Nebraska chancellor introduces his university

With the inaugural Heroes Game in Lincoln, Neb., just days away, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman has sent the following message introducing his campus to the University of Iowa community.

Members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln community—faculty, staff, students, alumni, and fans—could not be prouder to be a member of the Big Ten Conference and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation. As you will learn when you face our teams on the playing field or as you expand your work with our faculty and students, we feel, as the words from one of our fight songs expresses, that there is no place like Nebraska.

The University of Nebraska is home to 24,593 students this fall. That number has risen steadily over the past decade—up 6.8 percent from 10 years ago. We are up dramatically in the number of students coming from other states and nations. We also have experienced a dramatic rise in our federal funding over the past decade. Under the leadership of our vice chancellor for research and economic development, Prem Paul, since 2000 our research funding has increased more than 168 percent, with federal research awards topping $100 million. Our total research funding from federal sources alone are at $107.7 million, a 239 percent increase since 2000.

About our research
Nebraska’s research faculty are focused on the future. They are strengthening UNL’s research and its impact on our state, nation, and the world—particularly in helping to solve some of today’s key challenges, including protecting scarce resources of food, fuel, and water. Our new Daugherty Water for Food Institute, funded with a founding gift of $50 million in 2010 from the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation, creates a multi-campus center for research, education, and policy analysis relating to use of water for agriculture.

At UNL we are reaching beyond our institutional, state, and national borders to find new partners who share our bold vision. We have partner universities in China, an HIV-AIDS research project in Africa, a partnership with several other universities on the ANDRILL project to unlock world climatic history in Antarctica, and many large-scale agricultural projects, to name a few. UNL is home to the National Drought Mitigation Center, the source of the drought maps you see in many newspapers. We are also home to the new Buffett Early Childhood Institute and the nationally known Jeffrey S. Raikes School for Computer Science and Technology. Students of the Raikes School have developed businesses you might recognize, including Hudl, coaching software used by the Huskers, Penn State University, Stanford University, and the New York Jets.

Engineering faculty members at UNL developed the SAFER Barriers used at racetracks including the Indianapolis 500 to prevent serious injuries to drivers in crashes. Other researchers have developed robotic instruments for surgeries. The laser in our Extreme Light Laboratory has the highest combination of peak and average power of any laser in the United States, enabling research on detecting bombs hidden in cargo containers or potential use as a proton source for cancer therapy.

Whether we are teaming with agencies or other institutions, developing collaborative research programs with the national laboratories, or launching joint ventures with private businesses, forming new partnerships is one of UNL’s highest priorities. Nebraska Innovation Campus, a 232-acre private-public research and technology center, is being developed to accommodate private sector partnerships in generating new, marketable innovations. Innovation Campus is a long-term venture with vast potential for collaboration, innovation, and economic development for our private partners, our state, and our university.

Some of our major research awards over the last year indicate other areas of research strength:

  • $11.1 million from the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR program to create and support the Center for Nanohybrid Functional Materials and the Nebraska Coalition for Algal Biology and Biotechnology.
  • $5.8 million from the Department of Defense Army Research Office for research on nanoscale magnetoelectronic devices.
  • $5.6 million from the National Institutes of Health to support Nebraska Center for Virology research on viral diseases affecting plants, animals, and humans.
  • $4.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education through Ohio State University to support UNL education researchers’ contributions to a nationwide initiative to improve children’s reading comprehension.
  • Nearly $4 million from the Department of Defense Air Force Office of Scientific Research to develop software for military applications.
  • Nearly $1.2 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enhance the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and to expand the offerings of the University of Nebraska Press.

A rich history
The University of Nebraska, chartered in 1869, is a land-grant university and a member of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, a Carnegie Foundation within the Research Universities, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Always a place of high ambition, this was one of the first institutions west of the Mississippi River to award doctoral degrees—the first was granted in physics in 1896. The University of Nebraska established the world’s first undergraduate psychology laboratory. The discipline of ecology was born here, and the campuses reflect that tradition, being recognized as botanical gardens and arboreta.

An early institutional interest in literature and the arts provided the foundations for today’s Prairie Schooner literary magazine, the University of Nebraska Press, and the Sheldon Museum of Art, which houses one of the world’s most significant collections of 20th century American art.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has been home to many legendary figures, including the literary naturalist Loren Eiseley, geneticist George Beadle, artists Aaron Douglas and Weldon Kees, social researcher Alvin Johnson, investor Warren Buffett, comedian Johnny Carson, singer Barbara Hendricks, artist and engineer Harold Edgerton, soldier John J. Pershing, authors Willa Cather and Mari Sandoz, and many others. Today, students are building on this legacy through their research involvement in fields as diverse as sociology, geosciences, virology, and agricultural sciences.

Several signature programs exemplify a strong commitment to undergraduate success. One of them, the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences Program, connects faculty and students who work collaboratively on independent study projects that advance new knowledge. It was listed in U.S. News & World Report for 2012 for its successful undergraduate research program.

Academic collaboration
The research mission of our universities is critical to strengthening our economy and our security in the years ahead. Collaboration between faculty and between institutions is essential if we are to find solutions that are productive and enduring.

We already have many faculty ties to the Big Ten; more than 300 of our faculty members earned their highest degrees from Big Ten institutions. And we enjoy ongoing collaborations with some Big Ten universities such as those in the areas of digital humanities, transportation engineering, and interdisciplinary research involving environmental change in Antarctica. We hope for an expanded agenda in the years to come.

I look forward to many exciting opportunities involving both Iowa and Nebraska. Whether it’s when Iowa plays Nebraska this weekend in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, or when you might be in Nebraska for other reasons, I hope you will take the opportunity to visit our campus.

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln