MME professor Nelson chosen one of ASEE's "20 Under 40"

MME professor Nelson chosen one of ASEE's "20 Under 40"

Calendar Icon Sep 23, 2014          RSS Feed RSS

Carl Nelson, an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, was honored by the ASEE as one of the "20 Under 40" educators spotlighted in the September issue of its magazine, Prism.
Carl Nelson, an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, was honored by the ASEE as one of the "20 Under 40" educators spotlighted in the September issue of its magazine, Prism.

The American Society of Engineering Education recently spotlighted UNL’s Carl Nelson for his work as an associate professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, choosing him as one of the “20 Under 40” educators worth keeping an eye on.

Nelson, however, isn’t letting the accolade go to his head. In fact, he’s wondering just how it all came about.

“It’s very complimentary. I read the article a few minutes ago. They said this is not a statistical sample, this is a purposeful selection of people. That makes me wonder …,” Nelson said with a chuckle.

“I tend to have the opinion that there’s a lot of smarter people in the world and a lot of people who are working harder. It’s worth giving everybody credit.  This thing is just my turn at getting some credit. Next time it will be someone else. It all evens out in the end.”

In the September issue of its magazine, Prism, ASEE honors Nelson and 19 other educators, all under the age of 40 and from “the United States and beyond”, for what they’ve accomplished in their “demonstrated talent for teaching, real-world research, or – as is often the case – both.” The magazine said the selections were made based on recommendations by schools and colleagues and through research by the magazine’s staff.

Nelson, in an article titled “Healing Ingenuity,” was chosen for his mentoring of students and for his work in refining medical technology.

The article noted how one of Nelson’s projects – a collaboration with therapists at Lincoln’s Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital – led to the development of the Intelligently Controlled Assistive Response Elliptical (ICARE) exercise machine. Based on the elliptical trainers found in many gyms, ICARE machines are smaller than many other rehabilitation machines and cost about 10 times less.

Several years ago, Madonna’s ICARE machines helped a 16-year-old girl make a full recovery after she was severely injured in a car crash. In her progress, Nelson said he saw his professional and personal sides come together.

“I met her, when she was first injured, because of a connection through church. It wasn’t until much later that her condition was improving that she ended up using the ICARE system as a therapeutic device,” Nelson said. “I had these two connections to her that converged as she was getting better. I got to see her progression and saw how the fruits of the labor played a big role in that.”

“I don’t do a whole lot of theoretical research, but applied problems are to me something that will help someone do X better; that’s a fun challenge … a rewarding challenge.”

So what challenges lie ahead for this educator, who hasn’t hit the age maximum for being on Prism’s list?

“Turning 40, in a couple of years,” Nelson said, laughing.

And continuing his mentoring work, which has included being faculty adviser for UNL’s chapter of ESAB and working with the NASA Microgravity Research Team.

“I think it stems from why many of us faculty are here. We enjoy getting to see students learn, and it’s not just in the classroom but in a variety of ways,” Nelson said. “Certainly, success as an engineer is more than just academic preparation. When it’s convenient and when it’s possible, participating in those aspects of preparing students for the future is a good thing to do. It’s always gratifying to see students doing good work as they move outside (of the College of Engineering) into the world.”