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Nebraska Engineering donors, faculty celebrate UNL nanoscience facility dedication

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Nancy Keegan and Don Voelte, '75 CIVE, stand outside the newly dedicated Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Research Center at UNL.

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Dr. Jeffrey Shield, chair of the Mechanical & Materials Engineering Department, gives a tour of the facility.

With its namesakes present, UNL’s Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Research Center was dedicated Sept. 27. UNL Civil Engineering alumnus Don Voelte ’75 and his wife, Nancy Keegan (also an engineer and former chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Directors), praised not only the facility but also the people and tools working inside to make lives better.

The couple’s $5 million donation was matched by a competitive federal grant from sources including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, plus a university commitment, to fully fund the $13.9 million building. Completed earlier in 2012, the center’s 32,000 square feet include lab spaces for scientists and engineers to collaborate in nanotechnology. Advances shaped at the nanoscale level include better materials for electronics, such as computers and cell phones, and for disease detection.

Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development, said the facility is “an achievement of a long-standing goal,” and “an excellent example of a public-private relationship.”

Located at 16th and W streets, across from Scott Engineering Center and adjacent to Jorgensen Hall (home to UNL’s Physics and Astronomy programs), the Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Research Center will house as many as 20 research groups, said David Sellmyer, director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience. Sellmyer added that a facility of this caliber is rare.

The new facility offers researchers access to specialized tools like a $2 million high-resolution electron microscope purchased with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Another high-tech area is a clean room that eliminates dust particles in high-level research.

Nebraska Engineering faculty using the facility include Jeff Shield, department chair of Mechanical & Materials Engineering; Mathias Schubert, electrical engineering professor who leads the Center for Nanohybrid Functional Materials; Yuris Dzenis, R. Vernon McBroom Professor with MME; Yongfeng Lu, Lott Distinguished Professor with Electrical Engineering and leader of the Laser Assisted Nano Engineering Lab; and Ravi Saraf, Lowell E. and Betty Anderson Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

“Nanoscience is an interesting area,” Voelte said, addressing more than 50 guests gathered for the ceremonies. “I’m an optimist, so I believe if you provide people the right tools, they can create new ideas and make people’s lives better.”

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