The Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research (NCESR), chartered in 2006, supports innovative research and interdisciplinary collaboration by funding competitive “seed grants” for energy sciences research. About Us describes the mission, goal, vision, center organization and administration, including the Director, Associate Director, Executive Council and the External Advisory Committee. Contact Us gives the office address plus contact information for the Center’s staff. Use the Whittier Research Center Map or UNL’s Campus Maps to locate the NCESR office in Suite 230 of the Whittier Research Center, 2200 Vine Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.

New Program Coordinator at NCESR

Brenda Coufal

Brenda Coufal is the new Program Coordinator with the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research. In this role, she will provide business and program support, including overseeing financial management, marketing and outreach, and providing support for grants development and coordination of research groups. Brenda came to the Energy Center from the State of Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). She worked in Public Health with DHHS for over 22 years. Brenda has many years of experience overseeing the financial management of public health programs and grants, marketing, and outreach. During that time, she was the Program Manager with the Nebraska Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program and the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) Program. Brenda enjoys building relationships and collaborating with internal and external partners. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends, which includes attending sporting events, “Go Huskers!” and traveling as time allows. Brenda grew up on a farm west of Ansley, Nebraska. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Brenda and her husband live in Lincoln and have two adult children and two grandsons.

NCESR selects new projects for Cycle 16

Eight new research projects were selected for funding by the Energy Center in its sixteenth annual grant competition.  The faculty selected for the awards were Professors Wei Bao, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Bai Cui, Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Jun Wang, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Xia Hong, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Yiqi Yang, Department of Textiles, Merchandising, & Fashion Design, Hamid Sharif, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Wei Qiao, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Matthias Fuchs, Department of Physics & Astronomy. To learn more go to 2022/2023 Energy Research Grants (Cycle 16)

NCESR announces 2022 summer internships

The Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research (NCESR) is taking applications for the summer undergraduate internship in energy sciences research. In the past, four internships were granted each year. This year, we are pleased to announce that we will be able to award eight internships. The Darrell J. Nelson Summer Undergraduate Internship in Energy Sciences Research is being offered for the eighth time in the amount up to $5,000 per recipient for the summer of 2022.  The application deadline is Friday, January 28, at 5:00 p.m. For additional information about the 2022 application requirements, click on the info sheet link below:

For a copy of the application form, click on the link below. It is a DocuSign form so you will need to sign in with your UNL ID and password.

NCESR Application Form for 2022

To learn more about previous summer undergraduate internship projects, go to http://ncesr.unl.edu/?page_id=9451

If you have any questions, contact Lorraine Moon at lmoon1@unl.edu.

NCESR project: engineered microbe that excels at ‘breathing rubber’


The single-celled microorganisms known as methanogens are, no surprise, known for emitting methane: in the guts of humans and other animals, in hydrothermal vents that gash the ocean floor — almost anywhere, really, that oxygen is not.

But biochemist Nicole Buan and colleagues at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln have now genetically engineered a species of methanogen that can also yield sizable amounts of isoprene, the primary chemical component of synthetic rubber. Promisingly, that isoprene production substantially outpaces the yields of other microorganisms engineered for the same purpose.  Engineered microbe excels at ‘breathing rubber’

Three NCESR students win awards

On April 12-16, 2021, the Office of Graduate Studies, Office of Undergraduate Research, and the Office of Research and Economic Development held virtual Student Research Days. Over 200 students participated in the event. Three students working on Energy Center projects received awards.

Junsi Yang, working with Dr. Ozan Ciftci in Food Science and Technology (Developing a Green Biorefinery Approach for Rural Processing of High-Value Camelina and Sorghum Co-Products), received a $400 travel grant to help with conference travel costs.

Brandi Brown, working with Rajib Saha in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (Conversion of Lignin from Lignocellulosic Biomass into Biodegradable Plastic), received a $400 travel grant as well as top honors and monetary award from the College of Engineering.

Thivani Senathiraja, working with Siamak Nejati in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (Selective H2 Separation Using Mixed Matrix Membranes and Its Utilization), received a $400 travel grant as well as top honors and monetary award from the College of Engineering.

To view these posters and others related to current Energy Center projects, please go to Undergraduate and Graduate Student Research Grant Posters

NCESR grant leads to breakthrough in fiber study

Dr. Yuris Dzenis, a faculty member in Mechanical and Materials Engineering, recently published an article in Applied Materials & Interfaces ( a journal of the American Chemical Society ) on a study that allowed him and other researchers on the project to explain the differences in fibrillation.  The article also received the honor of gracing the cover of the journal.  To view the article, go to Study yields breakthroughs in understanding failure of high-performance fibers.

NCESR seed grant leads to $4.5M award

In 2012, Alexander Sinitskii was awarded an Energy Center grant for his project entitled  “Three-Dimensional Graphene-Based Scaffolds for Supercapacitor Applications”.  This seed grant has led to the awarding of a three-year, $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research.  Dr. Sinitskii, associate professor of chemistry, will lead a multi-institution research team investigating ways to incorporate DNA nanotechnology as a construction tool to assemble graphene in new ways that could make the material more useful in electronic devices and other applications. To learn more about the research, go to  Alexander Sinitskii award.

NCESR Seed Funding Helps Obtain NRC Award

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently awarded the University of Nebraska  with a three-year, $450,000 Faculty Development Grant to support the research of Bai Cui, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering.  The grant will help develop materials for the next generation of nuclear power facilities.  Jeff Shield, chair of mechanical and materials engineering, and Michael Nastasi, director of the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research, collaborated on the grant.  NRC will help develop materials for next generation nuclear power facilities

NCESR projects showcased in video

The Nebraska Public Power District recently produced a video showcasing six energy research projects funded through the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research.  The University of
Nebraska-Lincoln professors leading these projects are Martha Shulski, School of Natural Resources; Chris Cornelius, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering;  Ned Ianno, Electrical and Computer Engineering;  Karrie Weber, School of Biological Sciences; Jeff Shield, Mechanical and Materials Engineering; and Xiaoshan Xu, Physics and Astronomy.    To view the video, click on Research Videos