UNL graduate students showcase their work at the research fair

The spring UNL Research Fair took place Wednesday and Thursday at the Nebraska Union.

Story and Photos by Kristin Bauer, NewsNetNebraska

From mathematics to music, graduate students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showcased their work yesterday at the spring research fair.

Activities took place throughout the day—including the graduate research poster session. Here, students were asked to compose a poster and give a five-minute presentation about their work. The event was held in the Centennial Room at the Nebraska Union.

Jay Carlson, electrical engineering master’s student who put together a 3D camera the size of a quarter.

“This is a great opportunity to meet other researchers,” said Jay Carlson, a master’s student in electrical engineering, “we’re always cooped up in our lab working… it’s great to get together and meet a bunch of people and find out what research is happening here at UNL.”

Carlson was at the fair to present a high-definition, low cost stereoscopic camera. The camera would shoot three-dimensional footage, much like what is used to film Hollywood blockbusters like Avatar and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

However, this camera is approximately the size of a quarter and would be used in a surgical environment.

“The real idea about this camera is that it’s a USB base so you can plug it right into your computer,” he said, “so anyone can use it.”

Another thing Carlson mentioned was how cost-effective his camera is—it only takes around $40 to make.

Carlson wasn’t the only electrical engineering graduate student to be working on groundbreaking research. Craig Zuhlke, also an electrical engineering graduate student, presented on the use of femtosecond laser pulses to modify medals.

In simpler terms, his research focused on changing medals using lasers. His goal is to find something that would replace batteries in the future.

“I’ve been working on this project for five years,” said Zuhlke, “but there’s a lot of work left to be done.”

From his research alone, Zuhlke has discovered how to modify medals to change absorption patterns. He is able to make surfaces completely repel water, allowing them to self-clean.

Craig Zuhlke, electrical engineering master’s student. His goal is to find something to replace batteries in the future.

Self-cleaning glass is already mass-produced by Pilkington Glass, but these surfaces could be useful in the future for self-cleaning computer monitors and other electronic devices.

Outside of the Electrical Engineering College, Allison Cole is a part of the Civil Engineering department. She is working to help improve Nebraska’s groundwater by removing chemicals using mulch.

Her research focuses on the two chemicals: atrazine and nitrate. Atrazine is used as a herbicide to eradicate broad leaf weeds.

Nitrate, on the other hand, is a naturally occurring form of nitrogen found in soil. In moderate amounts, nitrate is harmless, but in high concentrations it could cause methemoglobinemia—an illness found especially infants.

“There’s plenty of places (in Nebraska) that have really high nitrate concentrations, as well as high atrazine concentrations,” said Cole. “I’m hoping to remove both at once—and essentially kill two birds with one stone.”

Jay Carlson, Craig Zuhlke and Allison Cole are only three of the UNL graduate students that are working to make a difference in the world. There were more than 100 participants in this event.

The event continued into the evening Wednesday night and will come to a close on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. with the Undergraduate Research Conference. This will be held in the Centennial room in the Nebraska Union.