Nebraska chancellor introduces his university

September 29, 2011

On the verge of the University of Nebraska’s Big Ten debut in the much-publicized game at Camp Randall Stadium, Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman has sent the following message introducing his campus to the University of Wisconsin–Madison community:

Photo: Chancellor Harvey Perlman

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman

Photo: UNL News Bureau

Members of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln community — faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans — are pleased to be a member of the Big Ten Conference and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, and excited about the opportunity to visit Madison. 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, which places us within the top 30 universities nationally in terms of research growth.

About our research

Nebraska’s research faculty are focused on the future and on 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 to address the critical question of producing more food with less water.

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 laboratory 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 Management. Students of the Raikes School have developed businesses you might recognize, including Hudl, a coaching software used by the Huskers, Penn State, Stanford 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 U.S., 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 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 research on viral diseases affecting plants, animals and humans at the Nebraska Center for Virology.
  • $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 University of Nebraska Press’ offerings.

A rich history

The University of Nebraska was 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, for the University of Nebraska Press, and for the Sheldon Museum of Art, which houses a significant collection 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, UCARE, connects faculty and students who work collaboratively on independent study projects that advance new knowledge and creative activity. U.S. News Report for 2012 listed UCARE as a 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. And faculty in our new Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior are taking the lead within the Big Ten in investigating concussion injuries in athletics.

Already UNL and UW–Madison faculty are working together. Here are two examples:

Jonathan Lipson (UW Law School), Ella Mae Matsumura and Rachel Martin (UW–Madison), and Emre Unlu (UNL) are investigating the potential impact of securitization transactions on firm policies. Ann MacGuidwin (UW–Madison) and Thomas Powers (UNL) have a joint NSF proposal pending to study nematode diversity.

I look forward to many more exciting opportunities involving both Wisconsin and Nebraska. Whether it’s when Wisconsin plays Nebraska next season 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 — where you will be greeted by our own Nebraska version of Go… Big… Red!

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor, University of Nebraska–Lincoln