December 4, 2023

Nebraska in the national news: November 2023

Mmmm, ham.

A Husker animal scientist helped explain the science behind the holiday staple for a Nov. 1 Inverse article — one of a dozen-plus national news stories featuring Husker administrators, faculty, staff, students, centers and programs in November.

Gary Sullivan, associate professor of meat science, discussed how some companies have moved away from using synthetic nitrites during the curing process in favor of natural alternatives derived from raw spinach, beets, celery and lettuce. These hams can be labeled as “uncured” under current Food and Drug Administration guidelines, Sullivan said, but the process these natural nitrites inflict on the meat is essentially the same as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.

Sullivan explained how the curing process can help ward off pathogens and change the meat’s flavor.

“A lot of flavors are associated with fat-derived compounds,” he said.

While meat cures, nitric oxide reduces oxidation of these compounds, creating less diversity of flavor.

Sullivan closed the article by detailing how consumers’ ham preferences have evolved over the years.

“Back in the day, a lot of people would get fresh ham and use it for Christmas, but now we’ve gone into cured ham, then boneless ham, now into the honey-baked and all that,” he said. “It’s changed based on people’s preferences and how much time they want to spend cooking.”

Additional national news coverage in November included:

Melissa Homestead, English, director of **The Cather Project **at Nebraska, was featured in a Nov. 1 “Bell Ringers” video, produced by C-SPAN. She discussed the impact of the Homestead Act of 1862 on Nebraska and its relevance to Willa Cather’s “My Ántonia.”

Kendra Ordia, interior design, was interviewed for a Nov. 2 Architectural Digest article titled “How to create a healing space for recovery post-surgery.” She discussed the importance of natural light and views of nature in such a space.

A team of Husker faculty is set to carry forward the third phase of a multidisciplinary initiative to create a network of national ag data repositories. The project aims to create a secure cyber framework, supported by appropriate policy and regulations, to enable efficient producer access to precision-ag data assembled by ag equipment, sensors, drones and satellites. The Rural Radio Network and Beef magazine ran articles on the project.

Eric Berger, law, was interviewed for a Nov. 6 Wall Street Journal article on the legal battle over Alabama’s looming use of a new execution method known as nitrogen hypoxia. Berger said the state is likely to succeed in its push to use the new method. He said courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, are deferential to state law when it comes to death-penalty protocols, likely in part because justices want to avoid delaying executions through lengthy litigation. (This article requires a subscription.)

Katherine Ankerson, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, has been named a “University Technology Leader of the Year” in the 2023 EdScoop 50 Awards. The awards highlight the people and projects defining the future of technology at higher education institutions.

A 2012 study led by Karl Reinhard, School of Natural Resources, was highlighted in a Nov. 8 Live Science article on discoveries made from fossilized human poop. The study found that Indigenous people in the American Southwest had a diet that was 20 to 30 times more fibrous than a typical modern diet and that the rapid change from high-fiber to low-fiber processed foods may explain why many Indigenous people have Type 2 diabetes today.

Tierney Lorenz, psychology, was quoted in a Nov. 9 New York Times article on the sexual side effects of antidepressants. Researchers found that men were much more likely to report such side effects to their doctors than women were, even though women are more often prescribed antidepressants. “The charitable interpretation is that we simply have more treatments available for male patients, and so doctors are more likely to ask after things that they feel they can actually help with,” she said. “The significantly less charitable interpretation is that we still live in a very sexist society that doesn’t believe that women should have sexual interest.” (This article requires a subscription.)

Anastasia Meyer, an agricultural profitability instructor with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for a Nov. 9 NPR story on farmers wanting more money for crop support programs in the new farm bill being negotiated in Congress. Most farmers would go bankrupt before Title I support kicks in, Meyer said. “This is not going to save any farmers if prices really go downhill fast,” she said.

UNL Campus Recreation will begin a $4.9 million renovation in late November, Campus Rec magazine reported Nov. 9. The project aims to improve inclusivity on campus by updating locker room space, creating universal access to the swimming pool and adding more strength and conditioning areas. Amy Lanham, director of Campus Recreation, was interviewed for the story.

Qi (Steve) Hu, Earth and atmospheric sciences, was interviewed for a Nov. 10 Scientific American article on whether farmers’ almanacs can be trusted for weather predictions. Two almanacs predict colder weather and more snowfall than last year, but the NOAA says that the northern U.S. will be warmer than usual and the southern U.S. has even odds of cooler, average or warmer weather. “When you have so many things out there, and some of them are in conflict or totally opposite, which ones do you use?” Hu said.

Michelle Paxton, law, director of the Children’s Justice Clinic and the Children’s Justice Attorney Education Program at Nebraska, wrote a Nov. 14 column for the American Bar Association website titled “Preventing legal deserts in our rural communities.” She wrote that rural communities have a severe lack of access to attorneys, especially those who specialize in child welfare and youth justice, but that the university’s attorney education program is a promising model for addressing the inequity.

Midwest Messenger published a Nov. 16 profile on James Schnable, agronomy and horticulture, new Nebraska Corn Checkoff presidential chair. Mike Boehm, Harlan Vice Chancellor for IANR and vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska system, was quoted in the story.

Paul Weitzel, law, was interviewed for a Nov. 21 Reuters article on some investors in OpenAI considering suing the company’s board over the abrupt firing of CEO Sam Altman on Nov. 17. (He was rehired as CEO on Nov. 22.) Weitzel said a nonprofit board’s legal obligations can be narrowed in a corporate structure such as OpenAI, which used a limited liability company as its operating arm, potentially further insulating the nonprofit’s directors from investors. Even if investors found a way to sue, Weitzel said they would have a “weak case” because companies have broad latitude under the law to make business decisions.

Andrew Little, School of Natural Resources, was quoted in a Nov. 23 New York Times article on scientists working to understand why wild turkeys are on the decline in the South and Midwest. According to the article, scientists generally agree that there are multiple reasons for the decline and that the specifics might vary from place to place. “It’s kind of like death by 1,000 cuts,” Little said. “There’s a lot of different things, and there are a lot of different factors.” (This article requires a subscription.)

Jensina Davis, Nikee Shrestha and Michael Tross, all doctoral students in James Schnable’s lab, were featured on the Nov. 28 episode of the “Humans + AI” podcast. The researchers discussed how they are using artificial intelligence to grow better corn.

A 2022 report by the Conservation and Survey Division on Nebraska’s groundwater levels was cited in a Nov. 30 New York Times article on the push to replace jet fuel with ethanol to combat global warming. The report showed that pockets of western and southwestern Nebraska saw aquifer levels fall due to irrigation, prompting local regulators to restrict use. (This article requires a subscription.)

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at If you have additions to the list, contact Sean Hagewood at or 402-472-8514. If you have suggestions for national news stories, contact Leslie Reed at or 402-472-2059.