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Research at Nebraska

Greenhouse at Nebraska Innovation Campus

Distinctive Research Strengths

Biomedical Research

Biomedical research at Nebraska is highly interdisciplinary and based largely in four NIH-funded Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). The COBRE program funds health-related research and fosters faculty development and research infrastructure. The COBRE centers, which also include researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University, fund collaborative health-related research and foster development of the next generation of biomedical researchers and critical research infrastructure.

Computer Science and Engineering 

Nebraska offers one of the country’s top computer science and engineering programs, including a software engineering program ranked in the top five in the U.S., an innovative lab developing advanced Unmanned Aerial Systems, and research in wireless technology that enables interaction with the environment in powerful new ways.

Food for Health

The Nebraska Food for Health Center is a $40.3 million collaboration among researchers across the University of Nebraska, food and drug manufacturers and philanthropists interested in the intersection between agriculture and medicine. The center grew from the Gut Function Initiative established in 2003, a collaboration of food scientists, computer experts, statisticians and nutritionists exploring the relationship between bacteria in the gut and human health. The new center expands those collaborations to plant science, production agriculture, food processing and biomedicine with the goal of developing prebiotics, probiotics and other treatments for diseases like obesity, and chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance.

Digital Humanities

The Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, established in 2005, was an early leader in this multi-disciplinary field and continues to produce innovations. It is a joint program of the University Libraries and the College of Arts & Sciences. Faculty have developed award-winning digital archives and unique digital content and tools for analytical scholarship. Early work such as the Walt Whitman Archive has been followed by the Nebraska Literary Laboratory’s cutting-edge work in digital literary analysis using high-powered computing.

Food and Water Security

The global community must find a way to provide food and water security for a population expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Nebraska’s position as first in the U.S. in irrigated crop acres and fourth in food production illustrates our expertise in the critical area water and food research. Its importance as a research priority is reflected in our internationally recognized centers and research programs that include the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network, and Resilience in Agricultural Systems training grant.

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education at Nebraska is highly interdisciplinary and ranges from research on early education and development, psychosocial development and behavioral health to a national extension project to train childcare providers. The Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS) studies early childhood education and development, academic interventions and learning; psychosocial health, development and learning; rural education; and research evaluation methods.

High Energy Physics/Atomic and Molecular Physics 

Nebraska physicists are pushing the boundaries of science with their work using one of the world’s largest and most powerful particle colliders and the world’s smallest and fastest lasers.

Materials/Nanoscience and Engineering

One of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s strongest areas draws on faculty from physics, chemistry and engineering to conduct inter-disciplinary research focused on materials research science and engineering, nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Plant Sciences

The plant sciences have always been a strength at Nebraska, from early research pioneers like botanist Charles Bessey to renowned plant geneticists and breeders in the 1970s and today’s microbiologists, biochemists and agronomists leading efforts in studying integrated systems. Faculty in the Center for Plant Science Innovation conduct research on plant-microbe interactions; abiotic and biotic stress responses; and they use genomics/proteomics to improve crop production. Faculty in the Center for Root and Rhizobiome Innovation conduct research on root and soil microbe interactions to improve crop productivity. Additional studies are conducted with sorghum to improve productivity and advance sustainable ethanol production. State-of-the-art facilities include the 45,000 square-foot Greenhouse Innovation Center with a high-throughput, digital imaging system for plant phenotyping and a one-acre field phenotyping facility with multiple cameras and sensors for plant imaging.


Nebraska sits at the crossroads of the nation's roadway and railway systems and consistently ranks among the top 10 states nationally in total freight movements, making transportation an important driver of the state’s economy. The university’s long history of leadership in transportation research has contributed products and solutions to improve safety and support innovation in this key industry.

Emerging Research Areas

Biomedical engineering 

Biomedical engineering at Nebraska focuses on improving the quality of human life by improving human health. The programs are highly interdisciplinary, integrating engineering, biology and medicine and drawing on collaborations with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University and University of Nebraska at Omaha and with medical facilities including Bryan LGH, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, CHI Health-St. Elizabeth Hospital and the Nebraska Heart Institute. Research accomplishments include miniaturized robots for abdominal surgical procedures that led to a spin-off company, ICARE – an elliptical system for rehabilitation for gait training and a spin-off device for pediatric gait rehab, and a promising new robotic device for colonoscopies.

Brain, Biology and Behavior

From studying the neurological basis of decision-making to understanding how the brain behaves after injury, the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior is positioned to become a national leader in understanding how brain functioning affects human behavior. The center’s lab is one of few in the world to simultaneously capture functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), record brain electrical activity and track eye movement. Center research ranges from neuroscience, sociology, and political science to special education and communication disorders, psychology, sociology, and child, youth and family studies. Recent center grants include development of intellectual infrastructure to enhance cognitive neuroscience research and a study of stimulation of the brain’s molecular pathways that underlie feeding in preterm infants.

Drug Discovery and Development

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and NSRI are collaborating on creating a Drug Development Pipeline that would offer integrated drug development, from discovery to clinical trial, policy and implementation of use in collaboration with limited pharma partners. This UARC-academic-industry collaboration would fill an important niche for the U.S. government, ensuring rapid and focused execution to meet government needs.

Emerging Media Arts 

The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, a $57 million investment by the University focused on interdisciplinary learning, creativity and research in emerging media was established in 2016 with a $20 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation. The Center’s work will aim to creatively fuse virtual production with performative experiences across film, theatre and live stage performance; gaming, interactive media, broadcast and internet media; and augmented and virtual reality.

Integrated Beef Systems

Research in beef systems and the beef supply chain are historical and existing strengths, including programs in genetics/genomics, physiology, nutrition, animal health, animal management, and meat science. A new initiative in Integrated Beef Systems brings together a broader range of disciplines and partners to study the integration of cropping, livestock and grazing systems.

Obesity and Related Diseases

Two NIH-funded COBREs focus fully or in part on obesity and related diseases: the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules and the Nebraska Center for Integrated Biomolecular Communication. Both centers received five-year federal grants that fund the research and development of early-career faculty, a substantial investment in scientific talent and facilities in this area of research.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

The social and behavioral sciences include faculty from numerous disciplines conducting research in areas extremely important to society. The University is focusing on encouraging interdisciplinary research on big issues to grow strength is this area. Three key initiatives include the Social and Behavior Sciences Research Consortium (connects social and behavioral science faculty to strengthen research capacity in these fields), Central Plains Data Center (one of 19 Federal Statistical Research Data Centers; secure facilities providing authorized access to restricted-use microdata for statistical purposes), and Minority Health Disparities Initiative (links science, practice, policy and training to improve the health and well-being of all Nebraska residents).

The University of Nebraska is committed to a pluralistic campus community through affirmative action, equal opportunity, work-life balance and dual careers. See: