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What's Front and Center:

Elegant Solutions Professor Wins National,
Local Awards
Reaching for the Stars
Facility to Produce Valley
Fever Vaccine
Professor Named to
UNL Teaching Academy
New Chair Sets
His Sights High
Racecar Team
Takes the Trophy
CM Student Heads to
Law School
News and Announcements


There was a time when many things were impossible because ideas outpaced technology—a time, for example, when engineers had to use unreliable vacuum tubes to build electrical circuits. But then, in 1947, the transistor was invented, and in conjunction with diodes, capacitors and resistors, the age of the modern electrical circuit began.

Despite the invention of the transistor, problems persisted as the complexity of circuits grew. Electrical engineers realized that assembling complex circuits by hand was virtually impossible. The integrated circuit became the solution to this problem of numbers. “An integrated circuit is an interconnection of various electronic components on a silicon die that has a pre-defined functionality for a given application,” said Sina Balkir, associate professor of electrical engineering. “These integrated circuits are systems where everything is portable, cheaper and more reliable.”

Balkir works in a medium most find inexplicable. His is a world of problems and solutions; using silicon chips embedded with intricate integrated circuits to enhance the technologies that are increasingly integral to our daily lives. He specializes in the computer-aided design of very large scale integrated (VLSI) circuits and mixed signal (both digital and analog) systems. The very large scale integration of silicon chips first occurred in the 1980s and today, hundreds of thousands of electronic components can fit on a silicon chip the size of a fingernail.

In collaboration with a postdoctoral fellow, Balkir is embarking on several research projects. In research funded by the Catylyst Foundation, Balkir is working on focal plane video compression and investigating new video compression schemes that are cost-effective, while requiring low levels of power. “With the foundation grant, we are working on a system implementation that will create a camera that can compress an image on the focal plane, instantaneously,” Balkir said.

A prototype of a camera that can instantaneously compress an image on a focal plane.
Balkir also is involved in the circuit and system level modeling of nanostructures. The research explores new ways of designing applications that will create a paradigm shift from structures to nanostructures and has potential in cellular neural net behavior. Balkir recently joined the boron carbide neutron detector research group—a group that has made news recently by developing a neutron detector, the only one of its kind in the state of Nebraska, that is more efficient, compact and sturdier than its predecessors. His expertise in integrated circuits will be directed toward the packaging aspect of the project.

In addition to his research, Balkir teaches senior- and graduate-level circuit classes that focus on analog, digital and mixed signal circuits. These higher-level courses are design-oriented and give students a hands-on opportunity to design their own circuits. Students have a wide variety of resources at their disposal including dedicated labs that run specialized software, such as Magic, SPICE, Cadence, and Mentor Graphics on SUN workstations. “We start by providing the specifications of a circuit—the complexity, power requirements, type of functionality desired and speed with which operations should be completed,” Balkir said. “Those specifications are then translated into a design problem.” After coming up with a rough design the old-fashioned way, using paper and pencil, students use software to simulate, verify and iterate their circuit designs in order to further perfect them.

Once the circuits have been designed, they are sent for fabrication at the MOSIS facility at the University of Southern California, a semi-conductor manufacturer sponsored consortium that provides free fabrication of integrated circuits for students in organized courses, and low-cost fabrication for academic researchers. The circuit spends two to three months at the silicon foundry where it is fabricated, then the samples are returned and students test the chips to see how well they comply with the expected results. “The design software we use is very robust,” Balkir said. “Ninety percent of the chips we design will function.”

Balkir also has used his expertise in VLSI to co-write a textbook entitled “Analog VLSI Design Automation” with Gunhan Dundar and Selcuk Ogreni. The text addresses a fully integrated, top-down approach to analog VLSI design automation and presents a methodology for each level of the design hierarchy, providing definitions, working examples and validity demonstrations.

With the remarkable advances that have been made since the invention of the very first integrated chip in 1958, by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments, one has to wonder when we will reach the limit of what chips can accomplish. And though the cycle has matured over the years, the next stage of integrated circuits will be adding more functionality to these minute systems and increasing the speed of sensor integration. “Industry predicts that there will be a limit to what a chip can accomplish in one or two decades but each time there is a problem to be solved by a chip, someone comes up with an elegant solution,” Balkir said.

Professor Wins National, Local Awards

Stephanie Adams, associate professor of industrial and management systems engineering and interim associate dean of graduate studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, recently received two awards.

The National Society of Black Engineers, a student-managed organization dedicated to raising the profile of African American engineers, gave Adams the Janice A. Lumpkin Educator of the Year award, one of several Golden Torch Awards the organization gives each year. The awards honor individuals for past and future accomplishments and for inspiring young, black engineers to find personal and professional success. Adams also received one of two UNL 2004 Chancellor’s “Fulfilling the Dream” Awards. The award was established in 1997 to honor individuals who have contributed to the UNL community or the wider Lincoln community by their exemplary action in promoting the goals and vision of Dr. Martin Luthter King, Jr.

A member of the Nebraska faculty since 1998, Adams has been an integral part of efforts in the College of Engineering & Technology and in the university as a whole to recruit minority and women students. Adams’ efforts have gone far beyond what is required of a classroom teacher or an administrator, volunteering her time to programs such as Women Interested in Engineering, which introduces young women to the college and engineering; MESA, which works with minority students interested in the sciences; Bright Lights, a program that introduces young people to science and engineering; and the UNL Admissions Office on such events and Minority Recruiting Day.

In addition, she has been instrumental in helping students re-establish a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers on campus and travels the country to attract minority and women graduate students to UNL, paying particular attention to historically black colleges and universities in the South.

Reaching for the Stars

Michael Waid in a lab that researches extra vehicular activity.
Though he has strong roots in Nebraska, Michael Waid, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, has aspirations that reach beyond the state, this country and even this planet. For the past year, Waid has held a co-op at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex., where he has had first-hand experience in what it takes to reach for the stars. “I love being a part of exploring space,” Waid said. “In my time at NASA I’ve had the invaluable opportunity to learn about the history of the space program, see the big picture and meet the pioneers of space exploration.”

Waid began his co-op during the fall of 2002 and returned to NASA in January. “The best part of the co-op experience at NASA is that you can work where you want,” Waid said. During his first tour, Waid worked in the neuroscience motion lab, studying the effects of microgravity on astronaut locomotion and dynamic visual acuity once astronauts return to earth. During his second tour in summer 2003, he worked on carbon nanotube applications. This semester he worked in the extra-vehicular activity and space suits division, developing tools for space walks. “Space research has many earth-bound applications, and a lot of technology transfer goes on between NASA and other research agencies,” he said.

Though the work at NASA is rigorous, Waid still finds time for personal pursuits. He remains active in his Lincoln-based extra-curricular activities as the president of Triangle Fraternity, a member of College of Engineering & Technology Student Advisory Board and a student ambassador. He also is a licensed pilot and flies single engine planes, though not as often as he would like. Waid plans to work at NASA upon graduation and, like most of his peers in the NASA co-op program, would like to become an astronaut some day. “The possibility of traveling into space is a primary motivation for most of the people who work at NASA,” Waid said.
—Roxane Gay

Facility to Produce Valley Fever Vaccine

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Biological Process Development Facility, directed by Michael Meagher, professor of chemical engineering, will begin work on process research and development to produce a vaccine for human clinical trials against coccidioidomycosis, or Valley Fever, which is caused by the fungus, Coccidioides immitis. The fungus exists in soil in areas that have arid or semi-arid conditions and hot summers with mild, nonfreezing winters. Although Valley Fever is not contagious, it can progress to a chronic and disseminated disease, and can be fatal. Antibiotics are available, but they are only partially effective and often require months or years of treatment. An estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people are exposed to Valley Fever each year in the United States, with approximately one-third of the new infections occurring in California.

Dr. Michael Meagher
“The first step is to evaluate the recombinant yeast expression system producing the recombinant vaccine candidate,” Meagher said. “Studies at UNL will determine the ability of this particular yeast strain to produce a vaccine at levels suitable for manufacturing. If the yeast expression system meets expectations, we can proceed to full product development.”

The project is administered through the California State University, Bakersfield Foundation and primary funding comes from sources including the California HealthCare Foundation, the State of California Department of Health Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and others.

“It is hoped that this stage of the project will be completed in the next three to five months so that full process development can get started,” Meagher said.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Davis, University of Arizona, Medical College of Ohio in Toledo and the University of Texas Health Science Center also are involved in this stage of the project.

The Biological Process Development Facility is one of the few American university facilities that can take vaccines and therapeutics from the recombinant gene stage to a product suitable for human clinical trials as mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
—Kelly Bartling

Professor Named to UNL Teaching Academy

Paul Savory, new member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, talks with student Chad Zoucha
In a first for the College of Engineering & Technology, Paul Savory, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, was elected to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Of 19 members in the academy, Savory is the first engineering faculty member and the only faculty member chosen this year. That’s quite an honor for Savory, and for the College, he said.

“As the first College of Engineering & Technology faculty member to be elected into this group, my hope is that it will help raise the campus awareness that we as engineer’s are having an impact on improving the direction, role and value of teaching and student learning at the university.”

The Academy recognizes faculty who are advocates of teaching excellence at UNL; exemplify the skills, talents and characteristics of good teachers; and, both as individuals and as a community of teacher scholars, help model effective teaching that will improve learning for students at all levels. The award comes with a $2,500 stipend for the duration of the faculty member’s time at UNL. Savory was nominated by Susan Hallbeck, associate professor of IMSE, and John Olson, an alumnus of the department.

“This is a great honor for Paul and is a reflection of the quality of teaching in this college,” said John Ballard, associate dean. “He’s been an outstanding teacher and a leader in the Peer Review of Teaching Project.”

Savory, who has been with UNL since 1994, has been co-coordinator of the University of Nebraska Peer Review of Teaching Project since 2000. The project, which has been funded for the past five years by the Pew Charitable Trust, focuses on how the intellectual work of teaching can be documented, promoted and valued for improving undergraduate and graduate education.

New Chair Sets His Sights High

Jerry Hudgins
Ask Jerry Hudgins about his plans for the Department of Electrical Engineering and the new chair offers up a slate of goals. Among them:

• build on current research in the department
• grow the Ph.D. program
• recruit more students to graduate and undergradate programs
• double the women in the program
• strengthen ties with the departments of Computer Science and Engineering and Computer and Eletronics Engineering

And just how do you make all that happen? “You get people together and talk about the possibilities growth offers,” Hudgins said. Growth is awfully high on Hudgins’ list of priorities.

The department has 235 undergraduate students and 80 graduate students. Hudgins wants to see those numbers increase dramatically, but knows it will take a lot of work. “We’re not big enough in EE or in name recognition nationally that we can throw info onto the Web to recruit grad students,” he said. “We have to recruit through personal contacts to get people to recognize our program and build a network—through students who come here and with faculty who send students.” He also wants to double the number of women in the department, which he said should be a pretty achievable goal—the department has only 13.

Hudgins also wants to attract more graduate students. “If you’re producing Ph.D.s, you’re increasing research and other scholarly activities,” he said. One of the key elements in doing that is to change the perception people have about doctorates. Because an undergraduate with a 3.0 or above can make good money out of college, they often don’t think about going on to graduate school. “We need to help people recognize the opportunities a Ph.D. offers in industry and academia.”

Hudgins has set his sights high for his new department. “One of the reasons I came here is that I believe the faculty are of sufficient quality and that with additional hires, we can move into the top 30 EE programs in the country.”

John Ballard, associate dean for academics in the college, believes Hudgins will achieve his goals. “He’ll bring dynamic, progressive leadership to the department and to the college. We’re excited about having him here and look forward to working with him.”

Hudgins has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Texas Tech and comes to the College of Engineering & Technology after nearly 20 years at the University of South Carolina. While there, he served as associate chair and interim chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He is a Fellow of IEEE, a distinguished alumnus of Texas Tech University Electrical Engineering Academy and a recipient of the IEEE Third Millennium Medal for Outstanding Contributions in the area of Power Electronics. He also was an evaluator for 2000-04 ABET EE Program and has served in numerous societies.
—Constance Walter

Racecar Team Takes the Trophy

Pictured: Dean Sicking (left) and John Reid holding the trophy; Karla Polivka, in the driver’s seat; Ron Faller (left) and John Rohde, kneeling; Bob Bielenberg (left) and Jim Holloway, sitting
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Midwest Roadside Safety Facility recently received the Bill France Award of Excellence. The award was given to Dean Sicking and his team for work on the SAFER barrier system, which has been installed in racetracks around the world. The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier system works as an energy absorber, dissipating the impact energy of a crash and distributing it over a longer distance of the wall without propelling the vehicle back into high-speed traffic. The award, which is given at the discretion of Bill France Jr., former president of NASCAR, has been presented just three times in seven years.

In addition to winning this award, the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility was featured on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels.” The segment, “Modern Marvels, Racetrack Tech,” documented the history of racetrack safety technology and improvements and highlighted SAFER barrier research, design and testing at UNL. MwRSF director Sicking and engineer Ronald Faller were interviewed and crash-test video was featured for a large part of the program. More information on the segment can be found at www.historychannel.com.

CM Student Heads to Law School

Jason McIntosh graduated in May with a degree in construction management, but unlike many of his peers, he will not be managing the construction of buildings or bridges next fall. Instead, he will be attending the University of Michigan to study under some of the most renowned dispute resolution experts in the world.

Professor Tim Wentz (left) and Jason McIntosh see eye to eye on construction management.
After law school, Jason intends to conduct research with the purpose of finding new ways to prevent and resolve construction disputes. In recognition of his potential to have a significant impact on the construction industry, many law schools including Duke, offered him admission and scholarships. Both of these schools receive more than 5,000 applications a year and select only a handful of recipients for their most prestigious scholarships.

Jason said he owes much of his success to the comstruction management program and faculty at UNL. “Law schools recognize how rigorous and unique our program is,” he said. “Although there are many reasons it is one of the best in the country, I think the professors and students are the heart of the program.” He was especially complimentary of Tim Wentz, interim chair of the department. “His interdisciplinary knowledge and passion for teaching created an environment where students learn to be critical thinkers and innovative leaders,” McIntosh said. “The construction management program has helped me prepare for and gain admittance to some of the best legal institutions in our country.” Jason also was accepted by Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

Moore Appointed Associate Dean

Ray Moore
Since 1997 when Ray Moore came to the College of Engineering & Technology, he has served as chair of civil engineering, co-chair of civil engineering and interim associate dean for the Omaha programs. In February, Moore was given a permanent appointment as associate dean in Omaha — and he’s excited about the opportunities it brings.

“The move to college-level administration will allow me to further integrate the educational and research objectives of the college on both campuses,” Moore said. Among those objectives are the implementation of the School of Architectural Engineering and Construction; working with ABET on the initial accreditation of architectural engineering and computer and electronics engineering; and enhancing the Omaha programs within The Peter Kiewit Institute through conferences, course sharing and seminars.

The top priority, Moore said, is “to continue improving upon and offering new academic opportunities for our students and faculty.”

New Faculty

Biological Systems Engineering

Suat Irmak received his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Florida with an emphasis on irrigation engineering and agricultural water management. His specific areas of interest are efficient use water resources in irrigated agriculture, soil-plant-atmosphere relations, evapotranspiration measurements and modeling, and soil physics. He has research and extension appointments with BSE.

Ayse Irmak received her Ph.D. in agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida. Her areas of interest are computer simulation of crop production and soil water processes, climate effects on agricultural production, soil carbon sequestration, and precision farming.

Grant Awards Above $200,000

Dvorak, B., NDEQ, “Partners in Pollution Prevention Intern Program,” $211,026

Dzenis, Y., NSF, “Nirt: Manufacturing of Novel Continuous Nanocrystalline Ceramic Nanofibers with Superior Mechanical Properties,” $250,000

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

Meagher, M., Dynport Vaccine Co., LLC, “Fast Track Production of a Haptavelent Botulinum Vaccine,” $300,494

Sicking, D., Indy Racing League, “Continued Development, Evaluation, and Field Installation of the SAFER Barrier for High-Speed Racetrack Applications,” $427,333

Elias, S. FRA, “Track Stability Assessment,” $461,944

Comings & Goings

New Staff: Linda Mager, staff secretary, IMSE; Nancy Swarts and Daphne Nebel, secretaries, BSE; Jamie Boehm, extension water qualtiy specialist; Lisa Stahr and Lakshmi Koppolu, research engineers, BSE.

Kudos

Chuck Riedesel and Don Costello recently were named excellent advisors by students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. They received their awards at a Student Advisory Board meeting.

Rod Soukup, professor, electrical engineering, was one of five people inducted into the Montgomery-Lonsdale (Minnesota) High School “Wall of Fame” for outstanding career achievements.

Christopher Tuan, associate professor, civil engineering, received an Award of Excellence from the American Concrete Institute, Nebraska Chapter. The award was given for “the use of concrete in the state of Nebraska” on the Roca Spur Bridge. Tuan worked with the Nebraska Department of Roads to install conductive concrete on the bridge. Conductive concrete keeps bridges clear of ice and snow, making them safer. The concrete also will be featured on the Discovery Channel. Go to http://www.exn.ca to watch a video of how the material works.

Reinhard Piltner, assistant professor, engineering mechanics, received a “Certificate of Recognition for Contributions to Students” from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Parents Association and Teaching Council. Piltner was recognized “as a member of the University community who has made a significant difference in a student’s life.”

John Boye, professor, electrical engineering, was named the Nebraska Chapter of Triangle Fraternity Faculty Member of the Year. In the fall, he received special recognition from Triangle Fraternity’s National Headquarters for “leadership and valiant efforts ... to lead us to where we are today ... and for exemplify[ing] the values of Triangle.” In addition, Boye received a “Certificate of Appreciation” in recognition of valuable contributions to students of the Greek Community and was recognized by the College of Engineering & Technology Student Advisory Board for excellence in advising and contributions to students.

Susan Hallbeck, associate professor, industrial and management systems engineering, received the Black Masque Chapter of Mortar Board Professor of the Month for March. The award honors those dedicated “to excellence in teaching and advancement of students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.” Hallbeck also was named an outstanding advisor by the College of Engineering & Technology Student Advisory Board.

Engineering@Nebraska (formerly known as Contacts) received a Merit Award in Technical Communications from the Society of Technical Communications, Twin Cities Chapter.

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NAHB Student Chapter Places in Nat’l Competition

The Department of Construction Management student chapter of the National Association of Homebuilders placed sixth in the NAHB Residential Construction Competition held in January in Las Vegas. The competition, sponsored by Centex Homes, brings together student chapters from across the country to present responses to real-life homebuilding situations in front of a panel of judges made up of NAHB members. This year’s competition included more than 40 high schools, vocational schools, community colleges and universities.

In addition, two CM students, Mike Corado and Johnathon Nabor, received major scholarships though a competitive application process. Corado received a $5,000 scholarship, while Nabor received $2,000.

Student Good News

Ravi Billa, MSME 2004, won the student prize at the 2003 Midwestern American Chemical Society meeting for his presentation, “III-IV Semi-conductors for Energy Conversion.” He is studying with Jennifer Brand, associate professor of engineering.

Michelle Vigeant, a graduate student in architectural engineering, received a prestigious NSERC award from the Canadian Government. In extending the award, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada said Vigeant showed “academic excellence, research potential, communication skills and interpersonal and leadership abilities.” Vigeant, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, will receive $17,300 over 12 months and plans to stay at UNL (in Omaha) and continue her work with Dr. Lily Wang.

Students Place in ASC Competition

Three teams from the college placed in the Associated Schools of Construction Region IV competition Nov. 3 in Nebraska City.

Construction management students Jen Cowher, Jason McIntosh, John Scdoris, Don Mac, Neil Hams and Mike Poulton took first place in residential. The team was coached by Charles Berryman and DeAnna Eliker and sponsored by Pulte Homes. Another group of CM students, Lenny Boury, Sam Garden, Miranda Mueller, Lea Thoene, Mike Watson and Quan Tran, placed second in the commercial division. Their team was coached by Charles Berryman and Blake Wentz and was sponsored by Centex-Rodgers.

Construction systems students Evan Dwyer, Andrew Meyn, Christopher Miller, Travis Ream, Jeff Skrivanek and Michael Kluver took second place in the heavy civil division. The team was coached by James Goedert and sponsored by Peter Kiewit & Sons.

RESIDENTIAL, first place team: Jen Cowher, Jason McIntosh, Mike Poulton, Don Mac, John Scdoris and Neil Hams.

COMMERCIAL, second place team: Sam Garden, Quan Tran, Miranda Mueller, Lea Thoene, Mike Watson and Lenny Boury.

HEAVY CIVIL, second place team: Evan Dwyer, Andrew Meyn, Christopher Miller, Travis Ream, Jeff Skrivanek, Michael Kluver.