The Road Ahead Starts Right Here

The Road Ahead 
Starts Right Here

Creating a better future is the perfect challenge for Nebraska’s only public research university. Each of the University of Nebraska's four campuses has unique strengths—from metropolitan to rural, land grant and research to academic medicine. These strengths create a breadth of expertise that is unmatched. Together, we are making an impact—for our state and for our world.


A unified battle against cancer: Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

The statistics are staggering. It’s estimated that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will develop cancer in their lifetime.

Yet there’s still no hope for a cure. But there is a new way in which the research and treatment of cancer will change the lives of patients and their family members. It will happen at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Here, silos will be broken, bringing patients together with scientists focused on cancer research and the physicians treating these patients. They will work in a common space in order to reach a common goal— finding breakthroughs in cancer therapy. At the helm will be Sarah Thayer, M.D., PhD, a physician and -scientist with international notoriety who embodies clinical care and research happening side-by-side.

Together, this team of brilliant minds is determined to make great strides in cancer diagnosis, treatment and healing. Every patient will be treated individually. Every case approached differently. And every recovery one step close to winning the battle.

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Breakthroughs in helping people move again: Dr. Nick Stergiou

It’s morning. Your alarm clock blares its wake-up call. You sit up, reach to turn it off, swing your feet over the side and stand up. You walk to the bathroom, taking step after step. You brush your teeth, moving the toothbrush back and forth. Up and down. You bend over to rinse.

All this movement—involving muscles, brain, senses and environment—takes place in the span of minutes and continues to happen as you go about our day. Yet, the majority of us never think about how we move. But for Dr. Nick Stergiou and his visionary team at the University of Nebraska Omaha, it’s all they research—biomechanics, which is the study of human movement, and the forces that produce it.

But why?

If Dr. Stergiou and his team’s previous groundbreaking research is any indication, their work is vital to those suffering from movement-related disorders. Their lab incorporates principles from engineering, physiology and mathematics to understand the complexity of how humans integrate muscles, nerves, and the environment to accomplish movement. It’s housed in UNO’s Biomechanics Research Building—the first ever structure dedicated to the study of movement and home to the world’s first ever Center for Research in Human Movement Variability.

Their research has led to interventions for infants with cerebral palsy and to new treatment strategies for diseases like autism, multiple sclerosis and peripheral arterial disease. It’s helped those with problems moving due to an amputation, aging or stroke. It’s even helped astronauts regain natural walking patterns that are commonly disrupted after long trips in space.

What the team has accomplished has greatly influenced techniques in robotic surgery and rehabilitation. And, it’s given hope to millions who suffer while moving.

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Cultivating a thriving startup culture: UNL’s Raikes School

Welcome to Silicon Prairie, a growing, thriving tech community that’s teeming with savvy startups and entrepreneurs—located right here in Nebraska.

At its center is Hudl, a sports video software company that’s now on Fast Company’s list of 50 most-innovative companies of 2016. It’s been said that Hudl is changing the game for coaches and players. It’s certainly changing the landscape for other progressive startups that are inspired by its achievements.

Other cities have tried to lure Hudl away—the company had its pick of either coast, yet chose to stay right here. The reason is simple: Nebraska’s expansive support system has helped it succeed. Couple that with a reasonable cost of operation, a burgeoning downtown, a family-friendly environment and the University’s backing—and it’s easy to see why Hudl is not packing its bags anytime soon.

Hudl’s three founders met at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln’s Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, where the idea for the company took shape. They were able to easily transition from college students to successful business owners. Not to mention they had a strong alumni system—including some of their initial investors—to lean on.

Another milestone for Hudl—and for Nebraska—is the company’s planned headquarters, which will be a seven-story, 110‐foot‐tall building. It will be the second largest building downtown and a new home to more than 300 employees from across Nebraska and across the country. Thanks to companies like Hudl, the best and brightest are happy to call Nebraska their home.

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In search of alien life-form: Dr. Adam Jensen

Did you ever look up at a brilliant night sky and wonder… are we alone?

That is one of the many questions that NASA would like to answer. To do so, it’s established Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, an unique collaboration between several groups of experts spanning a variety of specific fields. Together, they’re tasked with searching for life beyond our solar system.

One of the groups on this mission is headed by Dr. Adam Jensen, a physics professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Dr. Jensen’s work on exoplanetary atmospheres has earned him a spot leading a diverse team that will explore the existence and evolution of exospheres. The group brings together earth scientists, planetary scientists, heliophysicists and astrophysicists in the hopes that interdisciplinary partnerships will provide a more complete picture of exoplanets. Put simply, an exoplanet is a planet beyond our solar system that orbits around a star.

The ultimate goal of the NASA team is to observe smaller exoplanets—ones that are earth‐sized—assess their atmospheres and determine if they are habitable. Then we might finally know if, in fact, we do have extraterrestrial neighbors—and where we can find them.

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Harnessing the Power of the Sun: Jinsong Huang

Energy. It's on everyone's mind as energy costs continue to climb. Many are concerned world energy demands will outpace production. The search is on for affordable, renewable power sources—and that search is transforming the technologies that power our nation. Yet, solar power remains just beyond reach as a widely-used energy source.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineer, Jinsong Huang, is making big strides in his effort to harness the sun’s power. Current solar cells are too expensive and not efficient; his goal is to cut their cost in half—so they can compete with fossil fuel energy. And, he's tackling that goal with several million dollars in federal grants…and groundbreaking approaches to creating new material for solar cells.

Huang believes that renewable energy is the number one issue for the future. And although solar energy has a long way to go, he plans on being part of making renewable energy a major part of the solution. By lowering solar energy’s cost and increasing its efficiency, Huang—and UNL—can help meet the world’s growing energy demand.

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Empowering the Homeless: Kurt Borchard

Homelessness is a problem in many cities. In urban areas with high costs of living and high unemployment rates, the problem grows. Living on the street is unsafe, yet there isn’t enough room in homeless shelters to accommodate the number of people who are homeless. Now, a fascinating way of addressing the issue has surfaced—and Kurt Borchard, a professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, is taking a closer look.

Borchard is in the middle of a yearlong sabbatical to interview individuals in two city-sanctioned homeless encampments in Portland, Oregon—a city that struggles with homelessness. On any given night, over 1,900 people sleep on the streets. A loophole in that city’s laws has allowed the homeless population to form encampments, where camp residents have banded together to create a legal and political foundation. They can draw up contracts and negotiate with the city, giving homeless people basic rights and a safer place to live.

“It’s an innovative way to address the ongoing problem of homelessness,” Borchard says. “This problem is not going away.” His hope? To better inform people about the issue of homelessness. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and Borchard’s work shows how one group of homeless men and women have found a way to live with a greater sense of dignity.

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Engaging Girls in the World of IT: Code Crush

IT is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the US. However, many of these jobs may go unfilled—because there aren’t enough college graduates with computing-related degrees. And, very few women are pursuing career opportunities in IT. In 2015, only 18% of all computing and information science degrees were earned by women.

This is where “Code Crush,” an immersion experience for middle- and high-school girls at UNO's College of Information Science and Technology, comes in. The four-day program introduces girls from across Nebraska to information technology in a friendly and engaging environment—at no cost. The girls learn how no matter what their career aspirations are—there’s a place for them in IT. They program robots, make digital music, learn about innovative thinking, create mobile applications, and meet role models in IT.

UNO's CodeCrush—just one way that NU is working to diversify the IT landscape—and help fill the IT workforce deficit.

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Training The Nation For Ebola And Other Emerging Threats: UNMC

in 2014, the Ebola outbreak turned into an epidemic and spread like wildfire throughout Africa, reaching into Europe and across the sea to the US. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims risked becoming one. But a few were brave enough to step up. Among those were healthcare professionals from UNMC’s biocontainment unit, armed with 10 years of training and preparation.

These individuals risked their own lives in order to save Ebola patients—because they knew how much they were needed. And, as a result, UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, were recognized as a national asset and referred to as the “gold standard” for treatment and development of safety protocols in handling Ebola.

In the months since, medical centers and hospitals from all over the world have come to the UNMC experts to be trained for the next highly infectious disease outbreak. And, in July of 2015, UNMC was awarded a $12 million grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish and co-lead the nation’s National Ebola Training and Education Center.

When given the opportunity to make a difference, UNMC always takes it. The situations may change and the infectious diseases may vary—but as leaders in the field, they continue to tackle challenges with boldness and heart.

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