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Alumni Profiles: B1G Impact

Beginning with National Engineers Week 2012, we are featuring members of our Nebraska Engineering community who make a positive difference in the world. For our first year in the Big Ten, we've added profiles of the UNL College of Engineering's B1G potential, B1G ideas and B1G impact to our college's National E-Week web area. We're proud of our students, alumni and faculty who use their engineering skills for the greater good. Let's keep it growing! If you're a Nebraska Engineering community member who should be included here, we welcome your stories.

EVENTS: IST&E-Week, UNL College of Engineering programs at Omaha (Feb. 19-25, 2012) | E-Week in Lincoln (April 8-13, 2012)

Constantine Tarawneh

As an associate professor of mechanical engineering at University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Tex., he writes: "For me, engineering is not a job, it is a way of life. Relating my research to my teaching is a challenge that I enjoy every day when I go to work. Teaching and mentoring students and seeing them develop throughout their time in school to become engineers full of hope for the future has been a joy."

Tarawneh earned his Ph.D. at UNL in 2003, and now mentors students at UTPA. He adds: "It has been a fulfilling job by all standards and seeing my students go on to get their Ph.D. degrees at other institutions has filled my soul with the sense of accomplishment I wanted when I decided to go to academia. I have always measured my success by that of my students and I have been blessed with many successes to this point. By that same measure, I hope that I was able to give faculty at the mechanical engineering department at UNL a similar sense of accomplishment knowing that they had a lot to do with my success ... I can never thank them and UNL enough for everything they have done for me."

Meghan Lyons

Meghan Lyons

Lyons ('06 B.S. ELEC) is an electrical engineer with Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City. ”I'm proud that I work for a company that values hard work, exceeding client expectations, and giving back to the community. I'm currently working on Kansas City Power & Light's Department of Energy Smart Grid project. In this pilot project for 14,000 customers, KCP&L is deploying smart meters, 7 back-end IT systems, a solar array, and a 1MW battery. It has been incredibly challenging and interesting to learn about such a variety of technologies and their costs and benefits. I love that as an engineer, I get to use both sides of the brain! To be a good engineer, you must exercise creativity and logic almost simultaneously." Lyons, who competed in her first half-Ironman event in 2011, plans to compete in her first full Ironman event in 2013.

James Alfieri

A 1998 graduate of UNL's Chemical Engineering program, Alfieri is now plant nanager with Cargill in Kansas City. He notes, "My favorite part of the job, and probably why I became an engineer, is identifying and solving 'problems'—whether it be everyday processing issues, or designing and constructing a large processing plant, or improving the skill and experience of our team. As engineers, we can be proud of the work we do to produce more while using fewer resources - water and energy. In my job, I also am producing food that not only feeds people in the U.S., but also around the world."

John R. Jacobsen

Now retired, Jacobsen ('71 B.S. CIVE) worked on a number of major roads projects in Nebraska. He recalls,"Being an engineer allowed me the opportunity to be involved in developing and building hundreds of highway and bridge projects across the State. There is degree of personal gratification I feel when drivng on a project you helped develop and build. Everytime I drive the Interstate system and West Dodge in Omaha I think about all the challenges we had to overcome to build those projects and the staisfaction to see all that hard work come to fruition. It's a special feeling engineers can and should enjoy."

Paul Bauer

Bauer ('10 B.S. CSE) is a software engineer with Nebraska Global in Lincoln. He writes: "Engineering allows me to get into my flow: problem-solving with a team; taking a seemingly random world and turning it into a reproducible, controllable system. (I enjoy) using that skill to build things that make people's lives easier, better, more enjoyable."

Don E. Schaufelberger

Don Schaufelberger

Schaufelberger (’49 B.S. ELEC), retired president and CEO of Nebraska Public Power District in Columbus, had a 40 year career with NPPD, the largest electric utility in Nebraska, and its predecessor: Consumers Public Power District. He started work on a line crew, working up through a number of positions and retiring as president and CEO. In November 2011, Schaufelberger was inducted into the Columbus Business Hall of Fame, and he continues to provide consulting services to electric utilities. He also authored a book: The Only State a History of Public Power in Nebraska. He praises engineering for its problem-solving: in the evolution of electric utility operation, “how these changes are addressed by the engineer is a constant challenge—to seek out the best solution for the benefit of customers, the utility, and the industry in general to make this country the most efficient and productive in the world.”

Kim B. Blair

Kim Blair

Blair (’83 B.S. MECH; he also earned a B.A. in Psychology at UNL, and his M.S. and Ph.D. are from Purdue) is vice president of Cooper Perkins, Inc. and founding director of Sports Innovation @ MIT in Boston. Blair has focused on enabling innovation at the intersection of technology and sports, and leads the development of new products and technologies for sports performance analyses from concepts to final prototype design and testing. He enjoys teaching future engineers the "soft skills" in engineering such as innovation process, communication and teamwork.

Jerry Novacek

Novacek ('71 B.S. CIVE) is a consultant with ECC Construction's San Francisco corporate office. He writes, "Engineering is a career of tangible results of both design and construction of projects that benefit our way-of-life and create wealth and jobs for our economy."

Scarlett (Herring) Miller

Miller (’06 B.S. and ’07 M.S., IMSE) is an assistant professor with the School of Engineering Design at Penn State University. She enjoys “being a faculty member in an engineering design department where I can not only conduct top-notch research, but inspire the future leaders of our fields.” She values engineering for developing solutions to complex problems, making products that impact people's lives, and pushing the boundaries of our field.

Andrew Oliverius

Oliverius ('03 B.S. MECH) is a product development engineer with St. Jude Medical in St. Paul, Minn. He notes, "Designing innovative products that have an impact on human lives is very rewarding. It is very exciting to see the products I have helped develop used to improve the quality of life for many patients suffering atrial fibrillation around the world. I've worked on designing a heart catheter to be robot-driven and provide physician feedback to reduce patient injury due to over-driving of the catheter, which can puncture the heart wall requiring surgical intervention to repair. Applying engineering principles and the absence of limits on creativity for finding solutions in developing catheter-based technology reminds me everyday why I chose to become an engineer."

Brian Halla

Brian Halla

Halla (’69 B.S. ELEC)—retired president, CEO and chairman of National Semiconductor—in the 1970s joined “a little start up named Intel” and was a director of marketing in the microprocessor group; he earned four patents there. Halla next worked with LSI Logic and in 1996 began leading National Semiconductor. He recalls, "As a young engineer at Intel, I helped bring the microprocessor and PC into the world. At LSI Logic we invented SOC or System on a Chip and its first application was the Sony PlayStation. At National, we rejuvenated the analog business which enabled the cell phone industry through longer battery life, color displays and audio.”

Halla says, “One of my patents takes heat off of a circuit implanted in the eyeball using an on-chip Peltier heat pump.” These chip implants replace a damaged retina for people with macular degeneration or those born blind. Depending on the number of electrodes attached to the retina, he adds, recipients can see movements, lights and in the future may achieve 20/80 vision. Another Halla patent puts chip sensors on a capsule camera, telling the swallowed camera where the temperature is elevated (due to tumors) to cue image-taking that conserves the device’s battery life. “I believe that engineering and medical sciences can work together to cure many diseases including cancer,” Halla states. To Nebraska Engineering students, he wishes “Good luck and God bless you in your exciting careers to come!”

Anne Neilsen

Neilsen (’11 B.S. CSE) is a software engineer with Beehive Industries and Nebraska Global in Lincoln. She reflects: "In less than a year after I graduated, our team has gone from an idea to a fully-fledged product and company. Working in a start-up environment, each day brings new problems to be solved and requires that you wear several different hats. It is a challenge to be doing everything from maintaining software builds to writing software to migrating data. I enjoy getting to solve problems that are meaningful to people."

Marcus Kuhl

Kuhl ('11 B.S. AGEN) is a transmission design engineer for John Deere in Wateloo, Ia. He notes: “I do enjoy being an engineer … I am helping to make a product that serves people around the world and is a key component of their livelihood …

In making changes that make tractors more efficient and decrease pollution we are benefiting everyone in the world, not just our agricultural consumers.”

Weihua Ge

Ge (’07 M.S. IMSE) works as a design engineer with JL AUDIO Inc. in Miramar, Fla. “I am proud that two products I designed are selling all over the country. The first one … was an infant travel play yard, launched in 2011 and now selling on Babies ‘R’ Us, Target, and Amazon websites. The second one … is a marine tower speaker which debuted at CES in January 2012. As a design engineer in the consumer product industry, the biggest challenge is to turn a great idea into the profitable mass-produced product … balancing the manufacturing, marketing, sales and other factors. When I design a product, it’s just like my baby. I enjoy working on the process from a rough concept idea on napkin to mass production, then finally when the product is put on the shelves in stores.”

Steven F. Barrett

Scott Barnett

Barrett, Ph.D., P.E. ('79 B.S. EET) is Associate Dean for Academic Programs, and a professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Formerly a faculty member with the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, he enjoys working with the next generation of engineers on a daily basis and advancing on challenging embedded system design projects.