NSRI Hosts First Researcher Recognition Event

September 24, 2015

The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) hosted a Researcher Recognition event on Wednesday, September 23rd, bringing together research scientists from across the University of Nebraska.  The event, held at the Embassy Suites La Vista, recognized the accomplishments of researchers and others who have contributed to the success of the NSRI, a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) at the University of Nebraska.  Though it was the first ever researcher recognition event, the evening commemorated the 3rd anniversary of an NSRI contract with U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), initiated in September, 2012.   

NSRI Executive Director Robert Hinson, USAF, Lt Gen (ret) gave opening remarks about the short, but full history and growth of the newest UARC in the nation.  Hinson stated “when we stood up in 2012 we had four base task order contracts.  Yesterday, I signed task order number 52.  Over the past three years we are now over $25 million in contract awards.”  Task orders are research contract awards from sponsors and Department of Defense (DoD) agencies.  NSRI receives funding from project sponsors through contracts with USSSTRATCOM, as well as other contracts and grants to provide research solutions directly impacting DoD operations and national security in the areas of combatting weapons of mass destruction. 

A total of six awards were presented in four categories for recognition:  Distinguished Scientist, Research Leadership, Exceptional Research Student and Exceptional Staff Contributor.  The selection criteria for Distinguished Scientist was based on significance of research performed, over $2 million dollars in research funding, performance feedback from research sponsors, repeat projects as a result of research findings and potential. 

Hinson stated “we have three very distinguished researchers who have repeatedly paved the way for success of NSRI and the University of Nebraska in proving the value and potential of their work.”    

Dr. Don Umstadter, Olson Professor of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was awarded a 2015 NSRI Distinguished Scientist award.  Umstadter founded and directs the Extreme Light Laboratory where he is pioneering the science, technology and applications of extreme light with the Diocles laser.   Umstadter’s NSRI research projects include post-nuclear Detonation Debris Forensics and Low-Dose Radiographic System.  Hinson remarked that Umstadter’s work has “enormous potential for standoff detection of WMD materials, saving countless lives and safeguarding our men and women in uniform from unsuspecting threats.”    

Dr. Larry Rilett, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was awarded a 2015 NSRI Distinguished Scientist award.  Rilett’s NSRI research projects include Traffic Calming Elements for Entry Control Facility Threat Delay and Containment and a Vehicular Threat Delay Calculator.  Hinson specified Rilett’s work “in support of the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command will have significant impacts in the force protection requirements for entryways into DoD military installations.”    

Dr. Ken Bayles, Professor, Vice Chair for Research and Associate Vice Chancellor for Basic Science Research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center was awarded a 2015 NSRI Distinguished Scientist award.  Bayles’ NSRI research projects include a Next-Generation Anthrax Vaccine and Screening for BoNT/A inhibitors.  Hinson indicated that Bayles “just completed a research project for USSTRATCOM and moved into direct research with the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).  The potential to expand our research portfolio with USAMRIID is exceptional and Ken has been a staunch advocate promoting the NSRI and University of Nebraska capabilities.”      

Dr. Gina Ligon, Associate Professor of Management and Collaboration Science at the University of Nebraska Omaha was presented with the 2015 NSRI Research Leadership award.  Ligon’s NSRI research projects include Convergence of CyberSpace and CWMD Pathways, USSTRATCOM Strategic Leaders Fellows Program and Intelligence Support to Deterrence Operations.  Hinson detailed that “Gina has been involved in six task order contracts with NSRI and USSTRATCOM.  She launched the USSTRATCOM Strategic Leaders Fellows Program, now in its third year which is a huge success for civilian leaders at USSTRATCOM.  She is nationally recognized as an expert in violent extremist organizations and terrorist groups.  She’s presented her work at USSTRATCOM, SOCOM, the Joint Staff and OSD.  She has been and continues to be an active spokesman for the NSRI UARC both on campus and with other DoD agencies.”

Mackenzie Harms, a current 2015-16 Presidential Graduate Fellow at the University of Nebraska was awarded with the 2015 NSRI Exceptional Research Student award.  Hinson asserted that “part of our responsibilities of the UARC and the NSRI is to grow the next generation of research scientists to support the DoD and other agencies.  Mackenzie has directly supported Dr. Ligon’s research task order and had the opportunity to present her research findings to very senior military and civilian leaders in the DoD.”    

Joanne Loch, Contract and Finance Manager for NSRI was presented with the 2015 NSRI Exceptional Staff Contributor award.  Hinson affirmed that “Joanne has been supporting NSRI from the beginning and has taken on many responsibilities that resulted in breaking new ground in the management and execution of our contracts coordination with the University Sponsored Programs offices, with USSTRATCOM project managers and the 55th Contracts office.  Joanne has taken on other roles and responsibilities in financial management and accounting and has become a go-to expert.” 

In addition to research scientists from across the University of Nebraska, the NSRI Researcher Recognition event brought together University of Nebraska support staff, NSRI support staff, as well as UARC program analysts from USSTRATCOM and provided an opportunity for faculty experts and staff to network and discuss the future of NSRI and NU research.  Hinson closed with saying that the NSRI is “committed to being the advocate for researchers and their significance to combatting some of the most challenging threats to our warfighters.  Your contributions to our national security cannot be understated.”  

About NSRI
Founded in 2012, the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska is the only University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) in the country dedicated to delivering solutions for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and across other federal agencies. NSRI provides research and development for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other governmental agencies in multiple mission-critical competency areas — including development of medical countermeasures to WMD; nuclear detection and forensics; consequence management; chemical and biological weapons detection; and space, cyber, and telecom law. Learn more at nsri.nebraska.edu.