Nebraska in the national news: October 2018

Nebraska in the national news: October 2018

An opinion piece about self-driving cars creating less walkable, livable communities and a podcast about the differences between conservatives and liberals were among 35-plus national news items involving University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty, administrators, students and programs in October.

Daniel Piatkowski, assistant professor of community and regional planning, wrote an Oct. 2 piece for The Conversation suggesting that autonomous vehicles will run counter to modern urban planning goals of creating people-centered communities.

“We can have a world of safe, efficient, driverless cars, or we can have a world where people can walk, bike and take transit in high-quality, human-scaled communities,” he wrote.

One possible solution would be to put self-driving cars and bicycles on different areas of streets, or transform certain streets into “autonomous only” thoroughfares. But these massive road-building projects would be expensive.

Another solution would be to make new rules governing how people should behave around autonomous vehicles.

“However, telling people what they can and can’t do in the streets raises a key problem,” he wrote. “In vibrant communities, roads are public property, which everyone can use for transportation, of course — but also for commerce, civil discourse and even civil disobedience.”

The article was picked up by GreenBiz, Fast Company and U.S. News and World Report.

John Hibbing, Foundation Regent University Professor of Political Science, was the guest on National Public Radio’s Hidden Brain podcast on Oct. 8. He discussed the psychological and neurological differences between conservatives and liberals.

Hibbing said about 30 to 40 percent of people’s political attitudes comes from genetics and the rest comes from environment and upbringing. He said understanding these biological underpinnings of political beliefs should help people have more empathy for others with whom they may disagree.

“I believe we have always had this very same division, this very basic difference between people who are fairly sensitive to threats and think we need to be vigilant and those people who are more into experimentation and trying new things,” Hibbing said.

The interview was picked up by more than 30 public-radio stations across the country.

Other coverage:

Adam Houston, earth and atmospheric sciences, is leading an ambitious new study to use drones to track tornadoes in the Great Plains. The goal is to better understand the causes of tornadoes. Articles on the research appeared in the Grand Island Independent, Lincoln Journal Star, Norfolk Daily News, Omaha World-Herald, Scottsbluff Star-Herald, Drone Below and Unmanned Aerial Online.

Gus Hurwitz, law, was quoted in an Oct. 1 Salon article on the U.S. Department of Justice suing California over its new net neutrality law. He said he thought the Justice Department was well within its rights to file the lawsuit.

Hurwitz also was quoted about the challenges of expanding internet access in Nebraska in an Oct. 17 Popular Science article. The story focused on major science policy issues facing each state.

Sue Swearer, educational psychology, was interviewed for the Oct. 1 episode of the Hilarious World of Depression podcast. The topic was mental health during adolescence.

The Federal Aviation Administration is asking for public comments on an exemption for a Louisiana-based company to use fire-starting drones to execute controlled burns to clear out underbrush. This type of drone application has been under study at Nebraska’s NIMBUS Lab. The lab was mentioned in an Oct. 2 Inside Unmanned Systems article on the public-comment request.

Frans von der Dunk, space law, was interviewed for an Oct. 5 Politico Space story on possible cooperation between the American and Chinese space agencies. He said current U.S. law presents an “immense barrier” to such cooperation. However, there is a precedent: NASA’s partnership with Russia on the International Space Station after the Cold War.

Von der Dunk also participated in a Newsy interview Oct. 9 in which he discussed laws related to space travel.

The Mitchell (South Dakota) Daily Republic ran a feature story Oct. 6 on Shelby Riggs, a senior agricultural economics major who just finished her reign as Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Michael Sealy, mechanical and materials engineering, is creating dissolvable medical implants using state-of-the-art 3D printers. The goal is to eliminate the need for follow-up surgeries to remove pins, screws and plates. Articles on the research appeared in KLKN, the Norfolk Daily News, Omaha World-Herald, Becker’s Spine Review, Electronic Component News, Medicalnewser,, and Today’s Medical Developments.

Nebraska volleyball co-captain Mikaela Foecke was featured in The Wall Street Journal’s What’s Your Workout? series on Oct. 8. She mentioned how off-the-court activities such as locker room dance parties and Ultimate Frisbee games have helped the team bond.

A team from the university will compete in this year’s Linnaean Games, a college bowl-style contest focused on entomology. An Oct. 9 article in Entomology Today highlighted how teams prepare for the competition. The Nebraska team practices at least once a week, sometimes twice a week as a competition grows closer.

The university’s Sheldon Museum of Art was listed as one of five places to visit in Lincoln in an Oct. 10 New York Times story. The museum contains more than 12,000 art holdings, including Edward Hopper’s “Room in New York” and Georgia O’Keeffe’s “New York, Night.”

Inside Higher Ed published an article Oct. 22 on a study co-authored by Jeffrey Stevens, psychology, showing that listing study authors alphabetically unfairly penalizes those whose last names are at the end. The study suggested journals using alphabetically ordered citations should switch to chronological ordering to minimize bias.

Kenneth Price, English, was interviewed for an Oct. 22 New York Times article on Walt Whitman’s Civil War reporting. Whitman was a wartime correspondent for the Times.

Kenneth Kiewra, educational psychology, offered tips on note-taking for The Wall Street Journal’s Burning Question feature on Oct. 23.

An excerpt of “A Warrior of the People” by Joe Starita, journalism, was featured on MedPage Today on Oct. 25. The book tells the story of Susan La Flesche, America’s first Native doctor.

Scott O’Neal, postdoctoral research associate and instructor in entomology, was featured in Entomology Today’s Standout ECPs series on Oct. 26.

Nebraska Extension is involved in a Nebraska-based project that will use precipitation and evapotranspiration data on different sizes of watersheds to get a full picture of a water budget. Kansas Farmer published a story on the project Oct. 26.

Richard Perrin, agricultural economics, was interviewed for an Oct. 27 Indianapolis Star article on the Trump administration’s agricultural policies.

In an Oct. 29 Brownfield Ag News article, Chancellor Ronnie Green said Nebraska Innovation Campus is “an ideal location” for the new headquarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The university is one of 136 entities nationwide vying for the headquarters.

Konstantinos Giannakas and Amalia Yiannaka, both agricultural economics, found that companies can profit by lowering the price of genetic-modification technology in hunger-stricken areas when consumers associate this technology with reducing malnutrition and hunger. Feedstuffs and Genetic Literacy Project ran articles on the research.

The Extreme Light Laboratory, part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is one of the founding members of LaserNetUS — a new research network intended to unite the nation's most powerful laser facilities. Stories on the network appeared on,, Tech Site and Technology Today.

Trenton Franz, a hydrogeophysicist, was quoted in an Oct. 31 story on the International Atomic Energy Agency website about scientists using cosmic rays to measure moisture levels in soil.

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at
 If you have additions to this 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.