2016 year-in-review

2016 was a pivotal time of growth and change at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This slideshow highlights some of our research advances, funding successes, milestones and faculty achievements. To read and see more, click the embedded links.

Boosting transportation safety
The university’s Mid-America Transportation Center earned a five-year, $13.75 million grant to become the U.S. Department of Transportation Region 7 University Transportation Center. The center’s focus is improving transportation safety in Nebraska and neighboring states, with an emphasis on issues facing rural areas and underserved communities. Watch the video.

Improving child welfare workforce
Helping public child welfare staff better cope with job stress is the aim of a $15 million research effort led by Nebraska’s Center on Children, Families and the Law. For child welfare agencies, high staff turnover is a major challenge that affects the vulnerable populations they serve. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families-Children’s Bureau funds the project. Watch the video.

NIC fuels innovation
New partnerships, a burgeoning entrepreneurial vibe and expansion of world-class facilities fueled momentum at Nebraska Innovation Campus throughout 2016. Several faculty startups are among more than 20 companies and organizations that now call NIC home. More buildings are in the works and talks are ongoing with additional partners at the private-public research campus.

Uniting strengths in agriculture, medicine
In September, the University of Nebraska launched a more than $40 million initiative to improve lives worldwide. The new, multidisciplinary Nebraska Food for Health Center brings together strengths in agriculture and medicine from throughout the university system. It will help develop hybrid crops and foods to improve the quality of life of those affected by critical diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and mental disorders.

Prem S. Paul’s passing
The campus community mourned the loss of Prem S. Paul, longtime vice chancellor for research and economic development, who passed away Sept. 2 after a lengthy illness. Known affectionately as the “Vice Chancellor for Enthusiasm,” Paul led unprecedented research growth during his 15 years at Nebraska. To honor his legacy, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents unanimously approved a measure to rename the Whittier Research Center as the Prem S. Paul Research Center at Whittier School. Paul was honored at a Nov. 22 memorial. Watch the video.

New center focuses on biomolecular communication
In August, Nebraska earned an $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Center for Integrated Biomolecular Communication as an NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE. The center focuses on cellular level miscommunications that contribute to complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes and chronic liver disease. Watch the video.

New leadership
Steve Goddard assumed leadership of Nebraska research when he was named interim vice chancellor for research and economic development in late August, succeeding Prem S. Paul. Goddard says Chancellor Ronnie Green’s goal for the university to be a distinctive member of the Big Ten is within reach and “will be built by the contributions of all of us.”

Sponsored research sets record highs
Sponsored research funding reached a record high in 2016, increasing more than 12 percent to $146.9 million. Total sponsored funding, which includes all external funds awarded for research, instruction, public service and student services, also set a record at $267.8 million, an increase of nearly 23 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Getting to the root of crop improvement
The university leads a new $20 million research effort to improve crop productivity through the Center for Root and Rhizobiome Innovation. The National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, funds the new center, announced in June. This research taps a range of expertise in Nebraska. Watch the video.

UNL’s research potential recognized
Springer Nature, one of the world’s leading publishers of natural science research, named the university to its international list of 2016 Rising Stars. The list ranked UNL No. 9 among U.S. institutions, No. 11 in North America and No. 90 among more than 8,000 worldwide research institutions.

Ronnie Green named chancellor
Ronnie Green became Nebraska’s 20th chancellor in May 2016. Green has set ambitious goals for increasing external research funding and establishing Nebraska as a distinctive Big Ten university by leveraging research strengths in water and food security, national defense, early childhood education, and materials and nanoscience.

$20 million NIH award supports UNMC partnership
Building cross-campus partnerships between UNL and the University of Nebraska Medical Center is an ongoing priority. One example of collaboration is a project funded by a $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help early career scientists launch their own independent research programs. UNMC is the lead institution and UNL is a key partner in the network, which includes nine institutions from four states. Melanie Simpson, professor of biochemistry and associate director of the Center for Biotechnology, serves as project coordinator at Nebraska.

Nebraska leads Early Learning Network

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $6.5 million to the university to shape Nebraska’s early childhood practices and policies, while leading a national network committed to improving children’s outcomes. The multi-institutional Early Learning Network seeks to understand what’s needed to close the achievement gap and sustain positive outcomes for disadvantaged children. Watch the video.