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Something in the Water A Booming

Velander Takes Helm
Former Chair
Leaves Strong Legacy

Finding the Way
News and Announcements

Something in the Water

At an exclusive New York hotel, a water sommelier offers guests a wide variety of still and sparkling bottled waters. As you make your selection, he regales you with anecdotes about your choice—how the water hails from virgin aquifers in Norway or the rainforests of Brazil, with a taste that will soothe your sophisticated palate.

Bruce Dvorak, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, also is a water sommelier, though the information he shares is of a more practical nature. “Through my outreach efforts, I am working to educate Nebraskans on their drinking water and helping small, rural communities make informed decisions about water,” Dvorak said. In true sommelier fashion, Dvorak’s expertise extends to other areas including environmental engineering, environmental infrastructure engineering, drinking water and hazardous waste treatment processes and applied pollution prevention for small business and industry.

Nebraska’s water is unusual in that most communities get their water from groundwater, which is found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rocks. In Southeast Nebraska the water is hard and highly alkaline, but for the most part, the state’s water is of a fairly good quality. Nonetheless, individuals and communities often face situations in which they need the help of a water expert, like Dvorak.

People who get their water from public or municipal water supplies rarely have to worry about contaminants in their water because there are many federal and state guidelines currently in place to protect the public. For people who get their water from private sources, however, there are no such regulations and it is their responsibility to test, protect, treat and maintain their own water supplies. In an effort to help these private water consumers, Dvorak and his research team are compiling a series of ten NebGuides on water treatment. These guides are brief publications that identify an issue or concern, offer an explanation and provide advice on addressing said issue or concern, as well as who to contact for more information. “Homeowners can use these guides to determine how to address their water quality,” Dvorak said.

Students in CIVE 327, Environmental Engineering Laboratory, collect water samples from Salt Creek, then analyze the samples in the field to learn about the water quality.
Dvorak also works with smaller municipalities on drinking water problems. Often times, smaller towns struggle with the issue of copper corrosion, which can contaminate a water supply through the corrosion of copper pipes and fittings used in household plumbing. These smaller communities rarely have the finances to adequately deal with such problems, so Dvorak and his team try to come up with the most efficient and cost-effective solutions without compromising the integrity of a community’s water supply. “We try to give our constituents unbiased, scientific information,” Dvorak said. “Oftentimes, we compare different, commonly used phosphates to treat water and offer common rules of thumb for mixtures.”

Another major component of Dvorak’s work involves public education and sharing an environmental ethic with the private and public sectors. To that end, Dvorak conducts research in the field of waste minimization, or pollution prevention, through a project that is part research, part outreach. In conjunction with a pollution prevention internship program funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, senior engineering students work with Nebraska businesses to identify ways to reduce waste. Clients include dry cleaners, auto repair shops, farm coops and other small businesses. “These student interns’ suggestions can save companies money not only by improving health and safety, but by helping companies find less expensive ways of meeting regulatory compliance,” Dvorak said.

In addition to the individual technical consultation, student interns are involved in educational outreach efforts directed at the public: attending county fairs, doing interviews for newspapers and local television stations and giving presentations about pollution prevention to civic groups. The researchers also conduct a re-assessment of clients who have been assisted by the program to see if they have implemented any of the suggestions. These re-assessments allow researchers to analyze what the results say about waste management in Nebraska. Thus far, they have discovered that in 2002, more than $416,000 in potential annual savings was identified for Nebraska businesses, while solutions were developed for 680,000 pounds of solid waste to be diverted from landfills. Overall, the project’s clients implemented 40% of the student interns’ suggestions.

Beyond his research, Dvorak has a joint appointment in the College of Engineering & Technology—as an associate professor in biological systems engineering and civil engineering—and many of the courses he teaches focus on environmental engineering issues. “Many people don’t recognize that many areas of engineering overlap, particularly with regards to environmental engineering. I was looking for a field in engineering where I could make a tangible difference in public health and safety,” Dvorak said.

His enthusiasm and interdisciplinary approach to engineering is clearly apparent to his students. During the spring semester of 2003, Dvorak was awarded the Hollings Teaching/Advising/Mentoring Award, as well as the Chi Epsilon Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. “I found it a tremendous honor to be recognized by students,” Dvorak said. “One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is working with undergraduate and graduate students and seeing their personal growth during their time at the University. It helps me to realize what an impact teaching can have.”

photography by Timothy Randall
Dvorak also is unique in that he is a native Nebraskan who received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University years before he returned to teach. “I’ve had the children of childhood friends in my classes and I had the opportunity to instruct an old classmate of mine,” said Dvorak. His ties to Nebraska, the University and the College go even deeper because his brother and his father are also UNL engineering graduates. “I enjoy having this kind of institutional knowledge,” Dvorak said. “It gives me extra insight into College and departmental traditions.”

Although Dvorak is not sharing his expertise at exclusive New York hotels, he is providing invaluable services to the people of Nebraska, as a teacher, researcher and expert in all things environmentally sound.

—Roxane Gay

A Booming Business

Kevin Butler is designing a centralized business center that could serve as a model for other colleges.
Kevin Butler has come a long way from his early days at the University of Arizona. While working toward his bachelor of science in business, he also worked as a mechanic in the university’s motor pool changing oil, filling gas tanks and busting tires. Hard work, but a simpler life. “I had a lot more hair back then,” Butler said.

Today, he’s the assistant dean for business and finance in the College of Engineering & Technology. After receiving his degree, Butler worked as an accountant in UA’s College of Agriculture and a whole new world opened for him. While working on a $10 million grant for an agriculture production project in Egypt, Butler was sent to Egypt on a two-month in-country operation—“I didn’t even have a passport at the time,”—and he fell in love with international development.

The trip earned him a promotion and he returned to school for an MBA, which he received from UA’s Carl Eller School of Management in 1998. The trip also brought him to the attention of Colorado State, which had a similar project in Egypt. The university “borrowed” Butler and he again went to Egypt—this time with a passport. “About that time, I became the go-to guy for international development, proposal and project management,” Butler said. “Quite often I worked for other departments and traveled around the world —mostly in Africa.”

In 1994, the college shut down its international projects office and Butler moved to the School of Family and Consumer Sciences where he restructured its business operations. It was a precursor to coming to Nebraska. “I was ready to move and progress,” he said. Butler was attracted to the College of Engineering & Technology because it gave him a chance to build something from scratch—a highly unique centralized model for business processes.

In most “centralized” models, Butler explained, there are many points of contact for different needs. Butler’s approach eliminates confusion because departments work through one individual for everything. Seven faculty representatives on the Lincoln and Omaha campuses work with faculty on everything from purchases to hiring to proposal development and financial reporting and monitoring. “If it involves a dollar or an hour, it goes through our shop.” It’s not an approach that has been readily embraced throughout the College. “It’s like pushing a brick wall up a hill,” he said. “But, the wall’s starting to give a little bit.”

David Allen, Dean of the College, said Butler has brought a significant new focus to the College. “Faculty, staff and students will now have a range of business services. These new activities will significantly reduce the time college personnel spends on workload outside their normal responsibilities, freeing up valuable time for critical college needs such as recruiting and retaining students, and obtaining and administering contracts and grants. These new and accelerated efforts will help us move into the top echelon of engineering colleges in the United States.”

Butler is confident the system will work but said it will take some time to get the bugs worked out. For example, he said, he needs to improve communication channels between faculty and the units, and work on informing people about policy and procedure. “I’m pleased with the progress of the organization (Engineering and Development Administrative Services),” he said. “They are operating more like a team than any other functioning group I’ve been a part of.”

Constance Walter

Velander Takes Helm

William Velander, Chair
William Velander, new chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, arrived with a vision for change. "There is a movement nationally to transform chemical engineering departments into biomedical, tissue and pharmaceutical engineering departments," he said. "I intend to make that transformation but I don't intend to follow anyone. We are the only institution with the combination of a Biological Process Development Facility and the ability to make complex genetically engineered therapeutic proteins."Since 1987, Velander has been researching safer sources of plasma-derived medicines. To help reduce the risk of contaminated blood, he has been working with the American Red Cross Holland Laboratory to pioneer genetically engineered versions of human anticoagulant Protein C, human anti-hemophiliac factors VIII and IX, and fibrinogen from the milk of transgenic livestock. "One of the reasons I came to the College is that I need to be near a medical school and I will be working closely with UNMC," he said.

Velander was instrumental in the formulation of federal regulatory guidelines for human therapeutics derived from transgenic animals through his consultancy with the FDA. He is a co-inventor of several patents concerning gene transfer and the production of recumbinant proteins and continues to research genetically engineered versions of potent anticoagulants such as Protein C and Tussue Factor Pathway Inhibitor-Factor X chimera as well as Factor VIII and IX. His work has been featured in scientific literature and in the international media. Velander recently was inducted as a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Bioengineering. He has a Ph.D in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania (1987).

Former Chair Leaves Strong Legacy

John Dunn was a junior in college when he first met Jim Eakman. “Jim was energetic and enthusiastic about teaching and the profession of chemical engineering,” said Dunn, Manager of Human Resources, Research & Engineering at ExxonMobil. “He didn’t feel his job was over when students graduated—he tried to help launch them into careers.”

Jim Eakman
Eakman, former chair of chemical engineering, died Oct. 9 after a lengthy illness. Eakman began teaching at UNL in 1968. In the mid-70s, he pursued a career in industry, but returned in 1997 as chair with a strong vision for the department, said Dunn, who also serves on the chemical engineering advisory board.

“His main goals were to build a new building, to make sure that facility had the capability to attract significant nationwide funding and national attention for research, and to increase the number of students by fivefold,” Dunn said. “Jim didn’t think small.”

When the Othmer grant came through, “Jim poured himself into seeing to every detail of the new building,” Dunn said. “He had a real passion and poured himself into it at a time when most of us would have quit—he was ill and had so many setbacks.” Eakman saw the building completed, but never taught in it. “He really wanted to do that.”

Donald F. Othmer Hall was completed in 2002 and currently houses the department and numerous labs, the Dean’s Office and the Biological Process Development Facility. “We have the research faculty, resources and capabilities that are attracting nationwide attention,” Dunn said. “Now, we just need to see Jim’s vision through to the end. We need to keep building student enrollment.”

—Constance Walter

Finding the Way

You’ve just arrived from a small western Nebraska town with a population of 1,200. During your first week, you move into a dormitory that houses nearly as many people as your neighborhood back home. As you struggle to make sense of the campus, you’re also trying to get along with your roommate, hoping you don’t have to sit alone in the dining hall and doing your best not to give in to a creeping sense of panic.

College of Engineering & Technology Learning Community members include (from left) Kyle Graham, Adam Matzner, David Wiese, Iva’n Marti’, Seth Harper, Alexis Jensen, Liz Muench, Joe Valasek, Niki Wagelie, Jason Duffy, Jamie Suing and Nathan Schemm.
As a freshman, the large university experience can be overwhelming, but through the Learning Community program, incoming freshman have the opportunity to create spaces of quiet in the storm. “The learning community definitely played an important role in the transition from high school to college, both socially and academically,” said Mark Pohl, a sophomore majoring in industrial engineering, who participated in the learning community his freshman year.

The learning community allows students with similar academic interests to live and take classes together, foster closer interactions with faculty and create a sense of community within the larger university atmosphere. The program is a collaborative effort between University Housing, Academic Affairs and the respective academic departments. Upperclassmen serve as mentors and the resident assistant is a student who participated in the community as a freshman. Currently, there are 13 learning communities in subjects ranging from nursing to biology to law and government. Within the College of Engineering & Technology, the learning community is structured to give freshmen a well-rounded experience. “Our engineering learning community members got along so well last year that we decided, as a floor, to live together the following year,” Pohl said. “If that kind of camaraderie doesn’t express the benefits of the learning community, I don’t know what will.”

In addition to living and learning together, students also benefit from co-registering for core classes, special advising opportunities, trips to visit local and regional engineering-related businesses, structured study sessions, and a support network of faculty, staff and other students. “We try to tie conceptualizations of engineering with practicalities,” said Ann Koopmann, director of college relations. “Our program shows students what engineers do in the real world.”

It is difficult to put a price tag on the benefits attached to participating in the learning community, and, fortunately, students don’t have to. To enroll in the learning community, students pay just $95, which subsidizes many of the learning community activities. “The program is an affordable way for college students to bridge reality and their expectations, and figure out their place within the world of engineering,” Koopmann said. In recent years, the engineering learning community also has benefited from private donations that have allowed participants to take regional trips without charge and longer trips at a significant discount. Without these contributions, many of the extra perks of the engineering learning community would not be possible. One substantial donor, who has chosen to remain anonymous, is responsible for learning community trips to Colorado, Florida and Texas.

Thus far, the learning community has proven itself popular. Enrollment is limited to between 75 and 80 students each year, and the community is always full. “Our greatest challenge is not having enough space for everyone who wants to participate,” Koopmann said. At the same time, it is clear that the learning community would not be as effective if it became much larger because participants wouldn’t have the same opportunities to make connections with other students. “There is no part of the learning community experience that I would change,” said Pohl. “It offers students an awesome experience and a chance to make valuable connections and lifelong friendships.”

Koopmann agreed. “For me, it’s knowing that a student is getting connected and will be all right, and become a part of the larger College of Engineering & Technology environment. To provide something that helps freshmen find their way is gratifying.”

—Roxane Gay

CSE Research Facility Open House

The Computer Science & Engineering Research Facility recently held an open house to showcase the new Access Grid/Tiled Display Wall/Visualization (PrairieView) Facility. More than 80 people attended to see demonstrations and presentations. The Access Grid is a group-to-group interaction system aimed at bringing several groups together simultaneously for large-scale scientific and technical collaborations. Applications include collaborative teamwork sessions, seminars, lectures and training. PrairieView, used in conjunction with the Access Grid, is the Computing Facility’s incursion into visualization.

New Faculty

Fire Protection Technology
David W. DeBoer and David P. Rohan come to the university from Omaha Metropolitan Utilities District. DeBoer has more than 20 years of design and construction experience in power generation and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. He has a bachelor’s degree (ME ’83) from UNL and is a registered professional engineer and certified energy manager. Rohan is a licensed mechanical engineer and has an M.S. in industrial engineering from UNL.

Computer and Electronics Engineering
Alisa Gilmore has an M.S.E.C.E. from Georgia Institute of Technology and is a registered professional electrical engineer in Nebraska. Her research focus is on telecommunications, applied industrial controls. Chunsheng Liu comes from Duke University where he received his Ph.D. in 2003. His research focus is on VLSI testing and testable design, digital system design and fault diagnosis of VLSI.

Mechanical Engineering
Lin Wu received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001. His research focus is on Micro/Nano scale fluid mechanics and heat transfer, Nanotribology, MEMS/NEMS, Nanotechnology, computational science and engineering.

Grant Awards Above $200,000

Abdelrahman, M., NABRO, “Materials Selection and Design Consideration for Moisture,” NDOR, $206,713

Reid, J., ME, “Investigating the Use of Small Diameter Softwood as Guardrail Posts,” USDA-Forest Service, $280,000

Azizinamini, A., NABRO/CE, “Steel Box System Monitoring of N-2 Over I-480 Bridge,” NDOR, $292,244

Khattak, A., MATC/CE, Pesti, G., MATC, “Driver Information System at At-grade Railroad-Highway Crossing,” NDOR, $293,762

Meagher, M., ChemE, “Process Research & Development for Therapeutic Agents and Vaccines as Countermeasures against Biological Warfare Agents,” U.S. Army Medical Research, $374,999

Robertson, B., ME, Doudin, B., Dowben, P., “Development of Novel Inorganic Dielectric Barrier Layer for Magneto-Resistive Junctions,” NSF, $400,000

Rohde, J., MWRSF/CE, Faller, R., MWRSF, Reid, J., MWRSF/ME, Sicking, D., MWRSF/CE, “Pooled Funds, Year 14,” NDOR, $545,000

Lily Wang, architectural engineering, works with the model of the Omaha Performing Arts Center. Wang and students use the model for research in scale model prediction of room acoustics. The concert hall was designed by HDR and Polshek and Partnership Architects, and was donated by the Omaha Performing Arts Society Board.


Ann Koopmann, director of college relations, was honored by the Students of the Greek Community for her “valuable contributions” to students.

Alma Ramirez-Rodgers, student recruitment, and Deb Derrick, proposal editor, received their master’s degrees in student affairs practice and communication, respectively, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Comings & Goings

New Staff: Jeff Wiess, Katie Sneddon, Nancy Lind-Olson, Toni Luebbe, Cammie Sindelar, Cynthia Wehrwien (Dean’s Office); Tanya Condon (AE); Amy Fisher (ENGM); Linda Mager (IMSE)

Departures: Amy Fisher (BSE), Cammie Sindelar (IMSE)

Student Good News

A team of architectural engineering students won second place in ASHRAE’s 2003 Student Design Project Competition. Participants designed the mechanical system for a two-story building. The students were provided plans for the building, which had been designed for a different location, and developed a design for the HVAC system.

ASHRAE Competition team members Kim Bunz, Nate Sheets, Nick Rosenberry and Dan Barnes.
The winning team were seniors in architectural engineering at the time of the competition and now enrolled in the Master of Architectural Engineering program. All are members of the ASHRAE student chapter. Lynn Werman, senior design engineer at HDR Inc., was the team’s mentor. The team won a trip to the ASHRAE Winter Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in January.

For the third consecutive year, the UNL Mini Baja Team competed in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Mini Baja competition. May 8-10, the team competed in the West competition in a large rock quarry in Provo, UT. In addition to the normal events such as the hill climb, acceleration, maneuverability and endurance race, the competition also included a rock crawl. Overall, the UNL Mini Baja team finished in 13th place out of 110 engineering colleges. For the third year in a row, none of UNL's Baja vehicles broke down during the competition. The team's quality engineering and craftsmanship continue to pay off.