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.
- IST&E-Week, UNL College of Engineering programs at Omaha (Feb. 19-25, 2012)
- E-Week in Lincoln (April 8-13, 2012)
Dvorak (’87 B.S. CIVE), professor and interim chairperson – UNL Civil Engineering, says, "In graduate school I found that my UNL degree prepared me to compete successfully with other graduate students from a wide range of prestigious universities.” Since then, he has enjoyed educating undergraduate and graduate engineering students. He also collaborates with professionals in identifying approaches to source reduction of wastes that work given the specific challenges of Nebraska (e.g., low electricity rates, inexpensive landfill tipping fees, long distances to transport recycled materials). Dvorak adds, “I am proud that I have helped many businesses start incorporating practical environmental sustainability practices into their operations.” He values the problem-solving component of engineering the most—“often a combination of technical, economic, and political” factors.
Pannier (’01 B.S. BSE), assistant professor of biological systems engineering, returned to teach at UNL after earning her Ph.D. at Northwestern. Her lab’s current projects are focused on nonviral gene delivery with applications to gene therapy, biotechnology and tissue engineering. Specifically, her team investigates the role of the cellular microenvironment on DNA transfer into cells, and also conducts projects to better understand the role of endogenous signaling pathways in nonviral gene transfer. In addition to studying DNA delivery, Pannier’s group works on tissue engineering projects, designing better scaffolds that help to shape new tissues. Pannier also advises the UNL chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.
Jacobs (with hand on idle blade), a graduate of UNL’s electrical engineering programs, is now associate director of the Nebraska Wind Applications Center and a lecturer in the EE department. Jacobs is active in Wind For Schools, providing several Nebraska schools with technical support, from site coordination and equipment procurement assistance to installation of wind turbines with connection to the local power utility’s grid. Jerry Hudgins, EE department chair, says, "We’re happy to be working with the younger students who are going to be doing even more with wind power in the future."
A Willa Cather Distinguished Professor, Viljoen teaches chemical engineering at UNL. He worked with UNMC’s Alison Freifeld, M.D., and a team of engineers and scientists to devise an advanced point-of-care diagnostic device. It collects sputum samples, extracts and amplifies target regions on the DNA using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and then optically detects TB products with fluorescent molecular beacons. Using their unique thermocycler, the PCR reaction takes less than 20 minutes and appears to be more sensitive than existing diagnostics. The final version of the technology is expected to cost less than $10 a test and reduce staff demand and infection risk for health care workers.
Nelson, associate professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, worked with Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln to develop the new Intelligently Controlled Assistive Rehabilitation Elliptical system to help rehabilitation patients regain or improve their ability to walk. The elliptical assistive device was a finalist for an international da Vinci Award honoring healthcare solutions. Nelson also advises the UNL Microgravity Team in projects with NASA.
Chen, Computer Electronics & Engineering professor and department chair, has developed curriculum used by schools for students to learn hands-on about electronics through robotics. CEENbots and TEKbots are used throughout the nation, and gather at the annual Nebraska Robotics Expo, which Chen helps coordinate at the Strategic Air and SpaceMuseum.