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Two from Nebraska Engineering earn prestigious graduate awards

On February 13, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies awarded prestigious honors to a select group of UNL graduate students, adding further distinction to their recently completed degrees.

Juan Colon, Ph.D. (pictured below, left), was one of two winners of this year’s Lowe R. & Mavis M. Folsom Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award. Colon, from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, studied with both Electrical Engineering and Physics programs at UNL. His dissertation's title is "Rare Earth Dopants in Semiconducting Host Systems for Spin Electronics Devices."

His doctoral work introduced magnetism into electronic devices to expand the functionality of transistors and diodes. Improved electronic devices can be made from material that is smaller and more dense—for example, to open up the whole area of quantum computing, said Jerry Hudgins, Electrical Engineering professor and chair, who is one of Colon’s mentors. "A long-term goal is huge computational power in small volumes of material with very little energy used."

The American Vacuum Society (AVS) awarded Colon its prestigious Falicov Prize in 2011 for outstanding research performed by a graduate student in areas related to magnetic interfaces and nanostructures. Colon currently works as a postdoctoral research associate with the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research (NCESR) at UNL.

Tyler Wortman (pictured below, right) a graduate student in UNL’s Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, was one of three winners of the Lowe R. & Mavis M. Folsom Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. Wortman, from Grand Island, is a former Husker Football player who studied with Prof. Shane Farritor in his UNL Robotics Lab.

Wortman’s thesis title was “Design, Analysis and Testing of In Vivo Surgical Robots,” and his research explored developing tools for Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS): to decrease patient recovery times, improve cosmetic results and reduce costs. He focused on Laparoendoscopic Single-Site (LESS) surgery, which accesses the abdominal cavity through a single incision; unintuitive controls and limited dexterity can be challenges for LESS, preventing its wider adoption for complex procedures. His approaches for multi-functional in vivo surgical robots are designed to overcome the issues associated with LESS procedures.

According to the UNL Grad Studies website, the annual Folsom Distinguished Master's Thesis and Doctoral Awards recognize the outstanding research and creative accomplishments of UNL graduate students. These awards are made possible through a generous gift from the family of Lowe R. and Mavis M. Folsom to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The Folsom Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award recipient receives a $1000 honorarium, and the Folsom Distinguished Master's Thesis Award recipients receives a $500 honorarium.

Juan ColonTyler Wortman


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