University of Nebraska researchers continue to step up to solve problems for the Department of Defense (DOD). Today, the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska (NU) is pleased to announce 49 new NSRI Fellows who aim to contribute their expertise to the strategic deterrence and countering weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) mission areas.
These researchers join the more than 70 NSRI Fellows who launched with the program in May 2021, bringing the total to 122. Fellows hail from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska–Lincoln or University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Each of the researchers bring forward deep expertise in areas from information science and technology to biomechanics to psychology to engineering and more. All also actively leverage the facilities, technologies and students convened by NU’s four campuses.
"Our objective is to bring the might of the University of Nebraska System's intellectual and physical research capability and capacity to the DOD and the Nation," said Maj. Gen., USAF (Ret.) Rick Evans, NSRI executive director. "We know from current events that the strategic threats our Nation faces are constantly developing and converging. NSRI and the university have been and remain ready to help solve problems and innovate."
Within the past 12 months, since NSRI launched the NSRI Fellows program, the political and military landscape across the globe has evolved significantly. Russia’s unprovoked territorial assault on Ukraine raised nuclear deterrent questions that had remained latent since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It has also brought forward concerns about strategic attack scenarios through the use of chemical and biological weapons.
Combined with China’s expanding and diversifying nuclear arsenal, North Korea’s frequent ballistic missile testing and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are significant research and policy questions facing the highest levels of the U.S. and ones that fall squarely to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), which sponsors NSRI and NU as a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) designated by the DOD.
Today, the primary mission of USSTRATCOM is to deter strategic attacks on the U.S. While adversarial nuclear employment certainly qualifies as a strategic attack, it is not the only type of strategic attack.
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how future threats extend beyond the nuclear capabilities of those adversaries, illuminating the need for constant assessment and reassessment of strategic attack prevention, mitigation and response across the full spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNe) threats.
"Through this program, NSRI is engaging faculty in a material way to solve the problems of the DOD," said Dr. Joshua Santarpia, NSRI science and technology advisor and director of the NSRI Fellows program. "We are bringing everyone together — faculty who span numerous disciplines with sponsors leading within the strategic deterrence and CWMD mission spaces. I’m proud of how far we’ve come with this effort and motivated by the momentum we have moving forward."
New NSRI Fellows from the University of Nebraska at Kearney:
- Jacques Bou Abdo, cyber systems
- Kim Carlson, biology
- Julie Shaffer, biology
- Melissa Wuellner, biology
"I feel honored to be selected as an NSRI Fellow," Carlson said. "I believe that the strongest approach to solving any problem is collaboration. Bringing the academic and the government sides together is a necessary endeavor to answer questions. These different sides approach questions in unique ways, which is essential in determining solutions to problems. There is always a solution. It is just a matter of being creative to figure out the answer."
New NSRI Fellows from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln:
- Matt Andrews, biochemistry
- Christos Argyropoulos, electrical and computer engineering
- Tala Awada, physiological plant ecology
- Sina Balkir, electrical and computer engineering
- William Belcher, anthropology
- Nicole Buan, biochemistry
- Mehmet Can Vuran, computer science and engineering
- George Gogos, mechanical and materials engineering
- Ingrid Haas, political science
- Andrew Harms, electrical and computer engineering
- Michael Hempel, electrical and computer engineering
- Qing Hui, electrical and computer engineering
- Xu Li, civil and environmental engineering
- Eric Markvicka, mechanical and materials engineering
- Carl Nelson, mechanical and materials engineering
- Jill O'Donnell, international trade and finance
- Angela Pannier, biological systems engineering
- Yi Qian, electrical and computer engineering
- Byrav Ramamurthy, computer science and engineering
- Ashley Votruba, psychology
- You Zhou, virology
"I'm interested in working on problems of national importance that have potential impact on people's health, safety, well-being and more," Nelson said. "We have a lot of experts in the NU system whose skills can be brought to bear with positive impacts. I hope to be able to work with others on multidisciplinary problems and lend my skill set to the needs that arise."
New NSRI Fellows from the University of Nebraska Medical Center:
- Angela Hewlett, infectious disease
- Stephen Obaro, infectious disease
- Stephen Rennard, pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine
- Eleanor Rogan, health promotion; environmental, Agricultural and occupational health
- Michael Rosenthal, physical therapy education
- Anthony Sambol, pathology and microbiology
- Paul Sorgen, biochemistry and molecular biology
- Denis Svechkarev, pharmaceutical sciences
"Expanding collaborations with NU faculty and partnering with NSRI is a great opportunity, especially for a Navy veteran," said Rosenthal, a veteran. "The input of innovative NU scientists can bolster national security efforts and not only have far-reaching impact but also local benefits for Nebraskans. I hope to engage with NSRI team members on efforts to improve the readiness and resilience of the human weapon system and optimize performance."
New NSRI Fellows from the University of Nebraska at Omaha:
- Elizabeth Chalecki, political science
- Austin Doctor, political science
- Dario Ghersi, interdisciplinary informatics
- Deanna House, information systems and quantitative analysis
- Samuel Hunter, industrial organizational psychology
- Tom Jamieson, public administration
- William Kramer, industrial organizational psychology
- Aaron Likens, biomechanics
- Spyridon Mastorakis, computer science
- Njoki Mwarumba, public affairs and community service
- Ryan Riskowski, physics
"Contributing to national security is an NU imperative because we have the requisite capacity and can contribute to the larger discourse," Mwarumba said. "As a NSRI Fellow, I hope to contribute by integrating decades of disaster research, practice and policy on individual and collective behavior in extreme events, systems theories and justice based approaches to strategic national defense solutions."
The institute has also named five NU administrators to act as NSRI Affiliate Fellows, serving as liaisons between the program and the campuses. These include:
- Matt Hammons, University of Nebraska Office of the President, assistant vice president and director of federal relations
- Tess Kuenstling, University of Nebraska Medical Center, assistant vice chancellor for research resources
- Deanna Marcelino, University of Nebraska at Omaha, state and federal industry liaison officer
- Nathan Meier, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, assistant vice chancellor for research
- Sharon Obasi, University of Nebraska at Kearney, family science programs
Learn more about the NSRI Fellows and their objectives at nsri.nebraska.edu/fellows.
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Read about our mission.