Rodney Soukup’s Czech ties have served him well throughout the years, personally and professionally. A Minnesota native who grew up in Montgomery, the self-proclaimed “Kolacky Capital of the World,” Soukup received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota. He began his teaching career at the University of Iowa and then was hired in 1976 as associate professor of electrical engineering at UNL. After 35 years, including 22 as department chair, Soukup is now retiring.
His years as department chair were productive, including growing the program from 14 to 25 faculty, increasing undergraduate and graduate enrollment and research funding, and moving the department from Nebraska Hall to the current location in the “Link.” The faculty now enjoy offices with windows, he added with a grin.
He describes his teaching style as “traditional,” including standing in front of class in a shirt and tie.
“I’ve tried to pattern myself after the best teachers I had as a student. I’ve never felt like it was my job to entertain, so probably the graduate students have liked my style better,” he said. “If I’ve led them in the right direction, they should be able to learn on their own.”
Soukup’s experiences as a chair, along with his research in solar cells and thin films, have enabled him to meet people across the world and also bring his Czech heritage full circle. In 1990, he began working with colleagues at the Institute of Physics at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic. He knew one person there and on his way to Vienna for a meeting, stopped by to discuss mutual research. He noted that “it took awhile to tie our work together in a meaningful way,” but that the partnership has evolved nicely. They are seeking ways to create solar cells that “will be really cheap … that’s the ultimate goal.”
While on his many trips to Prague, Soukup tracked down the home of his great-grandfather nearby and learned more about his heritage.
Soukup plans to continue his research and travels to Prague and will maintain his office in Scott Engineering Center at UNL for a while—“but no teaching, extra service or committees.”
So will there be any time for fun in his retirement? Soukup said he plans on plenty of golf. Is he any good? “I’m definitely not a golfer, but I’m going to be out there a lot anyway.” He and his wife also will be touring Switzerland soon.
“Being at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been a wonderful experience for me,” he said. “I was able to work with students and the faculty, and also make friends all over the country through other organizations, including the opportunity and privilege of being elected president of the National Electrical Engineering Department Heads Association and treasurer of the IEEE Education Society. It’s all been very beneficial to me.”