1976 and held a number of positions. He served as vice chairman for the Department of Civil Engineering in 1993 and as director of the Mid-America Transportation Center since 1995. He was appointed the Leonard A. Lovell Professor of Civil Engineering in 1998. He taught graduate and undergraduate courses and conducted research in traffic operations and control, geometric design and highway safety.

“He was one of the good guys,” said John Ballard, associate dean for the College of Engineering & Technology. “He didn’t think about what was best for him. Everything he did was for the students and the people he worked with.”

McCoy earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State (’63, ’64) and his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University (’71). Before coming to UNL, McCoy was an assistant professor of civil engineering at A&M and worked in industry.

McCoy published more than 40 journal articles, two books and more than 60 research reports and was a member of and active in several professional organizations. He also served on committees for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Transportation Research Board and Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Bridge Demonstrates Conductive Concrete

Conductive concrete technology will be put to the test this winter in Roca, about 15 miles south of Lincoln, in a Nebraska Department of Roads demonstration project.

The project involves a conductive concrete overlay on the Roca Spur Bridge. The bridge has a 46 meter long and 11 meter wide conductive concrete deck. A railroad crossing is located immediately following the end of the bridge, making it a prime candidate for a deicing application. The concrete mix and application being used on the bridge were designed by Chris Tuan, Civil Engineering.

Construction began in the summer of 2002. The overlay is instrumented with temperature sensors to provide data for monitoring of heating performance. For more information, go to www.conductive-concrete.unomaha.edu.

In The News

Sen. Chuck Hagel listens as chemical engineer Michael Meagher, director of UNL’s Biological Process Development Facility, explains the vaccine development process during a tour of the facility on Aug. 6. In the background, from left, are Jamie Nygren and Tom Janssen of Sen. Hagel’s staff, Prem Paul, vice chancellor of research, and Chancellor Harvey Perlman.

Talking Points

Nebraska District One Representative Doug Bereuter visited the College of Engineering & Technology Sept. 16 to meet with faculty members about research. Samy Elias, associate dean for research, Shane Farritor, mechanical engineering, and Terry Stentz, construction management, discussed the railway safety research being done within the college. Brian Robertson, mechanical engineering, and Jennifer Brand, chemical engineering, discussed the tiny neutron detector developed by researchers in the Center for Materials Research Analysis. Rep. Bereuter also met with Michael Meagher to talk about the bioprocessing lab slated for the third floor of Othmer Hall.

Choueiry Awarded NSF Career Grant

Berthe Choueiry, computer science and engineering, received a prestigious five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development grant. She was awarded $600,000.

The grant supports activities in the area of constraint processing, a sub-field of artificial intelligence. Constraint processing is a new fundamental paradigm for modeling and solving decision problems and has wide applications in computer science, engineering and management.

Traditionally, solving a decision problem, such as the allocation of aircraft to flights in an airline company, requires finding a single, enumerated solution to the problem, Choueiry said. The project will investigate techniques for computing and visualizing families of equivalent solutions.

Nebraska DED Hosts ISO Group

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development hosted the ISO Networking Group, whose members are representatives from Nebraska businesses that are ISO 9000 registered or in the process of becoming registered.

ISO represents an international standard for quality management systems that allows producers and suppliers to interdependently produce quality products and services. With global markets and expanding trade opportunities, ISO 9000 represents a new standard for competitiveness. Nebraska now has more than 160 businesses and organizations that are ISO 9000 registered.

MESA Helps Students Succeed

What do you want to do 40 years from now? That was the question posed to more than 35 minority students in the Nebraska MESA program at a Sept. 17 academic preparation session at the Peter Kiewit Institute.

To help them reach their goals, guest speaker Crystal Simpson took students through a step-by-step planning process. Guest speaker Negil McPherson spoke on work ethics and applying oneself in school.

The session, one of several planned for this year, was organized by Matilda Browne from the Omaha Public Schools, Kathie Nelson from Union Pacific Railroad Co. (who serves as chair of the MESA Steering Committee), and Professor Tom Sires from the College of Engineering & Technology. Sires is director of the MESA program.

Nebraska MESA encourages minority and disadvantaged youth to study math, science and engineering. MESA conducts Summer-on-Campus programs for middle- and high-school students and, in connection with the Omaha Public Schools, offers a year-round program in several high schools.

For more information, contact Sires or Margaret Fox, at (402) 554-2543.

Engineering Grad Student Wins Soybean Contest

Sandun Fernando
Sandun Fernando, a UNL biological systems engineering graduate student, tests his multipurpose soybean oil-based lubricant. The product won Fernando the 2002 Innovative Uses of Soybean Contest, sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board and NU’s Industrial Agricultural Products Center.
Sandun Fernando of Sri Lanka, a biological systems engineering doctoral student, recently won the 2002 Innovative Uses of Soybean Contest with his improved soybean oil-based industrial lubricant.

The Nebraska Soybean Board and the university’s Industrial Agricultural Products Center sponsor the annual contest, which is open to students at all Nebraska colleges and universities.

Fernando’s product is an improved version of many commercially available soybean oil-based lubricants on the market today. Fernando chemically modified his soybean oil-based lubricant to resist a destructive chemical process called oxidative polymerization. In this process, oxygen changes the oil’s molecules and causes the oil to solidify. This limits its use in many high-temperature industrial applications, such as the pumps in irrigation wells that provide water for center pivot and gravity irrigation.

“Farmers using commercially available soy drip oils began to face problems with the formation of gummy-like substances that eventually led to maintenance difficulties,” Fernando said. Drip oil lubricates the shaft bearings as the pump pushes water to the surface.

Fernando has submitted paperwork, the first step in pursuing a patent through the university. He was awarded $3,500.

—Sandi S. Alswager, IANR

Rising Star

If you ask Maria Sitzmann why she chose UNL, she’ll tell you about the friendly campus atmosphere, the student advising and Honors programs and Othmer Hall. A junior in chemical engineering from Sioux City, Iowa, Sitzmann said the students are enjoying the new facility. “They really took the students into consideration,” she said. “The design studio, the computer lab, and the study areas were far beyond my expectations.”

Sitzmann won the 2002 O.J. Ferguson Outstanding Sophomore Award and the Outstanding Freshman Student Award from the College of Engineering & Technology, and is a member of several honor societies. In addition to her studies, she is on the college’s student advisory board and is an Honors Program peer mentor, among other activities.

Although the chemical engineering coursework is rigorous, it hasn’t dissuaded her from her career goals. She plans to seek employment in the food or pharmaceutical industry after she graduates.

Sitzmann advises freshmen and sophomores to persevere. “You don’t get a good taste of what you’ll be doing in the real world until you take your core courses and have an internship,” she said.

“Last summer I had an internship and received much industry experience and good advice from my supervisors.”

Of her coursework, she said, “I enjoy the subject material a lot, especially since we’re getting into our core classes. It increasingly resembles what I did in my internship, so I’m very hopeful about the future.”

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