First annual report highlights early successes of NU’s National Strategic Research Institute

April 23, 2014

New, more effective vaccines for anthrax and ricin.

Improved information systems that would allow national leaders to make better and faster decisions during security crises or natural disasters.

Stronger assessment tools to allow for timely, thorough responses to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

New, innovative tools that would allow decision-makers to better assess responses to the release of chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear or explosive devices.

These are the goals of just a few of the projects undertaken since the establishment of the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) in the fall of 2012. The institute, a collaboration between NU and the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), has highlighted numerous accomplishments in its first annual report, available now on the NSRI website.

Key among those: Faculty from across the university have attracted more than $9 million in contract funding to pursue 22 different projects related to the chief mission of the National Strategic Research Institute to support research for combating weapons of mass destruction.

“We launched the National Strategic Research Institute a year and a half ago with the goal of leveraging the talents and expertise of our faculty for the benefit of our partners at USSTRATCOM and the Department of Defense. I’m pleased that at this early stage, we are doing that very effectively,” said University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken. “NSRI has engaged a range of diverse faculty who are committed to supporting our men and women in uniform and improving national security. Because of their work, and the leadership and commitment of our founding executive director, Bob Hinson, the NSRI is off to an incredible start. I am confident we will see great things from this important new institute and the faculty associated with it.”

The National Strategic Research Institute is the newest of 13 University-Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) across the United States. NSRI focuses on five core areas of expertise demonstrated by NU faculty: nuclear detection and forensics; detection of chemical and biological weapons; passive medical defense against weapons of mass destruction; consequence management; and space, cyber and telecommunications law.

“The establishment of the NSRI at the University of Nebraska has created a significant opportunity for the university faculty and researchers to contribute directly to the combating weapons of mass destruction research and technology requirements of our defense partners and other federal agencies,” said Robert C. Hinson, a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General and executive director of NSRI. “The established core competencies reflect a very real mission area concern of USSTRATCOM and other federal agencies with assigned roles and responsibilities for addressing significant national security requirements for combating weapons of mass destruction.”

Steve Callicutt, USSTRATCOM director for capability and resource integration, said: “The United States Strategic Command is charged with combating weapons that present the gravest danger to the American public, namely weapons of mass destruction. From sensing the threat to eliminating the materials, we face a challenge that is multi-dimensional and complex. We recognize this is a long-term problem that will require focused research, analysis, experimentation and testing. To that end, we established the University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) to build the body of knowledge this nation will need to maintain security both at home and abroad.”

The 22 NSRI-affiliated projects, called “task orders,” being performed at the University of Nebraska capitalize on the expertise of some of NU’s most outstanding faculty. For example:

  • Dr. Kenneth Bayles, professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is conducting research in the area of a next-generation anthrax vaccine.
  • Dr. James Talmadge, UNMC professor of pathology and microbiology, is working on strategies that can better protect soldiers from biological weapons.
  • Dr. Don Umstadter, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is pioneering the science, technology and applications of extreme light with the high-powered Diocles laser – work that could allow for better detection of nuclear materials.
  • Dr. Jeyamkondon Subbiah, Kenneth E. Morrison Distinguished Professor of Food Engineering and associate professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at UNL, is conducting research that could lead to more thorough and rapid responses to foodborne outbreaks affecting Department of Defense or Department of State personnel in the United States or other countries.
  • Dr. Douglas Derrick, assistant professor of information technology innovation at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is working on a project that could enable more rapid understanding, risk assessment and decision-making for national leaders in the event of hostile enemy actions or man-made or natural disasters.

In addition, Dr. Gina Ligon, assistant professor of management at UNO, serves as the lead faculty member for a new, first-of-its-kind leadership program at UNO that directly supports the professional education and development of civilian leaders at USSTRATCOM. The program focuses on leadership, critical decision-making, team-building, collaboration and project management, interactions with state and federal political leaders and will conclude with completion of an assigned research project report over a challenging 13-week curriculum.

All 13 UARCs in the country are affiliated with leading research universities and were established to provide or maintain essential engineering, research and/or development capabilities through a long-term, strategic partnership with the Department of Defense. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and Penn State University – all national leaders in research and development expenditures financed by the Department of Defense – are among the other universities hosting UARCs.

About the National Strategic Research Institute

The University of Nebraska's National Strategic Research Institute is a designated 501c3 not-for-profit subsidiary organization of the University Technology Development Corp. at the University of Nebraska. The University of Nebraska and USSTRATCOM entered into a long-term strategic partnership in 2012 to provide essential research and development in mission-critical areas.

About the University of Nebraska

The University of Nebraska, the state’s only public university, was founded in 1869, less than two years after Nebraska became a state. The university is home to 50,000 students on four campuses in Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney, plus a college of technical agriculture in Curtis. Its 13,000 talented faculty and staff support the people of Nebraska through high-quality teaching, groundbreaking research and outreach and engagement in communities around the state.

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska