Nebraska in the national news: October 2019

· 10 min read

Nebraska in the national news: October 2019

The launch of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative and a university-backed startup company that offers firefighting drones made national news in October. The coverage was among 50-plus news stories featuring University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty, alumni, projects and programs during the month.

The university and Aksarben Foundation announced the collaborative, which aims to bolster Nebraska’s tech workforce, in an Oct. 14 news conference at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Jona Van Deun, the group’s president, was introduced during the event.

Stories on the collaborative appeared in 11 Nebraska media outlets — including KETV, the Lincoln Journal Star, Omaha World-Herald and WOWT — and more than 35 others nationwide. The collaborative was also highlighted in an Oct. 21 World-Herald editorial on tech initiatives in Nebraska.

Husker researchers have launched a startup to help prevent and fight wildfires with drones. The company, Drone Amplified, is headed by Carrick Detweiler, Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.

The company’s drone-mounted technology carries chemical spheres the size of pingpong balls. At the press of a button, the spheres drop and ignite — intentionally sparking small fires that burn vegetation and starve incoming wildfires of potential fuel.

“I think we’re right at the leading edge of this wave of using unmanned systems in firefighting,” Detweiler said. “We want to save the lives of people doing very dangerous jobs.”

The team has worked with NUtech Ventures, the university’s commercialization affiliate, to patent and license the technology for their startup.

NUtech was really supportive throughout the process,” Detweiler said. “They helped us lay out the milestones and what we need to be thinking about in the future.”

Stories on Drone Amplified appeared in a dozen Nebraska media outlets and more than 35 others nationwide. The company was also featured in USA Today’s 50-states feature on Oct. 29.

Other coverage:

Research by Katja Koehler-Cole, agronomy and horticulture, was highlighted in an Oct. 1 Successful Farming article on cover crops. The research suggests that at least 1,000 pounds of biomass per acre is needed in the spring to effectively reduce erosion and soil nutrient loss, suppress weeds and supply forage. More than 1,000 pounds is better.

Justin “Gus” Hurwitz, law, co-director of the Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program, was interviewed for an Oct. 1 San Francisco Chronicle article on a federal appeals court recently upholding the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules, opening the door for California to enforce its own. Hurwitz said for companies, complying with the Obama-era regulations was “enough of a cost for them to delay connecting another 10 people in their area and their network.”

Hurwitz was also interviewed for an Oct. 3 Los Angeles Times article on the ruling. Hurwitz said state administrations have been going back and forth over net neutrality for years, and the best path forward is for Congress to enact legislation to put the question to rest, though that’s unlikely to happen.

Hurwitz wrote an Oct. 24 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on how even experts can be misinformed. “We need to be honest about what we know, and charitable in what we expect others to know,” he wrote.

Herman Batelaan, physics and astronomy, was quoted in an Oct. 2 Popular Mechanics article about a new experiment in which physicists demonstrated quantum superposition, a state in which a particle is two separate places at once, in molecules. “Why not see how far you can go and learn what the limits are?” he said. “It’s a beautiful motivation to do this work.”

With support from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, Yongfeng Lu, electrical and computer engineering, has developed a laser system that prevents and repairs corrosion on aluminum-sided ships. His team will test the laser on board a fully operational Navy ship this fall. Tech Xplore ran an Oct. 2 article on the research.

The U.S. Drought Monitor — produced jointly by the university’s National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — was cited in an Oct. 2 Wall Street Journal article on “flash drought” hitting 14 Southern states. Rainfall totals in the Southeast have been less than 40% of their normal average, according to the monitor.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the drought center, was interviewed for an Oct. 3 Associated Press article on the “flash drought” hitting the South. The drought accelerated rapidly in September, as record heat combined with little rainfall to worsen the parched conditions, Fuchs said. The story was picked up by more than 170 media outlets across the country.

Andrea Basche, agronomy and horticulture, and Marcia DeLonge, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, have found that planting perennials and cover crops may substantially improve the ability of soils to soak up heavy rainfall, potentially alleviating the most severe effects of flooding and drought. Stories on the research appeared in Nebraska Ag Connection, The North Platte Telegraph, Omaha World-Herald, Pender Times, No-Till Farmer, and Western Livestock Journal.

Nebraska became the first school in the Big Ten to offer a Spanish-language radio broadcast for a football game when the Cornhuskers played Northwestern on Oct. 5. The hope is that such broadcasts will become a regular part of the team’s media offering in coming seasons. An Associated Press article on the Spanish broadcast was picked up by more than 160 media outlets across the country.

Don Wilhite, emeritus professor in the School of Natural Resources, was interviewed for an Oct. 4 ABC Radio story on what Australia’s National Drought Policy might include.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey delivered the University of Nebraska College of Law’s Attorney General Jon Bruning Public Service Lecture on Oct. 17. Stories on the lecture appeared in 10 Nebraska media outlets and more than 20 others nationwide.

A new study from the university suggests that Americans are making themselves sick over politics. The study was authored by Kevin Smith and John Hibbing, both political science, and Matthew Hibbing, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Merced. Smith discussed the findings on CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks program Oct. 4.

The study was also featured in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 7.

Hibbing was interviewed for an Oct. 19 HuffPost article on Kate Bolz’s congressional run. “Bolz is going to be a strong candidate, but I’m not sure that will be enough,” he said. “I do think it’s a long shot.” The story was picked up by Yahoo News.

A recent study co-authored by Smith was featured in an Oct. 25 Futurity article. The study found that people’s moral codes don’t cause or predict their political ideology; instead, people’s ideology appears to predict their answers on a moral-foundations questionnaire.

Brad Lubben, agricultural economics, was interviewed for an Oct. 7 Civil Eats article on rural broadband. “If we offer broadband overnight, that doesn’t mean everybody would adopt everything in precision agriculture,” he said. Hurdles include the cost of the technology, the tech-savviness of the farmer and how close they are to retirement.

Kay Maresh, accountancy, was interviewed for an Oct. 7 NPR story on what might be revealed in President Donald Trump’s tax returns if they’re ever released publicly. She noted that Trump has a history of touting his generosity, though he hasn’t always produced evidence of it.

A 2018 study co-authored by Meredith Martin, educational psychology, showed that a strong relationship between siblings can largely offset the negative effects of constant fighting between parents. The research was highlighted in an Oct. 10 Study Finds article.

Weather Ready Nebraska, a new simulation tool to help farmers make farm-practice decisions based on extreme weather scenarios, was mentioned in an Oct. 10 Politico article on the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The university teamed up with the Northern Plains Climate Hub to develop the tool.

Steve Kirchner, a recent Husker graduate, was interviewed for an Oct. 11 Inside Climate News article on the efforts of young climate activists. An organizer with the advocacy group Our Climate, he is working to build a statewide coalition to pressure lawmakers to approve a climate action plan for Nebraska.

Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, “The Fishermen,” was included in a list of books by five “heavyweights of African literature” Oct. 11 in The National. Obioma is an assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Obioma also contributed an essay on America to the anthology “The Good Immigrant USA.” The audiobook version, featuring narration by Obioma, was featured in an Oct. 11 Paste list of the best audiobooks of the month.

Obioma’s second novel, “An Orchestra of Minorities,” was listed as one of four “engrossing books worth reading during cold weather” by Image magazine on Oct. 21. It was also listed as one of “six paperbacks … to escape from the rain with” by The Seattle Times on Oct. 25. The Times story was picked up by more than 20 other media outlets.

Obioma participated in a conversation with writer Sirish Rao on Oct. 21 as part of the Vancouver Writers Fest. The event was featured in an Oct. 21 NUVO magazine article listing four highlights of the festival.

Obioma will also be featured at the opening event of Adelaide (Australia) Writers’ Week on Feb. 29. Stories on the festival have appeared in Books+Publishing and a few other media outlets.

Scott O’Neal, entomology, was interviewed for an Oct. 15 Prevention article on how to rid a home of cockroaches. He said that while cockroaches aren’t something people want in their homes, they don’t carry the same disease risks as blood-feeding insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.

The Cattle Business Weekly recently selected Brian Vander Ley, assistant professor in the university’s Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center, as one of its top-10 industry leaders under 40. The 2019 list was published Oct. 16.

Rebecca Lai, chemistry, was featured in an Oct. 20 Chemical and Engineering News article on chemists who have created Harry Potter-themed classes and programs. Lai taught an honors class titled “A Muggle’s Guide to Harry Potter’s Chemistry” for two years, has given SciPop Talks lectures on Harry Potter, and started an after-school program called “Harry Potter x Science” for a local elementary school.

Heather Hallen-Adams, food science and technology, was interviewed for an Oct. 21 Vice article questioning the health benefits of kombucha. Regarding its cure-all reputation, she said, “It might have some placebo effect, but anything that can cure everything basically doesn’t cure anything.”

Craig Allen, School of Natural Resources, and Daniel Uden, agronomy and horticulture, helped create a model that could help foresters predict which insect invasions will be problematic for conifers, and help managers decide where to allocate resources to avoid widespread tree death. Futurity published an Oct. 21 article on the research.

Michael Sealy, mechanical and materials engineering, is combining directed energy deposition, a metal 3D printing process, with laser peening for improved mechanical properties. Modern Machine Shop published an Oct. 21 article on his research.

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln study was cited in an Oct. 22 GQ story on male body positivity. The study found that in 1972, 85% of men were happy with their bodies. A similar study in the journal Body Image found that figure now sits at 28%.

Joseph Weber, journalism, was interviewed for an Oct. 23 Chronicle of Higher Education article on the Harvard student newspaper facing criticism after seeking comment from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about an anti-ICE rally. Weber said to try to block routine comment from a government agency accused of immoral behavior is extreme.

Sheldon Museum of Art was featured in an Oct. 24 Architectural Digest article titled “How design lovers should spend 48 hours in Lincoln, Nebraska.”

Josephine Potuto, law, former chair of the NCAA Division I infractions committee, was quoted in an Oct. 26 Insider Higher Ed article on the implications of two Adidas employees and an aspiring agent recently being found guilty of wire fraud in a men’s basketball corruption trial. She said the universities involved could face financial penalties, scholarship reductions from the NCAA and the embarrassment of vacating earlier games.

An interdisciplinary, multi-institution research team led by Alexander Sinitskii, chemistry, has earned a three-year, $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to explore using DNA nanotechnology to build graphene circuits. and ran articles on the research.

Virtual Incision Corp. raised $10 million in securities sales in October, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The surgical-robotics company, located at Nebraska Innovation Campus, was co-founded by Shane Farritor, mechanical and materials engineering, and Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov, chief of gastrointestinal and minimally invasive surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The Robot Report published an Oct. 30 article on the securities sales.

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.

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