Achievements | UNL among nation's best in STEM field placements

· 6 min read

Achievements | UNL among nation’s best in STEM field placements

Eklund, Davis, Hawley, Dominguez, Funston, Jiang earn awards
Consumers are asking questions about the food-production system they've never asked before, and agriculture needs to do a better job of answering those questions, panelists at a UNL lecture on Nov. 6 agreed.

UNL has been named a 2015 STEM Jobs Approved College according to the list released Dec. 2.

STEM Jobs Approved Colleges are the top 125 colleges in the U.S. for STEM majors and minors based on graduation rate, faculty and student diversity, students’ return on tuition investment based on projected salaries and job placement in STEM fields. Complete survey methodology is available at

STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Discussion of STEM-related programs has become a presidential priority because fewer college students are pursuing degrees in these fields.

In addition to this list, UNL was named No. 2 in U.S. News & World Report’s College Rankings 2014 edition in the “Best Online Programs for Veterans” Graduate Business and Education categories released in May. The university has appeared consistently among the top 50 public universities listed in U.S. News and World Report’s annual evaluation of America’s Best Colleges.

For more information about UNL undergraduate, graduate and online programs, go to

Other recent awards and honors earned by the UNL community include:


• Dawn Davis and Leslie Hawley, faculty affiliates with the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, were named “emerging leaders in education” by Phi Delta Kappa International, a global association of education professionals.

Davis, project director of the Language and Reading Research Consortium, and Hawley, research assistant professor in the Nebraska Academy for Methodology, Analytics and Psychometrics, are two of 25 education professionals nationwide to join PDK’s class of emerging leaders. They are representing UNL at PDK’s Dec. 4-5 professional development conference in Washington, D.C.

Davis is dedicated to helping early childhood educators provide quality learning environments. She received the 2013-2014 Dr. Ron Joekel research award from UNL’s Phi Delta Kappa chapter and earned her doctorate in human sciences from UNL.

Hawley’s methodology research in teacher evaluation earned her the 2012-2013 Dr. Ron Joekel research award from UNL’s Phi Delta Kappa chapter. She received her doctorate in educational psychology from UNL.

Aaron Dominguez, associate professor of physics and associate dean of research for the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named to the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.

Since 1967, the panel has advised the federal government’s national program in experimental and theoretical high-energy physics. Its activities include reviewing the program and recommending changes according to scientific and technological advances; advising long-term priorities and strategies; and recommending appropriate funding level to ensure global leadership in the discipline.

Dominguez served on a multi-institutional team that built the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment, one of two large particle detector experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. He is now part of an eight-university team that earned an $11.5 million grant to upgrade the supercollider’s detector, a vital component that made possible the discovery of the Higgs boson.

• Peter Eklund, professor and director of choral activities, received the Nebraska Choral Directors Association’s Outstanding Choral Director Award on Nov. 21 during the Nebraska Music Educators Association’s fall conference.

“I always feel a little guilty and awkward accepting and receiving an award because we conductors have the privilege of turning around on stage after we do our work and receiving instant gratification from the audience,” Eklund said. “There are so many fine teachers out there that work hard daily and go home with no applause or standing ovations. But I feel honored to be recognized by my peers across the state.”

In addition, Glenn Korff School of Music alumnus Dane Christensen was awarded “Best Young Director.” Christensen is the vocal music teacher at Central City High School in Nebraska.

Eklund, who began teaching at UNL in 1998, was nominated by Adam Lambert, director of choirs at Elkhorn South High School in Omaha.

“Anyone who knows choral music knows the name ‘Dr. Eklund,’” Lambert wrote in his nomination letter. “Whether it is at the state, national or international level, Dr. Eklund has made a reputation for himself as being one of the greatest choral directors to stand on the podium. Like all great teachers, he tends to put his students first and himself last without the proper recognition he often deserves. Dr. Eklund has invested in countless professionals in the choral music industry who are now nationally renowned.”

Eklund was recently named one of the quarter-finalists for the Grammy National Music Teacher of the Year. He annually conducts instrumental and choral ensembles in no fewer than eight European countries and throughout North America.

His academic choirs have performed on numerous American Choral Directors Association regional and national conventions. He has conducted his choirs in many of the world’s greatest performing venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York City, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Rick Funston, a beef cattle reproduction specialist, won the 2014 Regional Excellence in Extension award for the North Central Region from Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Funston’s research and extension work have helped provide ranchers new market options and reduced feed costs. He has been a leader in the concept of fetal programming, a concept in the livestock industry based on the notion that the nutrient status of gestating cows has various long-term implications on their offspring.

Funston joins five other Nebraska Extension professionals in winning this prestigious award (two more than any other state).

Funston, also a professor of animal science, is based at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte.

Hong Jiang, a Willa Cather Professor of computer science and engineering, has been named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The designation represents the IEEE’s highest grade of membership.

The institute recognized Jiang for his contributions to computer memory hierarchy and storage systems, specifically citing Jiang’s “innovative and effective mechanisms for data reduction and filtering.” These efforts have helped address the challenges associated with Big Data, a phenomenon responsible for producing 90 percent of the world’s existing data in just the last two years, according to an IEEE news release.

In addition to his position at UNL, Jiang serves as a program director for the Division of Computing and Communications Foundations at the National Science Foundation.

This column is a regular feature of UNL 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.

Dawn Davis (left) and Leslie Hawley, CYFS faculty affiliates, are two of 25 Phi Delta Kappa International emerging leaders.
UNL physicist Aaron Dominguez leads collaboration involving eight universities to upgrade the Compact Muon Solenoid particle detector, a key component of the world’s largest physics experiment. The illustration shows an event, captured by CMS in 2012, that provides evidence of the Higgs boson.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Aaron Dominguez
Peter Eklund
Rick Funston
Hong Jiang

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