Achievements | Honors, awards, publications for April 14

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Achievements | Honors, awards, publications for April 14

. The Nebraska engineering students team took first place in the annual Chem-E-Car competition. With the win, the Nebraska team qualifies to compete against collegiate teams from around the world at an annual meeting Oct. 29-Nov. 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Courtesy photo
The Nebraska engineering students team took first place in the annual Chem-E-Car competition. With the win, the Nebraska team qualifies to compete against collegiate teams from around the world at an annual meeting Oct. 29-Nov. 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Recent accomplishments by the campus community were earned by faculty Megan Friesen, Melissa Homestead, Jinsong Huang, Rupal Mehta, Prahalad Rao, Jolene Smyth, Mark van Roojen, Stephanie Wessels and Xiao Cheng Zeng. Other featured awardees include 34 students and NET.


  • Megan Friesen, assistant director of academic success and advising in the Office of Undergraduate Programs at the College of Business Administration, received the 2017 Dr. Charles Riedesel Outstanding Academic Advising Award. Presented to a full-time faculty or staff member at Nebraska who directly delivers advising services to undergraduates. Recipients must demonstrate consistently going above and beyond to create safe, inclusive and ethical environments for students, providing accurate and consistent information that support academic progress and life goals, and encouraging students to engage in activities outside the classroom. Friesen will be recognized at The Laurels, an annual award reception held in April at the university. Click here for more information.

  • Melissa Homestead, professor of English, earned a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her research project, “The Creative Partnership of American Novelist Willa Cather and Editor Edith Lewis.”

  • Rupal Mehta, assistant professor of political science, presented findings from her research about the benefits and detriments of nuclear latency during April 7 events at the Bureau of International Security at the State Department and at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Nuclear latency is described as possessing the technology to build nuclear weapons, without having yet done so. Its benefits may include serving as a deterrent against potential aggressors and providing a bargaining chip in international negotiations. It also could be problematic, spurring international sanctions and preventive strikes. In a research article forthcoming in International Studies Quarterly, Mehta and a co-author compared latency measures with military and bargaining outcomes. Their findings suggest that the drawbacks of acquiring latent nuclear capabilities outweigh its advantages as a deterrent. Mehta received funding for her research through a $96,000 award from the Defense Threat Deduction Agency.

  • Prahalad Rao, doctoral candidate and assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, has been selected as one of 17 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Rao’s research focuses on sensor-based monitoring and diagnosis of complex biophysical and manufacturing processes. His doctorate dissertation was nominated for the university-wide best dissertation award in 2013 and the IIE Pritsker Dissertation Prize in 2014 by the industrial engineering department at Ohio State University. Click here for more information.

  • Jolene Smyth, associate professor of sociology and director of the Bureau of Sociological Research, was a member of the team that earned the 2017 Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Smyth and her team of collaborators were honored for their work on developing a web-push data collection methodology. The methodology is now being using by the United States Census Bureau, as well as many other organizations around the world to conduct major surveys relevant to public policy decisions.

  • Mark van Roojen, professor of philosophy, earned a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his research project, “Moral Rationalism: Making Sense of the Reasons that Justify and Explain Morally Right Action.”

  • Stephanie Wessels, associate professor of teaching, learning and teacher education, is the 2017 recipient of the Donald R. and Mary Lee Swanson Award for Teaching Excellence. She was recognized at a campus luncheon in her honor April 7 and will also be honored at the CEHS Awards Ceremony April 21. Award recipients must demonstrate that their teaching promotes thinking, encourages engaged, active and continuous learning, and holds high standards for student performance. They must also provide evidence that they are working to improve their own teaching, including research and scholarly activity. Click here for more information.

  • A team led by Xiao Cheng Zeng, the Chancellor’s University Professor of Chemistry, published the cover article of the April 5 issue of Advanced Energy Materials. The cover illustration shows the molecular structure of a new material that holds potential for the generation of solar energy. The material is an organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite based on calculations that Zeng’s team performed at the university’s Holland Computing Center. To make the material more environmentally friendly while maintaining its energy-conversion efficiency, the team substituted tin and germanium for lead. The work grew out of collaboration with Jinsong Huang, the Susan Rosowski Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, with support from Nebraska’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and the National Science Foundation.


  • Ethann Barnes, an agronomy doctoral student specializing in weed science in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, received a Chancellor’s Fellowship. Barnes’s doctoral research will focus on multiple aspects of popcorn production in Nebraska including herbicide sensitivity, weed control and pollen-mediated gene flow from field corn to popcorn. The emergence, competition and management of glyphosate-resistant common ragweed in Nebraska soybean, all part of an ever-growing concern facing the state’s largest industry, were the focus of Barnes’s master’s research. Chancellor’s Fellowships are designed to assist departments with the recruitment of superior graduate students by adding fellowship funds to an assistantship. Recipients must have an excellent academic record, a minimum 3.0 GPA in their previous degree and excellent letters of recommendation.

  • Jessica Burnett, doctoral student in natural resources, has been named a Big Ten Academic Alliance Traveling Scholar for the summer 2017 semester. Her host will be Michigan State University, where she will take ecology-modeling courses. This program allows doctoral students to spend up to a full academic year pursuing specialized courses of study, researching unique library collections, and working in advanced laboratories and facilities at other Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions. Off-campus opportunities must enhance the doctoral student’s course of study and cannot be available at the home campus.

  • Six Glenn Korff School of Music vocalists won recognition recently in music publisher Hal Leonard’s 2017 North American Vocal Competition. Competing in the All Collegiate Musical Theatre Category, the vocalists are: Liza Piccoli, second place; Matthew Carter, honorable mention; Abby Kurth and Dakota Mathew, finalists; Brittany Albin and Victoria Handford, semi-finalists. Hal Leonard, the world’s largest print music publisher, launched the innovative concept of a serious music competition for voice students, comprised entirely of YouTube video entries, in 2011. More than 1,000 entries were received in eight categories in this year’s competition. Click here for more information.

  • The Office of Graduate Studies presented 10 awards for outstanding graduate education at its annual Graduate Studies Awards Luncheon April 5. Award winners are: Jodi Sangster, 2017 Lowe R. and Mavis M. Folsom Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award; Delane Boyd, 2017 Lowe R. and Mavis M. Folsom Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award; Abraham Flanigan, Katherine Kidwell and Rana Young, 2017 Outstanding Graduate Research and Creative Activities Award; Raeda Anderson and Kaylee Barber, 2017 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award; Grace Bauer, Melanie Simpson and Matthew Van Den Broeke, 2017 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Education.

  • Three broadcasting students won grand prize trophies at the 2016-17 National Undergraduate Student Electronic Media Competition March 25 in New York City. Winners were recognized at the awards ceremony of the National Broadcasting Society-AERho 75th national convention. Grand Prize for Audio Sport Segment went to senior Kellan Heavican for “Tommy Armstrong’s Toughness Leads the Way for Nebraska.” Bassey Arikpo, sophomore, won the Grand Prize for Animation with “The Problem with YouTube Copyright.” Sophomore Zachary Penrice won the Grand Prize for Audio Feature Segment with “Kneeling During the National Anthem.” Arikpo was also an honorable mention in the Video Comedy Segment competition. Click here for more information.

  • A team of Nebraska engineering students took first place and a $200 prize in the annual Chem-E-Car competition at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Mid-America Student Regional Conference, which was held March 31-April 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Nebraska team also earned the Driver Award for the most creative starting and stopping mechanism. Teams in the Chem-E-Car Competition design and construct a car, powered by a chemical energy source, that safely carries a load over a given distance and then stops at a designated point. Each car is allowed two runs and the car with the closest stopping point to the finish line is the winner. The Nebraska team includes: Ernesto Bravo Baltodano, Eric Burbach, Julian Davis, Austin Eidem, Alex McKinney, Ahbab Murtoza, Austin Osborn, Bryce Puck, Mary Rethwisch and Shelby Williby. With the win, the Nebraska team qualifies to compete against collegiate teams from around the world at the AIChE annual meeting Oct. 29-Nov. 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Click here for more information.

  • The Nebraska Law team of Kevin Adler, Amy Swearer, and Nathaniel Woodford competed at North American rounds of the International Institute of Space Law Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition. The team placed second overall in a field of 16 teams. The team was coached by law alumni Danielle Miller, 2015, and Adam Little, 2012.


  • NET earned 10 Eric Sevareid awards during the Midwest Journalism Conference April 1 in Minneapolis. Competing in a six-state Midwest region, NET was recognized for excellence in radio, television and online broadcast news. For radio news, NET was recognized with two first place awards: “Sold for Sex: Trafficking in Nebraska” as a series and “Nebraska’s Inland Ocean: Restoring the Saline Wetlands” for individual multimedia storytelling. Three awards of merit were also given: “Watching Our Water: The Challenge To Keep It Clean” for team multimedia storytelling, “Cabela’s Merger Impact” for general reporting and the NET News website for the website competition. For television news, NET was recognized with a first place award for “Watching Our Water: The Challenge to Keep It Clean” for team multimedia storytelling. Four awards of merit were also given for “Watching Our Water: The Challenge To Keep It Clean” for documentary, “Jazz Reunion” for soft feature, “Homeless in Nebraska” for talk/public affairs and NET News website for the website competition.

This column is a regular Friday feature of Nebraska Today. Faculty, staff and students can submit their achievements to be considered for this column via email to For more information, call 402-472-8515

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