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Students Benefit from Summer Internships

Several biological systems engineering students learned more about engineering—and themselves—during last summer’s internship experiences.

Ginger Wingate, a senior from Adams, took part in the Partners in Pollution Prevention program at UNL. She assisted local businesses in Antelope County with their pollution prevention practices and interacted with the county extension office. “My internship was one of the best experiences I have had since being at the university,” she said.

Senior Kim Ryland, from Stapleton, worked at Valmont Industries in Valley. She helped relieve some of the many projects the application engineers were juggling. “Because of the depart-ment’s unique roles and the various projects I was assigned, I really was able to get a feel for what it means to be an engineer in industry,” she said.

Sarah Anderson, a senior from Omaha, worked at Virginia Poly-technic Institute on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation. The students investigated the effects of tillage practices on the water quality of a burley tobacco field. Three diff-erent tillage practices—no-till, strip till and conventional tillage —were compared using water quality and volume samples collected during two rainfall simulations. Anderson worked with three other students, several faculty members and a graduate student. A final presentation and paper were completed at the end of the summer to communicate the results of the study.

Lawton Verner, a senior from Fremont, worked in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Verner worked with Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov on a method of objectively assessing surgical skill using the daVinciTM robotic surgical system, an FDA-approved computer-assisted surgical device. “I gained a better understanding of surgical techniques and procedures, biomedical design and medical robotics,” Verner said.

Krista Evans, a senior from Bellevue, worked with Dr. Bob Galloway and Dr. Will Chapman at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center on a research project funded by the National Institutes of Health. The goal was to create a 3-D space tracking system for an intraoperative ultrasound transducer. These devices are often used in surgery to visualize regions of interest when the operating field is small.

“Working on this project was a great experience. It further convinced me to look at graduate schools in engineering, not just health-related fields.”

For more information, check the undergraduate section of the BSE website at http://bse.unl.edu/Undergrad/interns.htm.

Splinter Named Interim Director of NU State Museum William Splinter, George Holmes professor emeritus of biological systems engineering, has assumed the duties as interim director of the NU State Museum during the completion of a search for a permanent director. Splinter served two terms as interim dean of the College of Engineering & Technology. He also has served in administrative positions in agricultural engineering and the Vice Chancellor for Research office.

Students Win PCI Big Beam Contest

Three student teams from the College of Engineering & Technology placed in the 2002 Engineering Student Design National Championship sponsored by the Precast Prestressed Concrete Institute.

Students constructed and tested 8 in. x 10 in. x 14 ft. precast concrete beams.

Civil engineering students Eric Wesolowski, Audra Hansen and Wilast Amornrattanepong worked with Chief Engineer Todd Culp (CivE ’90 and ’94) of Rinker Materials, Inc., of Omaha on the project. They placed second in the contest.

Ratul Sarmah, John Swendroski and Haosu Sun, working with Dennis Drews of Rinker Materials, Inc., in La Platte, also took second place. Shawn Wentworth, Matt Farber and Todd McLochlin, working with Mark Lafferty of Concrete Industries, Inc., of Lincoln, took third place.

Safety Engineering Student Wins Essay Competition

Dustin Boesch, a graduate assistant in mechanical/roadside safety engineering at UNL, won the Philip E. Rollhaus Jr. 2002 Essay Competition, an international competition sponsored by Quixote Transportation Safety.

Boesch highlighted the dangers of railroad grade crossings and included creative means to mitigate the dangers of these crossings, focusing on using reflective tape on the sides of train cars so they are better seen at night. He also recommended using an innovative barrier wall to keep motorists off the track when a train is present.

Boesch received a check for $3,000.

Brian Coon, also a graduate student at UNL, was a finalist in the competition. He received $1,000.

Grant Awards Over $250,000

  • McCoy, P., “Smart Work Zone Deployment Initiative,” Nebraska Department of Roads, $297,008

  • Sicking, D., Rohde, J. and Reid, J., “Improved Procedures for Safety Performance Evaluation,” National Academy of Sciences, $299,987

  • Faller, R., Sicking, D., Rohde, J., Reid, J. and Holloway, J., “IRL Curved Wall and Rearward Striking IRL Car,” Indy Racing League, $316,716

  • Dzenis, Y., Feng, R., Larsen, G., Turner, J., Zeng, X., “NIRT: Manufacturing of Novel Continuous Nanocrystalline,” National Science Foundation, $345,200

  • Elias, S., Narayanan, R. and Farritor, S., “Development of Track Stability Assessment Techniques,” Federal Railroad Association, $382,252

  • Sicking, D., “Midwest States Pooled Fund Program for Roadside Safety-Year 13,” Nebraska Department of Roads, $505,005

  • Meagher, M., “Process Research and Development for Therapeutic Agents and Vaccines as Countermeasures Against Biological Warfare Agents,” U.S. Army, $575,000

Othmer Hall Dedication

Building stands as tribute to renowned chemical engineer and revered uncle

Donald F. Othmer Hall, the newest building in the College of Engineering & Technology complex in Lincoln, was dedicated Sept. 6. The four-story building houses the Department of Chemical Engineering and the dean’s office, and features state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms.

But for Donna Wilcox, the dedication was about more than a building. It was a real tribute to her Uncle Don—Othmer, that is. “Almost everyone in our family has gone to the University of Nebraska,” Wilcox said. “This is our alma mater. To have a building named after someone in the family is such a great honor.”

Othmer, the internationally renowned chemical engineer and co-editor of the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, earned his bachelor’s degree from NU in 1924. A prolific researcher, Othmer earned more than 150 patents and published about 350 papers. Funding for the $24 million building came from the estate of his widow Mildred Topp Othmer, who died in 1998. Mildred Othmer graduated from NU in 1928.

“Uncle Don was always so generous with everyone—students, family, UNL, charities, other universities,” Wilcox said. “He and Mid gave without a thought. They were a real team and just amplified each other.”

Wilcox, who lives in Papillion, attended the dedication and said she was impressed with the building (“I’m so glad the university is going back to the traditional look of the buildings.”), the dedication and the comments made about Othmer. “We’ve always been very proud of Uncle Don,” Wilcox said.

As part of the event, a mural of Othmer was unveiled. The artist, Stephen Cornelius Roberts of Omaha, depicted Othmer in three stages of his career: In his late 20s when he was embarking on his career in chemical engineering, in his mid 40s doing research with an associate, and in his 60s giving a lecture to students.

“When the curtain came down on the painting, it took my breath away,” Wilcox said. “It looked just like him. Education and students were always the first thing he tried to promote. He was always sponsoring young students’ brilliant ideas. The artist totally captured him.”

The mural is displayed in the foyer of Othmer Hall.

—Constance Walter

Meet Our Newer Faculty

Construction Systems Technology: Assistant Professor Stuart Bernstein comes to NU from a faculty position with Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He has 30 years’ experience in the construction industry.

Computer Science and Engineering: Witawas Srisa-an, assistant professor, received a Ph.D. from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2002. Research interests: object-oriented programming, hardware support for dynamic memory management, runtime performance of object-oriented systems, low power design for embedded systems, real-time garbage collection techniques and operating system design. Assistant Professor Alvin Surkan has a Ph.D. from Western Ontario. His research interests are in machine intelligence, simulation of adaptive connection- and fuzzy system-based problem solving, neural networks and sparse distributed memory for pattern processing, generalization by learning for data analysis and genetic algorithms. Assistant Professor Jun Wang received his Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 2002. Research interests: high performance I/O architectures and storage systems, file systems, Internet servers, peer-to-peer applications and wireless applications.

Comings & Goings

New Staff: Roxane Gay (Dean’s Office); Amy Stanek (CivE); Linda White (Dean’s Office); Michelle Cordel (Dean’s Office)

Departures: Keith Carlson (Dean’s Office), Coral Eberly (CivE)


  • K.P. Rajurkar, industrial and management systems engineering, was inducted into the Academy of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. His selection recognizes excellence and leadership in engineering and civic affairs.

  • Tim Wentz, construction management, was installed as Region IX director and regional chair of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

  • Susan Hallbeck, industrial & management systems engineering, was elected chair of the Industrial Ergonomics Technical Group. The group is part of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

  • Gregor Henze, architectural engineering, won the 2002 Best Paper Award from the Solar Energy Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. His paper is titled “Parametric Study of a Simplified Ice Storage Model under Conventional and Optimal Control Strategies.”

  • Patricia Masek, electrical engineering, received the University Kudos Award at the Aug. 30 meeting of the NU Regents.

  • Contacts magazine received a Paper Anvil Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America Nebraska Chapter. The awards are given to individuals and organizations that exemplify high standards of practice within public relations.

Students Honors and Awards

  • Daniel Buettner, Lin Xu and Lui Zou received a scholarship to participate in the Fifth International Symposium on Abstraction, Reformulation and Approximation held in Alberta, Canada. They are working with Berthe Choueiry, computer science and engineering.

  • Katie Fraass Wlaschin, a 2001 chemical engineering graduate from Scottsbluff, received a 2002 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. She is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

  • Jason Hascall and Michael Schultes, both civil engineering students, have received the 2002 APWA scholarships. Hascall is from Tea, S.D., and Schultes is a Hastings native.


Tim Wentz was promoted to associate professor of construction management. This was incorrectly listed in our fall issue.

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