The new Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research has its first director.
Ken Cassman, professor of agronomy, has been appointed to head the center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Cassman, who has previously served as chairman of the department of agronomy and horticulture from 1996 to 2004, began his part-time center leadership duties in June.
"Ken Cassman is a nationally recognized scientist who brings the vision and leadership necessary for directing our new Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research," says Harvey Perlman, UNL president. "Ken will play a key role in guiding this unique partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District and building further research collaborations within the state and nationally."
The new center is a partnership between UNL and NPPD. It will encourage collaboration on energy-related research among UNL faculty and with public and private energy-related organizations. The center will provide initial funding for promising research to develop renewable domestic energy resources, improve energy efficiency and create economic opportunities for Nebraska and beyond.
"UNL is doing very exciting energy research in many fields and Ken is a leader who can bring together chemists, agronomists, engineers and other researchers from many disciplines to work collaboratively on big projects. We are thrilled to have him serve as director of the center," says Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research.
Cassman's interest in the energy center is tied to his work as an agronomist, which has focused on ensuring local and global food security while improving soil and environmental quality. At UNL, his work has expanded to consider the energy efficiency and environmental impact of corn-ethanol production systems and crop yield potential to ensure adequate corn supplies.
Nebraska has several advantages in the renewable energy arena, such as wind power and biofuels, which have the potential for long-term economic benefit for Nebraska, Cassman says. However, the center is "interested in anything that has the potential to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, foster economic opportunities and expand scientific understanding in energy science."
Nebraska Public Power District is providing $5 million over five years in startup funding. The money will be leveraged to attract additional research support from agencies and foundations. The goal is to use the NPPD funding as a foundation for elevating energy science research and its impact in Nebraska.
Cassman will work with an advisory board of NPPD and UNL administrators on priorities, research project selection and strategic planning. Center-funded research should begin later this year.