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News from the college of Arts & Sciences

gates cambridge scholar ser ving a nation d e a n ’s scholars


2011 Iss u e

Making Waves

World-renowned researcher to head new brain imaging center University of Nebraska–Lincoln


From the Dean It’s here, that time of year when campus is buzzing with activity as everyone makes that last push to end the school year on a high note. Soon, the flurry of end-of-year events, final exams and graduation will pass, and we’ll be left to take stock of our accomplishments. And believe me, there’s much to be proud of. As the College of Arts and Sciences continues to find success in the classroom, in the research arena and in the real world, it seems our efforts to promote college pride have similarly taken root. Over the past year, our college pride has become literally visible. That’s in part thanks to our new Arts and Sciences T-shirt, which you’ll see me wearing below in place of my usual coat and tie. Students helped design the T-shirt by telling us what they like about the College. Their words were assembled into a word cloud, which is on the front of the shirt. On the back is a list of the College’s departments and centers, our majors and minors, and our catch phrase “Diverse Paths, Shared Excellence.” The shirt has been a huge hit. Last fall we kicked off the school year by giving away more than 1,000 shirts to faculty, staff and students in the college. The last giveaway was on a Friday morning outside Oldfather Hall. By the time we had set up our table, we had 100 students waiting and it took less than 10 minutes to give away our supply of 200 shirts. Throughout the year I have run into students, faculty and staff in classes, at the Nebraska Union, at Memorial Stadium, and off campus proudly wearing their shirts. I often go up and introduce myself. It is a great way to connect with people. Our T-shirt promotion is just one of the many things we have been doing to help students, faculty, staff and alumni connect with the College. We’ve also worked on enhancing our web presence through our website, on Facebook (University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Arts and Sciences) and Twitter (@UNLArtsSciences). This issue of Columns magazine illustrates many reasons we can be proud of the College of Arts and Sciences. We hope that you, too, feel a sense of pride in our rich history, our exciting present and our promising future. As always, I urge you to stay in touch with me. You can call me at (402) 472-6262, email me (dmanderscheid2@unl. edu), follow me on Twitter (@dmanderscheid), visit my blog at, or stop by when you are in Lincoln. I would love to hear from you. Regards,

PS. Want to get your own College T-shirt? Visit our website to order one. They are only $5 ($6 XXL) plus shipping and handling and are a great way to show your pride. Or, even better, just stop by the Dean’s Office at 1223 Oldfather and save on the shipping and handling!


Inside Columns


Spring 2011



P r o f i l e  Tami De Coteau: mental health internship on Native American reservation

Ac a d e m i c S ta r s Jim Lewis and Brian Coburn

8 C o v e r S t o r y

 Dennis Molfese: brain imaging research and interdisciplinary focus

10 F a c ult y H i g hl i g h t s

 Valery Forbes: Q&A with new SBS director; Objectifying gaze; Sloan Fellowship


S t ud e n t H i g hl i g h t s  Zach Norwood wins prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship; Tim Relihan on ‘Jeopardy!’; Dean’s Scholars Society


Briefs  Digital Humanities challenge grant; New bioinformatics minor; Chemistry—125th anniversary 


Giving  Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs endowment announcement; Ted Sorensen remembered 

COVER PHOTO A lab shows the beginnings of a new research venture at UNL involving brain imaging that will be directed by Dennis Molfese, who joined the Arts and Sciences faculty as a professor of psychology in October.


Columns is published twice each year by the College of Arts and Sciences. Story ideas, activities and achievements can be submitted by sending an email to Receipt does not guarantee publication and the editor reserves the right to edit for space, clarity, grammar and style. Editor: Jean Ortiz Jones Designer: Stephanie Severin Web Tech: Michael O’Connor Editorial Correspondence: Columns Magazine c/o University Communications University of Nebraska–Lincoln 321 Canfield Administration Building Lincoln, NE 68588-0424 phone: (402)-472-8320 Columns on the Web: http://ascweb.unl. edu/achievements/columns.html

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is an equal opportunity educator and employer. ©2011, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. J04051.110310

(Cover photo and photo below courtesy Craig Chandler, University Communications.)




Alumna leads effort to reverse oppression, reshape future for Native Americans By Jean Ortiz Jones

Tami De Coteau

Tami De Coteau didn’t grow up on a Native American reservation, but from a young age she understood what reservation life was like. Through the eyes of her father, who is Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Arikara, she had an awareness of the cycle of oppression, fueled by high suicide rates, violence, alcoholism and extreme poverty.

But it wasn’t until De Coteau was pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at UNL and undertaking a self-designed practicum on the Omaha Reservation in northeastern Nebraska that she witnessed firsthand the complex and pervasive mental health issues found among Native American communities. “I can’t imagine having come into this field without having had that on-the-ground clinical experience … it really prepared me for what I’m doing now,” she said.


De Coteau went on to earn her doctorate from UNL in 2003 and today spends her days seeing clients on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, a 2.3-million-acre expanse that straddles the North and South Dakota borders. She also is helping doctoral-level graduate students on track to becoming psychologists prepare for the rigors of clinical practice on a reservation. In 2008, she established a first-of-its-kind psychology internship program at Standing Rock. It’s the only such internship program in the country that’s primarily based on a Native American reservation and administered by a Native American tribe, according to the American Psychological Association. The program is structured to help interns hone traditional psychology skills, give them the opportunity to problem solve in a crisis-oriented, culturally different environment, and provide much-needed psychological services to a largely underserved population, De Coteau said. Interested participants come from all across the country to learn from the community to become more effective mental health care providers, to find fulfillment in the smallest of gains and to give of themselves like they never have before. “It’s about using your life in a way that’s beneficial to other people,” she said. “… It’s about changing the system and reversing the oppression.”

Standing Rock is home to more than 8,000 people. The community has seen as many as 20 suicides in a given year, with men ages 18-23 among the most susceptible. The population also struggles with discrimination, inadequate education and health care, and generational trauma—the collective trauma that’s passed down through generations within Native American communities, De Coteau said. The program launched its first yearlong internship class in 2008 and by 2009, took in its first class of postdoctoral residents, who receive advanced clinical training. Both groups will invest a minimum of 2,000 hours over a 12-month period. Altogether, nine students have participated at the internship level and five at the postdoctoral level. Interns have primarily been involved with counseling individuals and families, including stepping in when a crisis, like a suicide, hits. “More and more, we’re going to go where our patients need us,” De Coteau said. That means pairing interns with “care coordinators”—essentially case managers who are community members and can bridge the cultural gap. From the use of mobile crisis teams to equine-assisted psychotherapy, the program has been responsive to the population’s unique needs, said Mike Faith, tribal vice-chairman. “We are now at a point where we need to think not only about expanding the program and its services within our own reservation boundaries, but also about replicating the program in order to share our success with other tribes,” Faith said.

Chantal Peterson leads a youth horse riding event on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Peterson completed an internship and is now a postdoctoral resident at Standing Rock. (Photo courtesy Tami De Coteau)

De Coteau recently earned an Early Career Award from the American Psychological Foundation for creating the program. Although she shares Faith’s thoughts about taking the program beyond Standing Rock, her hopes won’t cloud the vision of realistic outcomes. Her goal, and that of her interns, remains clearly grounded in reality as well as dignity and respect for the people the program serves.

“ I t ’ s a b o u t u s i n g y o u r l i f e i n a w ay t h at ’ s b e n e f i c i a l t o o t h e r p e o pl e … It’s about changing the system a n d r e v e r s i n g t h e o pp r e s s i o n . ”

“I always tell my students, ‘We’re not here to save the Indians. We’re not going to fix or stop the suicide issues on Standing Rock. Our job is to help them so they can be empowered to help themselves,’ ” she said.


Academic Stars

Lewis’ efforts to boost math achievement take root In his 40 years at UNL, Jim Lewis has found success with his belief that discovering potential starts with a push. “Young people overwhelmingly respond very positively to being challenged,” said the longtime mathematics professor. “Part of helping young people have the right college experience is that people Jim Lewis have high expectations of them, but you match high expectations with a lot of support.” Lewis also has responded well in the face of a challenge and by setting high expectations and garnering support. In the late 1990s, he was tapped to lead an effort to update a national publication guiding the math education of future K-12 teachers. Trouble was, he hadn’t taught a course for teachers since the 1970s, he said. “I felt like I should go back and, as people say ‘walk the walk, talk the talk,’ ” Lewis said. “I should teach teachers at UNL if I was going to be part of offering advice for the profession.” He sought out Ruth Heaton, who had recently joined the faculty in UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences. Heaton shared Lewis’ interest in improving the math education of teachers. Together they revamped curriculum and created new programs to enable prospective teachers and those already in the field to boost math achievement across Nebraska. With the support of institutional leaders and their colleagues, they worked across disciplinary lines and overcame organizational challenges that have halted similar ventures at other institutions. To date, Lewis has been involved in efforts that secured $28 million in grants for teacher education programs. Such programs have increased teachers’ math content knowledge and research shows that teachers who know more can help students learn more, said Deborah Romanek, director of mathematics for the Nebraska Department of Education.

Jim Lewis, an Aaron Douglas professor of mathematics and director of UNL’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, is pictured answering a question from a Lincoln Public Schools’ teacher during a Primarily Math summer institute.


(Photo courtesy Lindsay Augustyn/UNL CSMCE)

Lewis plays a vital role in math education in Nebraska, in part because of his commitment to find funding to support a statewide network of learners, she added. Key to the success of the teacher education programs is Lewis’ willingness to take the courses to the teachers, said Jim Harrington, supervisor of mathematics for the Omaha Public Schools. Harrington has seen that program graduates come away with more than a passion for mathematics. “They want to share with other teachers. They want to spread what they’ve learned through the district and they’re so big on volunteering to help out,” he said. “I think a lot of that really came out of the way (Lewis) structured the program. It’s made quite an impact.”

Visit to hear an interview with Jim Lewis when he was named Nebraska Professor of the Year

Ambition, desire to serve guide Coburn toward medical career The buzz around campus perked Brian Coburn’s interest. It didn’t matter that the Spearfish, S.D., native came to UNL motivated by interests in human rights and service to others to pursue a legal career. After hearing the banter among his friends, he knew he had to take chemistry. “They were like, ‘Oh, it’s such a hard class, you know, the toughest class you’ll ever take in college,’ ” he said. “I just really like challenges so I was like, why not? I want to take the hardest class this college has to offer.” Brian Coburn

It was a characteristic move for Coburn, a longtime academic high achiever familiar with taking untraditional paths for the sake of learning. As a high school student, for example, he worked college courses into his daily schedule. Now a senior and an Honors Program participant, Coburn’s ambition and penchant for the scenic route aren’t waning. Nor has his interest in humanitarian affairs. He will graduate in May after majoring in biochemistry and political science and completing minors in chemistry and math. He also adds Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Innocents Society inductee and inaugural member of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Scholars Society to a long list of honors. Coburn’s next bold step—earn a medical degree and a doctorate in medical anthropology. Such a rigorous course will best prepare him to have the cultural competency to effectively treat the health needs of underserved populations in the United States, he said. “Whether or not the health care bill stands, we still have to do a better job of approaching these populations,” Coburn said. He’s also made an impact outside the classroom as an organizer of The Big Event— UNL’s annual day of service—and by serving in various roles within ASUN (UNL’s student government) volunteering at a local medical clinic serving the homeless and coaching a youth soccer team. Before he graduates, Coburn will complete nearly two years of research in cancer biology. The work is the foundation for his honors thesis and could someday lead to a better understanding of tumor suppression.

Who will be the next

Academic Star?

Here’s your chance to nominate a professor, student or staff member of the College of Arts and Sciences for recognition as an Academic Star. Tell us about a creative, engaging and innovative individual who is making a difference on campus...and beyond. Visit http// to nominate a star.

“ W e s t a r t e d t h i s c a m pa i g n in 2008 to shine a spotlight on exceptional a c a d e m i c a c h i e v e m e n t. We’ve been able to do t h at a n d s o m u c h m o r e . Th i s c a m pa i g n h a s g i v e n u s a w ay t o h i g hl i g h t t h e d i v e r s e w ay s i n which Arts and Sciences s t ud e n t s , f a c ult y a n d s ta f f a r e u s i n g t h e i r ta l e n t s t o h av e a s i g n i f i c a n t i m pa c t o n U N L , N e b r a s k a a n d t h e w o r ld . ” — Dean David Manderscheid

He has shown fortitude and creativity in his research, said Don Becker, a biochemistry professor and Coburn’s research adviser. Impressive, too, is Coburn’s extraordinary service to the UNL community. “I am most impressed by his humility and his desire to lead by example,” Becker said. “… Brian clearly embodies characteristics of a true servant leader.”


Expert to guide new brain imag By Jean Ortiz Jones

Thick bones protect it, yet it’s vulnerable to damage and disease. It wields the power to control movement, speech, reasoning and autonomous processes like breathing and heart rate. It can store memories over a lifetime. The capabilities of the human brain aren’t entirely a mystery, but understanding the why and how of it has driven Dennis Molfese. He has built an international reputation through his work exploring the relationship between brain development and cognitive processes. How is language learned? Why do learning disabilities develop? How do space flight, sleep deprivation and stress affect the brain? How quickly does the brain recover from a concussion and what are the consequences? “I’ve always been interested in putting together behavior measures with brain measures and then looking at how the two correlate,” Molfese said. He is an internationally recognized researcher. He’s a leader who can work across disciplines

to connect brilliant minds and secure significant grants to enable them to explore in ways never dreamed of before. Now, he is a University of Nebraska–Lincoln professor, director of UNL’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior and his work to situate the university on the leading edge of research is already under way. ❖ ❖ ❖ The effort began more than three years ago, when political science professor Kevin Smith launched a new initiative to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines to explore complex social dynamics. That movement, now known as the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3), has produced collaborations on everything from reactions of the autonomic nervous system to eye tracking to genetics. While UNL has a lab to measure the brain’s response to a thought or perception, what was missing was the imaging component, Smith said. By 2009, administrators decided to hire a brain imager and Dennis Molfese’s name was at the top of the list, said David Manderscheid, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

At the time, Molfese was pursuing research at the University of Louisville and had collected a steady stream of honors and affiliations over his career. Among other roles, he co-directs one of 15 national laboratories that make up the National Institutes of Health Reading and Learning Disabilities Research Network. He chairs several prestigious grant review panels. And he has been continuously funded since 1975 through grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and NASA, to name a few. “We knew we needed someone with the unique talents, enthusiasm and demeanor to facilitate research across disciplines, generate innovative ideas and produce findings that have a transformational impact,” Manderscheid said. “We set high expectations, but we’re confident Dennis Molfese will deliver.” Working across disciplines is challenging because it means dealing with people who are all very intelligent, but just don’t speak the same language, said assistant professor of psychology and CB3 collaborator Mike Dodd. “Dennis really knows how to connect people across areas and how to speak everybody’s

Dennis Molfese, Mildred Francis Thompson professor of psychology, is pictured at far left in his lab where brain imaging research is under way. Using specialized equipment, like the electrode net doctoral student Ca and what parts of the brain are reacting (pictured in images center left and center right) has allowed him to study a host of issues ranging from the effects of sleep deprivation to why learning disabilities develop.

ging center, galvanize research for a unique partnership with athletics that could, for example, yield answers about the true effects of concussions.

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Molfese, who holds a Mildred Francis Thompson professorship, arrived on campus in October 2010 and his multimillion-dollar lab, now temporarily set up in Nebraska Hall, followed soon after. Joining him is his wife, Victoria, whose studies will center on children and their abilities to succeed in school.

More than 60 UNL faculty members from disciplines ranging from anthropology and advertising to political science and science teaching have taken Molfese’s 18-hour introductory workshop. It’s designed to introduce them to his line of research and to spark ideas about how they can incorporate it into their fields of study.

The remaining component of Molfese’s lab, a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, better known as an fMRI, is scheduled for arrival in summer 2011. Like an MRI, it uses powerful magnets to visualize structures inside the human body, but it can also track blood flow within microscopic areas of the brain and detect subtle changes linked to behavior. The machine will become the centerpiece of a 22,000-square-foot brain-imaging center that’s included in expansion plans for the east side of Memorial Stadium. The center will give researchers unparalleled access to imaging equipment and pave the way

Among those is Ron Bonnstetter, a professor of science education who has been pursuing the concept of brain-based learning for several years. The area is ripe for research to continue discovering better teaching strategies that are more closely aligned with what is known about how the brain works, Bonnstetter said. The imaging center’s creation will help knock down his hurdles—moving from a behavioral research basis for decision-making to a biological basis—and open up many other opportunities, he said. “You reach a point where translating other people’s research can only take you so far,” Bonnstetter said. “It’s very exciting that we’re

moving from the role of being translators of research to being the creators of the research.” Psychologist Will Spaulding, meanwhile, is eager to incorporate the new techniques in his own trailblazing research into schizophrenia. “This will give us a biological measure of brain functioning that we expect will add a new dimension to our understanding of how psychological treatments work, how they interact with drug treatment, and how brain functioning changes as people recover from severe mental illness,” he said. If even a handful of people are successful, the impact is significant, Molfese said. “If they run with it, I have no question in my mind that their publications will be successful, that their reputations will take a quantum leap because again, they’ll be doing things nobody else has done in their field,” he said. “That’s going to add to their prestige and the prestige of the university.” to see a video interview with Dennis Molfese

aitlin Hudac is pictured (at center) adjusting and the photogrammetry (pictured at far right behind postdoctoral research associate Srinivas Kota) Molfese can pinpoint areas of brain activation. Understanding how

(Photos courtesy Craig Chandler, University Communications)

language, too, and that has made that process much easier than even it would have been a year or two ago,” he said.

Faculty Highlights

Valery Forbes (Photo courtesy Craig Chandler, University Communications)

School of Biological Sciences’ director: Opportunities abound Velkommen.

How do you see SBS as a player in UNL’s Life Sciences Initiative?

Valery Forbes may have heard that in recent months, or more likely the English version, “welcome,” after joining the UNL faculty in January as the new director of the School of Biological Sciences (SBS).

 W  ell, you could hardly have a Life Sciences Initiative without biology, so I see us as a key player in this. It seems that there has been interest in integrating the life sciences at UNL for quite a long time. I think we need to give people something concrete that they can get excited about—and that preferably offers the promise of large amounts of external funding—to really make integration happen. I would very much like to see SBS take a leadership role in such initiatives. I can see exciting opportunities for integrating within the life sciences themselves as well as for integrating life sciences with other natural sciences and social sciences.

The U.S.-born Forbes spent the last 22 years in Denmark serving in various roles in higher education. Forbes completed her education at State University of New YorkStony Brook, earning a doctorate in coastal oceanography and a master’s degree in marine environmental science. She also holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and geology. She is an accomplished administrator and outstanding scientist and her interdisciplinary orientation bodes well for UNL, said David Manderscheid, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Forbes sat down recently to share some of her thoughts and plans for the future, including thoughts about UNL’s Life Sciences Initiative and Nebraska Innovation Campus. The initiative is a movement to promote excellence and encourage new research collaborations within the life sciences. Nebraska Innovation Campus is a premier private/public-sector sustainable research campus located north of City Campus and currently in the planning and predevelopment stages. How will you raise the School’s profile?  We have just updated our strategic plan and will now be looking more closely at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Among other things, we are going to use the results of the analysis to help us develop a hiring strategy, strengthen our educational programs and improve the way we do business. All of these things should help to raise our profile. I also think we need to do a better job of telling the outside world about all the exciting things we’re doing and celebrating those successes. 10

What is the role of SBS in Nebraska Innovation Campus?  T  here are just so many opportunities today within the renewable energy sector, the food sector, and the environmental sector in general where the scientific community and the business community should be working together. And I think many SBS scientists have relevant expertise that they could contribute to such endeavors. This doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that our research becomes narrowly focused on solving specific here-and-now practical problems. There is so much we don’t understand about how the world works, and so many scientific discoveries that have later led to completely unexpected applications. So at the same time that we are trying to solve society’s most pressing problems, we need to continue to protect curiosity-driven research that does not have any obvious or immediate applications. What have you brought from your experience in Denmark?  D  anish culture is very democratic and not particularly hierarchical. So I am used to involving people in decisions and in fostering an open, working environment. I’ve found that as long as transparency, logic and fairness are maintained, most people will accept a decision—even if they don’t agree with it. I’ve also learned effective strategies for surviving long, dark and cold winters.

Psychology study finds ogling hurts work performance By Steve Smith

Something for men to think about the next time they gawk at an attractive female co-worker: That longing stare could hurt her ability to do her job well. In a new study, researchers found that women who were subjected to an “objectifying gaze” were more severely affected by the action than men. Most notably, women Sarah Gervais performed significantly worse on math problems after being ogled—a concern for advocates of improving women’s roles in male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But at the same time, women were still surprisingly motivated to seek out and interact with the person who looked them over, the study showed. “The objectifying gaze may lead to a vicious cycle in which women underperform in their work, giving people the impression that their looks are more important than what they do,” said Sarah Gervais, a UNL assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author. “Unfortunately, this cycle may persist if women continue to interact with the people who led them to underperform in the first place.”

The study involved 150 people—67 women and 83 men— who were invited to take part in an interview-style exercise to examine how people work in teams. Each was assigned an interviewer of the opposite sex, who, when the participants entered the room, looked at them from head to waist and from waist to head in one sweeping motion and stared at their chests during the interview. Interviewers also gave participants written feedback at the end of the interview that said, among other things, that they were “looking good.” Participants were then given a dozen math problems, and also answered several questions to establish their feelings about their own bodies as well as their interviewer. The research is an important first step toward documenting and explaining the immediate consequences of the objectifying gaze in actual interactions, Gervais said. “The results suggest that seemingly innocent overtures—checking women out or complimenting them on their appearance—have remarkably negative effects on women,” she said. “Identifying the adverse consequences of the objectifying gaze is a first step toward creating interventions that can reduce its effects.” The article appears in the February edition of Psychology of Women Quarterly and is authored by UNL’s Gervais and Jill Allen, along with Theresa Vescio of Pennsylvania State University. Visit to see a video interview with Sarah Gervais

Mathematician selected for Sloan Research Fellowship By Lindsay Augustyn

Carina Curto, assistant professor of mathematics, has been selected for a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship for her research in the field of mathematical neuroscience. This two-year fellowship awards Curto $50,000 to put toward her research. Carina Curto

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, awards 118 Sloan Research Fellowships each year, bringing total grants in the program to $5.9 million annually. The fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. Twenty fellowships are allocated in the field of mathematics. The foundation makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology and economic performance and seeks proposals for original projects led by outstanding individuals or teams. Sloan Research Fellowship Continued on Page 14


Student Highlights

Senior first at UNL to win Gates Cambridge Scholarship By Christine Scalora

Senior mathematics major Zach Norwood of Papillion can count himself as the first at UNL to win the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. He’s also just one of 30 U.S. students to receive the honor. The scholarship, which can be renewed for up to four years of study, covers tuition for graduate study in any field at the University of Cambridge Zach Norwood in England. It also includes room, board and travel and a student stipend. He said he’s “humbled” and knows what being selected for the award means. “I have a challenge to achieve at a high level at Cambridge,” he said. He hopes to use his time at Cambridge to be exposed to new areas of math and to learn from other Gates Cambridge scholars. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship was created in 2000 when the

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $210 million to the University of Cambridge. Gates scholars are students who show leadership skills and a desire to better others’ lives. The scholarship program annually awards 80 to 100 scholarships worldwide to students from outside the United Kingdom. UNL math professor Roger Wiegand has worked with Norwood since last year as his faculty sponsor within the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences (UCARE) program, which offers students opportunities to work with faculty on research projects. Norwood’s selection for the highly competitive scholarship is an honor for UNL’s math department and for the entire university, Wiegand said. He added that he’s amazed by how quickly Norwood absorbs advanced material. “He’s one of the best students I’ve ever encountered,” Wiegand said. Norwood is expected to graduate in May from UNL, where he has spent time working as a math teaching assistant and tutor. He said he enjoys helping students understand and get excited about math. He is contemplating a career as a math professor at a research university.

Senior finishes second on ‘Jeopardy! College Championship’ By Jean Ortiz Jones

Senior Tim Relihan proved he knows his stuff when it comes to miscellaneous measures, mystery meat and identifying the familiar university linked to a certain diminutive, red college mascot.

Alex Trebek and Tim Relihan (Photo courtesy Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.)

The Stromsburg native finished in second place with $14,800 on a November episode of “Jeopardy! College Championship.”

The syndicated television game show coincidentally featured a question about Nebraska’s mascot. “When the Lil’ Red question came I just knew I had to answer, so I was frantically trying to make sure I knew what they were looking for and that I would be first to buzz in when the question was finished,” he said. Although Relihan didn’t get to take home his winnings, he and 12

other players eliminated in the first round of the tournament each received $5,000. Relihan, an international studies and history major, was one of 15 contestants selected from an applicant pool of more than 10,000 students for the popular college tournament. Relihan said he was unsuccessful in two previous attempts to land a spot on the show and was surprised when he learned he had made the cut. “I was just kind of in shock for a while,” he said. “My head was really spinning. I didn’t know what to think.” He prepared by studying an online archive of “Jeopardy!” questions and answers and playing other online quiz games. He also spent some extra time on U.S. history—a topic that comes up frequently on the show. “I decided I wasn’t going to try to master modern literature or poetry or opera or other things I just don’t know anything about,” he said. “I just wouldn’t answer those questions.” He admits he didn’t put too much time into studying for or stressing about the show. He remained focused on his schoolwork, he said.

Dean’s Scholars poised to shape new Arts and Sciences tradition By Jean Ortiz Jones

Eleven students make up the inaugural class of the Dean’s Scholars Society and carry the responsibility of shaping a new tradition for the College of Arts and Sciences.

hands-on learning opportunities, all while holding down parttime jobs and heavy course loads.

Dean David Manderscheid established the exclusive group in 2010 with the help of the University of Nebraska Foundation. The goal was to recognize some of the best students in the college, with “best” being defined by more than grade point averages.

“These are exceptionally talented and driven students who have found remarkable success in the classroom and in their daily lives,” said Sunil Narumalani, associate dean for academic programs. “They demonstrate excellence in many different ways, which speaks directly to what the College of Arts and Sciences is all about.”

“I wanted to celebrate students who are high-achieving in an academic sense, but also have superior leadership skills and a commitment to service,” Manderscheid said.

Narumalani has helped guide the scholars as they define their mission, set traditions and determine how they will engage the campus community and raise awareness about who they are.

Selected students can receive up to $2,000 in scholarship aid. Award amounts are determined by need.

“Our goal as an organization will be to help the students who represent the College connect with each other, communicate with the College, and create a network for students to draw upon in their professional careers,” said Alanna Hoffman, a senior majoring in international studies with minors in Japanese and Spanish.

To be eligible for selection, students must be full-time undergraduates in the college and have a minimum GPA of 3.75. They also must have junior or senior standing during the semester in which the scholarship becomes effective. Arts and Sciences students can apply as they would any other UNL scholarship. Prospective Dean’s Scholars also must submit an essay describing their motivations for applying, accomplishments that make them distinctive, and how they would add value to others’ learning experiences. Complete details are available at A committee composed of Manderscheid and the assistant and associate deans of the college will select approximately 10 students for the honor each year. Eight seniors and three juniors whose majors span all corners of the College were selected for the inaugural class. Their GPAs range from 3.827-4.0. Group members have served as leaders in student government, Greek affairs and service-oriented organizations. They also have engaged in research and other

Manderscheid said he hopes to see the group give back to the college just as the Innocents Society benefits the UNL community. “I hope they’ll carry the message outside the university about the kind of education and positive experiences they can have within UNL’s College of Arts and Sciences,” Manderscheid said. The Dean’s Scholars, meanwhile, are excited about making an impact. “I think it is an opportunity to leave a legacy,” Hoffman said.

Pictured below in Front Row (L to R): Liz Sutton, Katrina Poppert, Sarah Synovec, Narmin Tahirova and Kara Brostrom. Back Row: David Manderscheid, Alanna Hoffman, Brian Coburn, Katie Kidwell, Sarah Lee, Natalie Heimann, Elisabeth Tracey and Sunil Narumalani (Photo courtesy Michael O’Connor)



 Grant to enhance digital humanities research The Center for Digital Research in the Humanities has received a four-year, $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to permanently support some of the center’s key programs. An internationally recognized leader in digital humanities research, the center is a joint initiative of UNL Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences. The grant will support two graduate student assistantships annually, an ongoing two-year postdoctoral fellowship and the Nebraska Digital Workshop, the center’s signature event. The workshop brings the nation’s top early career digital humanities scholars to UNL to showcase their research, get feedback from senior faculty and network with potential research partners and employers. The university must raise $1.5 million over the next four years to receive the full $500,000.

 Colleges create new interdisciplinary minor The College of Arts and Sciences along with the colleges of Engineering and Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources have approved a new undergraduate minor in computational biology and bioinformatics.

The new minor will help students understand, use and develop advanced computational methods and tools for processing, visualizing, and analyzing biological data and for modeling biological processes. The Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Steering Committee includes faculty members from the School of Biological Sciences, the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and the Department of Statistics. For more information, log on to

 Chemistry celebrating 125th anniversary The Department of Chemistry is celebrating a significant milestone and calling on alumni to join in the festivities. The 2011 Chemistry Reunion will be held April 15-16 to celebrate 125 years of chemistry education. The Department awarded its first bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1886 to George Bell Frankforter. Tours of Hamilton Hall, an alumni banquet dinner, a department tailgate and other activities are planned in conjunction with the Alumni Association’s 2011 “Big Red Weekend.” Registration information and more details are available at

The interdisciplinary curriculum prepares students for careers in biomedical, biotechnology, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and engineering fields and for related graduate study programs.

Sloan Research Fellowship Continued From Page 11

Curto is an extraordinarily talented mathematician with brilliant insights into applying a wide variety of mathematical ideas to problems in neuroscience and developing the mathematics needed to consider such problems, said John Meakin, chair of the UNL Department of Mathematics, who nominated Curto for the extremely competitive award. Her work has the potential to make a significant impact on the field of theoretical neuroscience, Meakin said. “She is rapidly establishing herself as one of the leading figures in this field, worldwide,” he said. Curto’s research, funded by a three-year National Science Foundation grant, uses mathematics to improve understanding of how the brain works, especially at the level of information 14

processing in neural circuits. Many neurological disorders such as autism, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia are believed to arise from malfunctions in neural circuitry. Curto said she has not yet decided how she will use the fellowship funds, but she said it would be related to her current research. Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are the most compelling. Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 38 Nobel prizes, 16 Fields Medals in mathematics and 10 John Bates Clark awards in economics. Established in 1955 to provide support and recognition to scientists, the fellowship program has supported more than 4,200 early-career researchers.


UNL names human rights program in honor of Forsythe family By Blair Euteneuer

The human rights and humanitarian affairs program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has been named in honor of professor emeritus David P. Forsythe and his family for their longtime commitment to the program and generous financial support. The Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs is a joint program of the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Law. Founded in 1997, its mission is to examine issues related to human rights from an international and interdisciplinary perspective in the classroom through teaching, research and service, as well as bringing these discussions to the wider community. “I want to make sure there is continued education, research and teaching during this time when human rights are under attack and are being weakened by various state and terrorist policies,” said Forsythe, who holds the Charles J. Mach Distinguished Professorship. The longtime UNL professor helped establish the program.

David P. Forsythe

Justice, said Forsythe has helped mark Nebraska with an international reputation for human rights. Forsythe and his family have provided a $120,000 challenge grant to the University of Nebraska Foundation to support the program and encourage additional donations from others. Forsythe also has established a bequest in his estate plans to provide gifts totaling $500,000, which when completed, will provide immediate expendable support for the program and a permanent endowment. The funds will support scholarships, fellowships, internships, guest speakers, workshops, conferences, student and faculty travel and stipends, among other initiatives. Gifts to the program will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Forsythe family challenge grant. To give or to learn more, contact Josh Egley at the University of Nebraska Foundation at (402) 458-1202 or

The program’s co-director, Ari Kohen, associate professor of political science and the Schlesinger Professor for Social

Distinguished alumnus Ted Sorensen remembered for impact By Kelly Bartling

Theodore C. Sorensen, an alumnus and constant supporter of the university, known for his historic career as adviser and counselor to John F. Kennedy and international law expert, died Oct. 31 in New York at age 82. Sorensen graduated in 1949 from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s Theodore C. Sorensen degree in law, and in 1951, he earned his juris doctor from the NU College of Law. After law school, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he would ultimately work for Kennedy, first as a researcher for the newly elected senator, then political strategist and trusted adviser.

at the Edge of History,” was published in 2008, coinciding with his gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create the Theodore C. Sorensen Public Service Scholarship. It is awarded to seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences who demonstrate superior academic performance and a commitment to public service. Sorensen said he felt strongly that his upbringing and education in Nebraska were a basis for his accomplishments and he wanted to help other young Nebraskans in the future who share his interest in public service. “Ted was a great Nebraskan who recognized and valued his Nebraska roots,” Chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “He was a distinguished alumnus of the university who always acknowledged the role the university played in his success. He was a personal and deeply admired friend and I am deeply saddened by his death.” Visit to see video of Ted Sorensen speaking at UNL in 2008

His memoir and the last of his eight books, “Counselor: A Life


COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES 1223 Oldfather Hall P.O. Box 880312 Lincoln, NE 68588-0312

(Photo courtesy Greg Nathan, University Communications)

David Manderscheid, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (left), Katie Kidwell, Arts and Sciences senior (center), and Celeste Spier, undergraduate psychology adviser (right), are pictured flicking paper footballs into a fish bowl. The 60-second contest, “Through the Uprights,” was one of five “Minute to Win It” challenges featured at this spring’s Academic Stars reception.

Columns Magazine Spring 2011  

UNL College of Arts & Sciences Columns Magazine Spring 2011

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