SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Summer 2016: Clayton Miller, Scott Campus, mentors, internships, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Clayton Miller

millerClayton Miller became a Scott Scholar in 2002. He is from McCook, NE and holds a BS and Masters of Architectural Engineering from University of Nebraska, an MSc from National University of Singapore (on a Fulbright Scholarship), and (soon) a PhD from ETH Zürich. He lives in Singapore, researching for ETH Zürich’s 3 for 2 Project.

The goal of the 3for2 Project is to get 3 floors a building where you normally only get 2 through better integration of HVAC systems. Similar to the phones in our pockets with innovative tech in compact form, as the engineering of cooling systems get better, you’re able to reduce the height of floors, thus the 3 for 2.

Since 2009, I’ve been based in Singapore and Zurich, spending most of the last two years in Zurich. ETH Zurich (or Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) is often listed in the Top 10 of all universities, considered the MIT of Continental Europe. They have a satellite campus in Singapore where I’m finishing my PhD and will continue with my post-doc on 3for2 through March of 2017.

I am the data guy on the project. My role at the beginning was to ensure that we had the right sensors installed with the right accuracy with the right control system – tying them together. On top of that, which is not common with buildings, I’ve setup a data acquisition process to stream data into a time series database with a dashboard on top to visualize the data.

My thesis is about feature engineering on time-series data for machine learning. Basically, being able to determine insights from temporal data – data with a timestamp. Features are the inputs to the machine learning model – basically the rules and patterns the machine uses to understand the underlying data. Within my particular context of data on buildings, generating the features is one of the hardest things to do. Simple features like mean, median, max only get you so far. A whole library of different types of features can be used, with the goal of improving accuracy of characterizing the data for predictions.

Visual Analytics is my next research focus, with the goal of using machine learning techniques for a user to investigate data within a dashboard. I’ll be trying to improve the speed a user navigates a dataset to zoom-in and zoom-out of a hierarchy. You can follow my findings at

Control systems of buildings are the original Internet of Things – they’ve been doing it since the mid-90s. Every commercial building has loads of devices, most often connected to the web, streaming data on temperatures, etc. The IoT buzzword is from the low cost that can now be applied across many types of sensors in many industries. But commercial buildings have had the budget to buy the sensors for a few decades.

We can now describe buildings through sensor data but comparisons across buildings, across time are still difficult. In the US, there are over 50 million smart meters collecting data at high frequencies, but if the buildings lack proper classification, the data becomes tough to use. If a building is mostly offices but also a yoga studio, a data center, and a science lab, it’s going to show different results than something that’s purely offices for people in shirts and ties banging on laptops. But this gives me things to research!

There are a lot of startups that are screening smart meter data, providing services back to utilities. Next spring after my post-doc, I’ll either look at continuing with academia or some of these startups.

Technology is not the hard part of tech startups. I was the CEO of Optiras in Singapore before my PhD program. We had a software platform to monitor buildings, with a similar approach as the 3 for 2 program. Our seed funding got us through 2 years, where I learned a lot about enterprise sales, positioning, and pricing, ultimately understanding that Singapore’s market and culture wasn’t the ideal fit for our offering.

World travel gives you a strong understanding of context that enables you to make sense of global events. There are constantly stories in the news about people doing things you think are crazy, but when you’ve immersed yourself in the context of those events you can start understanding why things are the way that they are. For example, when people in Singapore or Zurich asked me the culture in Nebraska, I try to describe nice people, Warren Buffett’s lifestyle, and Husker Football. People are super confused because it’s not the New York or California they’ve visited or seen in the movies. If they haven’t been, they don’t understand it. Same for us with the rest of the world. Travel is the ability to exercise shifting contexts. It’s working those gears of switching mindsets. If you can switch mindsets you can be a better person and citizen.

Scott Campus

pkiIn July, the Board of Regents renamed South Campus as Scott Campus, in honor of Mr. Scott. His vision and generosity is now even more embedded into the part of campus where we’ve all spent so much time. As I’m sure we’ll all agree, it’s a fitting name.

In addition to much of new construction over the past few years, including conversion of the Scott Hall parking lot into new dorms, the First Data building has been purchased by the NU Foundation.

 Walter Scott, Jr. retiring from Durham School Advisory Board

As you may know, Walter Scott, Jr. was instrumental in collaborating with industry and other philanthropic supporters to provide an endowment for The Charles W. Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction. Since the endowment was established in 2005, Mr. Scott has provided valuable guidance to the Durham School by serving on its advisory board.

To thank Walter for his contributions, the NU Foundation and Durham School are hosting a celebration on campus in Omaha. Local Scott Scholar Alumni graduates with degrees from the schools of Architectural Engineering, Construction Engineering, or Construction Management should be on the lookout for invitations to the upcoming even.

Quick Bytes

  • Mentors are needed for the new class of Freshman. Please email if you’re interested
  • 2017 Summer Internships: PKI is always looking for interesting places for students to gain experience; contact Kyle Hoback If you know of or can create any interesting opportunities
  • Jenny (Frahm) Addante is a self-employed retail sales rep in Austin, TX
  • Daniel Hassing is an Associate Attorney at Lamson Dugan & Murray, LLP in Omaha
  • Jeremy Neilson won the 2015 Forum Law Student Writing Competition at the Forum on Construction Law
  • …and the SSAO Facebook page has recently been updated

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Spring 2016: Julia (Warnke) Sommer, mentors, thoughts, prayers, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Julia (Warnke) Sommer

sommerJulia (Warnke) Sommer became a Scott Scholar in 2007. She is from Omaha and a graduate of Omaha Christian Academy (OCA). She holds a BS in Bioinformatics and Mathematics with minors in Chemistry and Computer Science. She lives with her husband Nathan in Aksarben Village and is a PhD Student at UNMC’s Pathology and Microbiology Department

I spent the summer after my freshman year with an atomic-force microscopy device, researching α-synuclein – a protein related to Parkinson’s Disease – in a UNMC biology lab. At the end of my freshman year, the bioinformatics program had an internship for people looking into research through the NIH INBRE program. I had really loved my bioinformatics classes that year, I applied. It was a natural fit for me.

Dean Ali got me interested in Graph Theory and Next-Generation Sequencing for sequencing the human genome. He served as my mentor in the summer research program, and then he started a project on Next-Generation Sequencing to develop software that stitches the genome back together. I officially joined the lab in 2012 and am still focused on next generation sequencing and how it extends into other areas. (As an undergrad, Julia won UNO’s campus-wide Senior Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award in 2011).

Right now, I’m working with the Henry Doorly Zoo on lemur conservation in Madagascar. We use mitochondrial DNA data from lemurs and are trying to figure-out how they adapt to different regions. This gets into the metagenomics of lemurs but is basically a study of all the organisms in the environment through the microbiome in their gut.

UNO’s Biology Department is looking at the bacteriophage data around lakes of Nebraska, another project I’m working on. I’m helping piece together the genome of these places.

I’ve published 7 papers so far. The lemur and lake projects are too early for publication, but there are other papers that deal with the sequence assembly data. One of the conference papers did get extended into a journal paper. (See a full list of Julia’s Publications)

My goal is to be a professor to mix research, teaching, and other classic things. I’d like to do a post-doc where I can learn more about research, either at UNMC or some other places. My main goal would definitely be to continue in bioinformatics.

Your data has to be good – it can’t be a black box. We have to be careful about the results in the labs because they might be used for medical research or applications. You have to understand what was done so we can apply and develop algorithms to produce results that make sense.

It’s crucial to integrate with domain specific knowledge. We have collaborators around different areas so we can develop algorithms. In many cases, that’s working directly with the biologists. Different features affect the algorithm, and one of the things we learned for all the projects, is we have had to look deeper at the data. Different assemblers work different on these different data types. They’d have to be adjusted to produce better results.

The PKI and Scott Scholar communities has always been wonderful to be a part of. A lot of professors were really supporting and encouraging, and it was nice to go to classes. I had a fun time learning and being with other students, and we were always learning and participating together. I enjoyed all the events around Scott Hall, including the dinners with the Scott’s. I remember this game we made-up called pole ball. We used to have the two poles as the goals. It was like soccer except the poles were the goals.

When I’m not spending time with my husband, I’m involved in some random events at UNMC. A friend and I are developing a dance for UNMC international students. Last summer, I traveled to South Korea for a nine-day trip for a UNO/IST-Yeungnam University joint biomedical workshop with the UNO bioinformatics lab members. In undergrad, I did track and field – triple jump my freshman year. I also did Math Club and was in the Honor’s program.

Find something that you’re really interested in, something that you really love. Something you want to pursue and understand better.

Scott Scholar Mentoring Program

pkiAs most of you know, 2015-16 was the first year for the Scott Scholar Mentoring Program which matches incoming Scott Scholar freshmen with Scott Scholar alumni both in the Omaha area and throughout the country and world. The final in-person event for the mentoring program this year was well-attended BBQ held at PKI on April 15th.

At the BBQ, we did a lightning round of where every mentor works so the community could better get to know each other, in addition to assessing how to improve the program for next year (this fall).

While we know it is a success, there are always kinks to work out when starting a new program. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for the 2016-17 academic year, please email Sheila Karpf. And thanks to all of the mentors for participating this year, in addition to Leah Ellis at PKI for her continued assistance in making the program a success.

This year’s mentors: please submit your survey by Friday, April 22nd. Also, any out-of-Omaha mentors, please contact your protégé before the end of the semester. Finals Week is May 2-5.

Internships Needed

At the mentoring event this month, we learned that several computer science and computer engineering Scott Scholar freshmen applied for summer internships but we’re declined since they are too young.

If you know of internships in these or other areas, particularly for this summer, please email them to Sheila Karpf and she will pass along to the students.

We will be working on a more comprehensive list of potential internships for Scott Scholars soon, so look for info in the next Bridges and Bytes.

Quick Bytes 

  • Your support, thoughts, and prayers are requested across the Scott Scholar Community:
    • Kenneth Ross’s wife, Elicia, passed away in February. An emotional memorial service attended by a few Scott Scholars was held on April 9 in Bellevue. You can donate to the Elicia Ross Memorial Fund to support their daughter Lydia’s education by visiting any Wells Fargo branch or mailing a check to Wells Fargo Bank with the name of the memorial fund written clearly on the check, at this branch address 4707 S 96th St, Omaha, NE 68127
    • Lucy Nash, daughter of Matt and Stacy Nash, spent her first few weeks in the NICU but is thankfully doing better – read about Lucy’s first few weeks
  • Kate (Dempsey) Cooper is now Assistant Professor, Big Data at PKI’s School of Interdisciplinary Informatics
  • Sean West is a PhD Bioinformatics student at UNO

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Winter 2015-2016: Derek Gardels, Jeremy Neilson, Mentor Hockey Games, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Derek Gardels

derekGardelsDerek Gardels became a Scott Scholar in 2005. He is from Wilcox, Nebraska and a graduate of Wilcox-Hildreth High School. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering and an MS in Civil Engineering (Water Resources), both from Nebraska. At the time of the interview, he and his family (Emily and 2 kids) were living in Alexandria, VA, but they have since returned to Omaha where he now works for HDR as a Project Engineer.

I’ve primarily worked on infrastructure delivery through alternative financing while with the Institute for Water Resources (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow. There have been downward pressures on federal discretionary spending, and we are exploring the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) as a different approach for implementing core infrastructure.

At the Corps, much of the federal water focus is a result of WRRDA, the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014. There has been a lot of planning around reforms to federal budgeting for infrastructure projects, including interest in leveraging federal dollars across multiple agencies in a watershed. I’ve received some exposure to interagency activities, such as the Administration’s Build America Initiative, and been involved in a feasibility analysis of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) jointly with the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In a very unique opportunity, I was able to sit-in on meetings with the World Economic Forum, including a committee on the future of construction. Construction productivity has been flat, but other industries have been disrupted and transformed. The forum was focused on what would enable the industry to increase productivity, what’s holding it back, what’s the role of each player in the process (suppliers, engineering & construction firms, owners, governments, etc.), and how to unleash technological innovation in the sector. In general, there are a lot of technologies that are being slowly adopted, things like building information modelling (BIM) and real-time controls, which represent uncaptured value by governments and owners.

The goal with infrastructure service delivery is to look at ways of improving the efficiency of delivering critical infrastructure services. As an industry, we’ve tended to look at delivering assets but we need to transition the focus to a service delivery concept. For example, we’re not delivering a reverse osmosis water treatment plant but clean, potable water services to end users. The public is less concerned with the asset and more concerned with the end product or service. We need to improve the efficiency of looking at ways to deliver the service, focusing more on what job you are trying to get done, not just the infrastructure asset you’re trying to build. P3s incentivize efficiency gains by focusing on outcomes – not inputs – and allowing a private sector partner to be creative in determining how to achieve those outcomes. Traditional delivery suffers from projects costing too much and taking too long.

After grad school, I started with HDR and worked on the Omaha Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) program. This professional experience, along with generous mentoring from colleagues, gave me the opportunity to explore the federal policy realm through this Fellowship, but we’ve been wanting to get back to Omaha. I’ll be returning as a Project Engineer, with some technical work and project and program management on the Omaha CSO Program, as well as other duties focused on utility management, green infrastructure design, P3s and project finance, and technology innovation.

What got me jobs wasn’t necessarily scholastic achievement but my early internship experiences I could leverage to get the next job. In high school, I surveyed for Tagge Engineering Consultants in rural Nebraska. It was more of a labor-intensive job, but I learned a lot without knowing it – just from being in the field on construction projects. During college, I worked at Olsson and Associates for 4 years, including summers out in the field completing construction observation and testing. It was huge to get this exposure as an intern as I was able to see the practical applications of what was being explored in classes.

In Omaha, we were pretty lucky with so many engineering companies for students participate in internships. I’m very appreciative of the opportunities that companies in Nebraska gave us at a young age. This early experience has proved invaluable, even in this recent role as a Science & Technology Policy Fellow.

The specialty that I didn’t want to do was the one I ended up in! When I left undergrad, I thought I would want to specialize in renewable energy. At the university, I took all types of specialty classes in every area within Civil Engineering, except Environmental. Initially, I didn’t want to deal with wastewater – that’s gross! But, due to my water resources and stormwater background, HDR gave me an opportunity to work on the combined sewer overflow program, and here I am. To my surprise, I have loved every minute of it.

The Scott Scholarship was huge in many ways, including the ability to take career risks. There’s no way I would have been able to pursue the policy fellowship if I had a large student debt burden. I was paid during the fellowship, but I wouldn’t have been able to take the chance of losing long-term employment with student debt and a family. Without the Scott Scholarship, I likely would not have ever considered graduate school either. The network has also been a significant advantage.

I’ve found value in bringing unique skills to the team that no one else has. I encourage others to consider the path less travelled, which has allowed me to contribute on teams early in my career. I’ve found pursuing unique experiences is fun and challenging. There’s so much to learn, so it’s fun to explore how much you don’t yet know.

Jeremy Neilson Delivers Distinguished Lecture on Intellectual Property for PKI

jeremyNeilsonAs part of the PKI Distinguished Lecture Series, Jeremy Neilson (Scott Scholar from 2003-2007) gave a presentation to current students and alumni at the Scott Technology Center on November 19th.

After practicing as a licensed Professional Engineer in the field of Airport Design and Construction, Jeremy returned to the University of Nebraska to pursue a joint JD/MBA degree (see Jeremy’s UNL Law Profile). During his time at the College of Law, he has specialized in Intellectual Property Law and has passed the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Bar Exam, making him a Registered Patent Agent.

Jeremy currently works in the College’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic. The Clinic serves startup businesses seeking help with a variety of legal challenges. He has helped his clients with matters ranging from forming Limited Liability Companies, drafting software licensing agreements, and prosecuting trademark registration applications. His experience working hand-in-hand with fledgling startup companies has provided him with valuable insight into the struggles faced by new businesses.

Jeremy and his colleague from the Clinic, Carly Bahramzad, combined their experience advising startup companies with their legal education to create a 60-minute presentation about Intellectual Property (IP) as it relates to startups.  They discussed such topics as the legal and practical basis for the United States system of IP, the value that these intangible assets can bring to a company, as well as a more detailed analysis of each category of IP (Patents, Trade Secrets, Copyrights, and Trademarks).

The event was organized with the help of Scott Snyder, Interim Executive Director of PKI, Leah Ellis, Scholarship & Development Program Manager for PKI and Traci Hancock, Director of Maverick Innovations. There were approximately 120 attendees including Scott Scholars and alumni as well as students from PKI and the College of Business Administration.

Quick Bytes

  • The Scott Scholar Mentoring Program got some attention from Mr. Scott: “The newly formed… mentoring program is truly an added fulfillment to [my] vision for Scott Scholars. …Keep up the good work!” The program’s next event is a hockey game on Friday, February 26 (date expected but to be confirmed) at Aksarben’s new Baxter Arena.
  • Zach Ramaekers is a software engineer at Hudl, a sports/tech startup founded by Raikes (J.D. Edwards) Scholars in Lincoln
  • The College of IS&T’s Code Crush program is looking for mentors and sponsors — the highly successful signature program has the goal of substantively increasing the interest of girls in IT majors and careers
  • PKI’s new Executive Master of Science in IT (EMIT) Degree is Open for Admission, launching in Fall 2016
  • Remember that gated parking lot in front of Scott Hall? It’s becoming its own residence hall with new dorms for UNO.

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Fall 2015: Jessica Errett, Travis Deyle’s MIT TR35 Award, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Jessica Errett

Jessica jess1Errett became a Scott Scholar in 2002. She is from Harlan, Iowa and a graduate of Harlan Community High School. She was awarded her Master of Architectural Engineering with a focus in HVAC and Acoustics in 2007. Currently, she works in Omaha as a Mechanical Engineer for The Energy Studio, an energy efficiency consultancy.

I focus on energy modelling and reviewing LEED building submittals as a Mechanical Engineer at The Energy Studio here in Omaha. Currently, my responsibilities mostly involve LEED building certification reviews but the plan is to move my focus more into energy modelling as the year continues.

Four out of five of The Energy Studio’s engineers are female, a total swing from living at Scott Hall. Now I’m surrounded by female engineers. Alex Skillman, also a Scott Scholar, is the only lucky guy. I’ve really enjoyed the past two and half years here.

The LEED market seems to be gaining popularity overseas, and lately I’ve reviewed some complex projects in China and other foreign countries. With LEED certifications, I’ll see 3-4 different projects each week.

Sustainable design needs to start at the schematic design phase of a commercial building’s design, not just become a checklist or after-thought at the end of the project. We see many first-time LEED applicants that take the “checklist approach” at the end of the project, and they usually have a harder time achieving a higher certification level. There are multiple review stages during the LEED certification process. During the preliminary review stage, I can provide feedback to guide the project team make corrections to their design and documentation to meet all requirements.

Previously, I had the opportunity to travel to various job sites (multiple on the Texas/Mexico border) at Leo A. Daly, while working for the company for 7 years as a mechanical design engineer. As my first job out of college, I focused primarily on HVAC design for health care, education, and office space. I actually interned there while finishing school and was thankful for the experience to work with many talented Scott Scholars over those years at Leo A. Daly.

I’m the President-Elect of ASHRAE’s Nebraska Chapter, an organization I’ve spent a lot of time with since undergrad. The chapter level is great for industry networking, as well as attending the continuing education presentations we have at our monthly meetings on interesting industry-related topics. I also attend the regional conference every year, which most recently was held in the beautiful Black Hills. It’s great for getting training for the next year on committee responsibilities, running chapter meetings, etc.

ASHRAE’s student involvement activities energize me to get young people excited about engineering. I get to spend time with middle and high schoolers doing activities to spark their interest in science, but we also focus time on college engineering students to keep them motivated throughout their difficult semesters. ASHRAE provides 4 scholarships for students at the University of Nebraska and provides student/industry networking activities throughout the year. For example, the students are invited to all of our chapter meetings and get a free Anthony’s steak dinner! (Why didn’t we take better advantage of this when we were students!?) During our April meeting, the student ASHRAE chapter selects grad students to present their graduate work during our meeting, educating us industry professionals on the topics they’ve focused on for a semester.

All of my spare time goes to my hobby: music. I sing – I’m a songwriter and guitarist. I started an Indie-rock band a few years ago called Edge of Arbor. We’re on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp. Primary we just play in Omaha. However, I have done some touring as an acoustic act, including a three-week East Coast tour through New York, DC, Western Massachusetts, etc. Over the past 9 years, I’ve played in 8 different bands of varying genres. One of my side projects (All Young Girls Are Machine Guns) played at the Maha Music Festival, Lincoln Calling, Femme Fest, and the Nebraska Folk and Roots Festival all during the past year. Playing in other people’s bands and working with other song writers gives me inspiration to continuing creating my own art and learn new instruments. On my next album, I want to play every instrument. I need to get better at drums, but then I’ll have guitar, bass, ukulele, and vocals ready to go.

I encourage people to stay in touch with their Scott Scholar class as we have a lot of shared unique experiences. My best PKI experiences were attending out-of-town conferences with ASHRAE and Society of Women Engineers. But, one of my favorite Scott Scholar memories was watching my friends get in trouble for building lofts in their Scott Hall dorms (there’s a rule against that now!). I always enjoyed spending time with others at Scott Hall – even if it was just video games and movies, at least it was quality time. There was one night that Anne Moles, Martin Goodenberger, and I sat in the Scott Hall elevator and played music for everyone as they left and arrived to the building. It’s just fun memories like that one that are irreplaceable.

Get as much experience while you can while you’re in school. Companies are definitely looking for well-rounded individuals. Maybe spend less time focusing on straight A’s and get involved with community service and professional societies. The few times I have been involved in the hiring process, more often than not, they look for a well-rounded individual than just a bookworm.

You should work for a company that aligns with your morals and compliments your strengths. I’ve come to realize that we spend so much of our time, so much of our week, working. If your company’s priorities don’t align with yours, what’s the point? When you feel valuable to and on the same page as your employer, it changes everything.

Travis Deyle Awarded MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35” (TR35) Award

TravisTravis_Deyle Deyle, a Scott Scholar from 2001-2005, was recently named an MIT Technology Review “35 Innovators Under 35” (aka TR35) Award Winner!

He has joined the likes of Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), John Rogers (Materials Scientist at the University of Illinois), Jonathan Ive (chief designer of Apple), Helen Greiner (iRobot), Stephen Quake (Bioengineer at Stanford), and Max Levchin (PayPal).

The award comes from his focus on Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT) to revolutionize health care. During his PhD at Georgia Tech, he built some of the first mobile robots capable of operating in people’s homes, enabled by long-range radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. As a postdoc at Duke, he collaborated on cutting-edge wireless systems (aka souped-up UHF RFID tags) for health monitoring, environmental sensors, and to build “cyborg dragonflies.” Now, he’s employed by Google[x] Life Sciences working on “moonshots.” He works on the team(s) developing glucose-sensing and autofocusing contact lenses, glucose monitoring devices, and other highly-confidential products you’ll hear about eventually. More details on Travis’s website.

“This is the most prestigious accolade I’ve ever received. It’s a huge honor, and I’m extremely humbled. I owe this success to a lot of people: collaborators, mentors, advisors, friends, family, and wife.” Travis said. “UNL, PKI, and the Walter Scott Scholarship played a major role in my career path. I enjoyed my time there, appreciated the opportunities, and greatly benefited from the facilities, faculty, and other students. I just want to say, ‘Thank you!’ to everyone.”

Quick Bytes

  • The Scott Scholar Mentoring Program successfully kicked-off August 4th – many thanks to Sheila Korth’s leadership in driving the program forward
  • The IS&T Career Fair will be held December 2-3 at PKI for all IS&T majors (during CS Education Week, questions about this fair need to be directed to Dr. Deepak Khazanchi)
  • Clayton Miller has re-relocated to Singapore as he finishes his PhD program at ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) focused on building performance data
  • Alex Skillman completed his MBA from UNO and now works as an Energy Analyst at The Energy Studio
  • Adam Wilkerson is actually married to Jessica Errett’s sister Bonnie; the couple lives in Elkhorn and Adam works for Yahoo! as a Financial Manager

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Summer 2015: John Oerter, Mentoring Program kickoff, job openings at Symantec, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with John Oerter

mBOaReuyJohn Oerter became a Scott Scholar in 2010. He is from Hastings, Nebraska and a graduate of Adams Central High School. He was awarded his BS in Computer Science from UNO in 2014. Currently, he works in Omaha as a Software Engineer for Phenomblue, a strategic branding company. His wife Jessica will become a math teacher at Omaha Public Schools this fall.

I’m building a web app for clients to track strategic goals as they go through Phenomblue’s strategic branding process. I started there in early 2015 and have been very happy with the switch. There are about 20 people, and we support all types of local companies – from the HDRs to the Thrasher’s Basements Systems.

I dove deep into the tech side, setting up the Azure infrastructure with a C# back-end and Angular front-end with JavaScript. We’ll add a mobile app in the future, along with other improvements. At the moment, it’s just me working on it, though.

The more I learn, the more I know I have to learn. I want to grow by honing my code-writing and Agile skills. The development community in Omaha is really great, and I go to a lot of Meetups for things like JavaScript, .NET, and Agile.

At John Deere, working through Sogeti, I learned how to write clean code and follow Agile processes. They were focused on test-driven development with pair programming and continuous integration. This worked great for quickly pushing-out new features, while also letting me get rather close with my co-workers.

Pair Programming sounded like a waste of time, but it’s really, really great to have a process, and Pair Programming is very effective, especially with a test-driven process. We would start-out with a feature or user story, and one person would write the test while the other person started coding. Then, we would work together to work-out errors, fixing the unit tests and re-writing the code until it was correct. You get to talk-through design decisions, which leads to very clean code. We had 8 people (4 pairs) and balanced the pairings, with new pairs each morning and afternoon. I definitely think it was more efficient. I think once the management sees the quality of work that comes out of it, any manager will be pleased with the quality that comes out.

Sometimes it’s good to just code something and do it the right way later. I get wrapped-up by learning the right way, but it doesn’t always have to be that tidy.

Only implement the features you absolutely need, avoiding the “wouldn’t it be great” philosophy. Often there is a simple way and a cool way. If you do it the simple way, you can finished it and expanded on it later.

I would really love to get an MBA or some kind of business leadership degree. I want to move towards leadership in my career, but before I get too far down the management path, I want to focus more on the technology side of things. When I left PKI, my plan was to go straight into my MBA and move-up at a large company. But I started working for a small company, liked it, and my perspective changed. I had wanted to get into management a lot sooner, but now I’ve flipped and want to become an expert. I’d love to start my own company in the future, but right now I’m focused on my current role.

The 808 College Ministry had a big impact on me in college and continues to be a big impact. I’m still very active with it.

Dr. McGinnis helped me get an internship at STRATCOM. I was in the J9 working under SAIC on a campaign plan, building a SharePoint, Word, and PowerPoint web app integration. I learned a lot and would love to get back into the defense industry at some point. It was really interesting.

Somebody said, “John, your building is on fire!” when I was eating in Scott Hall. We looked out the window and Building G of Scott Village was in flames. We just stood there and watched it burn. I lost mostly everything except a few things in my closet. The university handled it well, and nobody was hurt.

Mentoring Program: About to Kickoff

Planning for the new Scott Scholar mentoring program is off to a great start – 31 Scott Scholar alumni have signed-up to mentor incoming students this coming fall!

We still need one more bioinformatics mentor – please email Sheila Karpf if you are interested.

Mentors: Save the Date – August 4th at Noon Central. Please mark your calendars for a 30 min. “what to expect” mentor event (with free lunch!) at PKI on Tuesday, August 4th at Noon Central. A video link will be available for mentors outside of Omaha. More details to come. And thanks to everyone for helping get this program off the ground.

Quick Bytes

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Spring 2015: Kristina Wylie, Mentoring the current Scott Scholars, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Kristina Wylie

kristinaWylieKristina Wylie became a Scott Scholar in 2006. She went to high school in Cozad, Nebraska but spent much of her childhood in Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. She finished UNO in 2010 with a B.S. in Bioinformatics and minors in Chemistry, Math, and Computer Science. She works for Syngenta Business Services in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I saw the Taj Mahal and the Egyptian pyramids before I saw Chimney Rock and Carhenge. My parents were teachers at the American Schools when I was young, so I got to experience a lot of the world very quickly. They were both from Holdrege. We spent summers at Johnson Lake in Nebraska. I returned to Cozad for high school to get to know my Nebraskan roots.

Our Away games were in places such as Egypt and Kuwait in Middle School. We had to travel pretty far to play other teams in soccer, softball, and volleyball. The tournaments we attended were with other American and British schools, and they weren’t necessarily a school bus ride away. A cool perk was that we got to see the Sphinx and the Roman Ruins of Alexandria after the games were done.

My mom was the teacher at a two-room country school outside of Elwood for my fifth grade class, with 24 kids K-6. It was like a miniature family. Martin Goodenberger’s dad was our vet as a child (Note: a quick update from Martin is available).

It was beautiful to go back to Norway for a 10-day cultural immersion group while at UNO. I was born in Norway, and lived in Stavanger until I was two years old. It was great to see the fjords, experience syttende mai (Norwegian Independence Day), and climb Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).

Lack of direction has helped me have a lot of direction – it’s ok to take the wandering path. By not being so stressed that I needed to start my career on Day One, I opened opportunities for myself. After college, I worked in the UNO recruitment office and took the opportunity to promote the school, and see a lot of Nebraska. I learned so much during that time, I wouldn’t change. I talked to a lot of high school kids who tried to be very focused on a specific degree to get to a specific job, but there is so much more. My role at the university morphed to be more technical and led to me becoming a Business Systems Analyst for the University.

Daina Jones got me interested in Syngenta. She works for Syngenta in Omaha and let me know about my rotational program in the process of sharing it with the Scott Scholar Alumni. I had never been to North Carolina until the interview.

My current job changes every year to get exposure to the company. It’s called the Syngenta Business Services Graduate Program, and it’s a three-year rotational program. Currently, I’m a Client Engagement Manager but previously worked in R&D IS as a Scientific Analyst, supporting the scientists in requirements gathering. Previous to that, I was an Application Service Delivery Manager, coordinating with the technical team and relaying that on to the business.

Believe in yourself and apply the skills that you’ve learned. I’ve used the Computer Science knowledge in the office way more than my Science background. Majoring in bioinformatics, biology was always my focus, but I’m glad I kept all of those text books. I’ve pulled out my bioinformatics textbook related to a project last year in R&D.

Syngenta is an agribusiness, focusing on seeds and crop protection. I’d like to do more with the international side of the business. In November, I took a trip down to Brazil to one of the company’s sites in the Brazilian countryside. There were cornfields for miles, and I kept saying, “I feel like I’m back home. I like it.”

Speak techie and speak business, as it’s not just being technical but also being able to blend your skills. A lot of the work I do is being a translator between the extreme tech folks and the business folks. The Scott Scholarship helped me get personal skills where you can sit down and relate to people, both the technical and non-technical.

Scott Scholar Mentoring Program: Would you like to have a direct impact on the current Scott Scholars?

For several years now, many of us Scott Scholars have tossed around the idea of starting a mentoring program to connect Scott Scholar alumni with current Scott Scholars. Later this year, we hope this dream will actually become a reality. Last year, Eric Gitt and Kevin Walters of the Scott Scholar Alumni Organization and former scholar Sheila Karpf met with Leah Ellis from PKI’s Scholarship and Development Program to discuss this opportunity. Everyone agreed mentoring would be a valuable addition to the Scott Scholar program. Not only would it provide a way for alumni to give back, but also an opportunity for students to get advice from IT and engineering professionals who also walked in their shoes as Scott Scholars.

The idea is for the mentoring program to start in Aug. 2015, with incoming freshmen being paired with alumni in their field of interest. Ideally, mentors would be located in the Omaha area, but a few of you living on the east and west coasts have already expressed interest (8 alumni total, with 2 outside Omaha) so we are opening it up to everyone to solicit interest. With around 35 incoming students, ideally each student is paired with one alumnus. We’re planning a kickoff get-to-know one another event at the beginning of classes in Aug., in addition to at least 1 social or other professional development event (such as a UNO hockey game) each semester. For mentors living outside Omaha, you’d just be expected to check in with your student on the phone/Skype a few times each semester, discussing things such as changing majors, internship opportunities, etc. If you come back to Omaha to visit family or friends, we’d love for you to connect with your student at that time.

Please email Sheila (Korth) Karpf by March 15 if you’re interested in being a mentor. Please send the following information:  (1) your name, (2) city/state of residence, (3) email address, (4) phone number, and (5) current job position or area of expertise so we can match your interests with incoming scholars. Please ask your friends to sign up as well. Thanks in advance for your help!

Quick Bytes

  • The Distinguished Lecture Series is scheduled for April 2nd at PKI. This year’s speaker is Ms. Priscilla Guthrie, the former chief information officer of the Office of the Director for National Intelligence.
  • Caleb Schmid and Laura Heuermann (Bioinformatics Scott Scholar Alumni 2010) both started residency programs in Summer 2014
  • Martin Goodenberger has specialized his medical education in Radiology and is about to finish his residency program
  • Travis Deyle keeps things secret at Google[x] but prior to joining there co-founded

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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PKI Distinguished Lecture Series 2015 Announced

The PKI Distinguished Lecture Series continues this semester with Ms. Priscilla Guthrie, the former chief information officer of the Office of the Director for National Intelligence. The event will be held on April 2nd, 2015 at PKI.

The Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) introduced its inaugural Distinguished Lecture Series during the 2009/2010 academic year. The lecture series is designed to expose student-scholars to prominent leaders from government, industry, academia and athletics. While serving as a key component of the PKI Leadership Development Program, primary invitees are Scott Scholars and select staff from the Peter Kiewit Institute. This year, PKI has also graciously invited Scott Scholar Alumni to attend.

Prior to her work at the Office of the Director for National Intelligence, Ms. Guthrie also worked as the director of the information technology and systems division of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a non-profit corporation that administers three federally funded research and development centers to provide objective analyses of national security issues. From 2001 to 2006, Guthrie was the Defense Department’s deputy assistant secretary for networks and information integration and deputy chief information officer.

Ms. Guthrie will share her experiences of personal growth while passing along life’s lessons. This is also a great opportunity for our alumni to visit with the current PKI staff and Scott Scholar students.

The agenda is still being finalized but has typically been in the late afternoon. If you would like to RSVP or receive more information, please email Eric Gitt at

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SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Winter 2014: Bryan Guy, Stephanie Guy, Walter Scott, and more…

The plan is to release “Bridges and Bytes” quarterly. Please send any feedback or content ideas to Kyle Hoback.

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Bryan and Stephanie Guy

Fall 2014-183Bryan and Stephanie Guy both became Scott Scholars in 2000. Bryan is originally from Hartington, NE and finished UNO in 2004 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He went on to receive his MS in Civil Engineering from Purdue University and currently works for the City of Omaha. Steph is originally from Mullen, NE and finished her MAE in Architectural Engineering in 2005. She works for Alvine Engineering in Omaha.

We’ve been married for 8 years and have 3 girls running around aged 7, 4, and 18 months. We are settled here in Omaha and don’t want to live anywhere else.

We asked our 7-year-old what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said an engineer! When we asked her what an engineer does, she actually threw out a definition that was kind of close! She must be listening to us between ballet and Barbies.

We spend a lot of time outdoors and go camping a half dozen times a summer. We have a rickety old pop-up camper we pull around the area – the Sandhills, Indian Cave, Mahoney, Gavins Point – wherever the weather looks good! As the world becomes more “connected,” it’s important to disconnect every once in a while.


From small non-profit buildings to 50-story high-rises, I get to work on a wide range of projects. As an Architectural Engineer who specializes in mechanical systems, I focus mostly on design of the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and fire protection systems, as well as some project management.

The local projects are fun to work on… I feel like I’m having an impact. With the local projects, I get to meet people in person on a regular basis, and get to know them on a personal level. But, it is fun to travel occasionally too. It’s hard with three little ones, but cool to work on projects in big cities. If anyone is in Chicago in the next couple of years – check out the Chicago River – I am currently working on two 50 story high-rises that are going up across from each other.

I’m looking forward to managing more projects, and taking on some of the management/client relationships of the local market. I also enjoy the opportunity to mentor and help the young engineers in our company learn.

I stay active with the AE Industry Advisory Council and the National Board of Governors for the Architectural Engineering Institute. As part of the Leadership Omaha Class 35 I engaged with a lot of like-minded people and learned a lot about our community. I also enjoy coaching junior high track at St. Margaret Mary. I have been doing this for the past six or seven years and it is very rewarding to see the kids grow and improve with each week.


I was always drawn to the transportation field of engineering. I’m a Traffic Operations Engineer for the City of Omaha and have previously worked for Albeck Gerken and Iteris, both private transportation engineering firms. The private sector was great, exposing me to a wide variety of projects and working all over the country, but travel with three young kids was not ideal for me. It’s great to be in the city more, working in public service, and making an impact in my own community.

How many of you still use DOS-based software and dial-up communications on a daily basis? I bet none, but that is still the platform on which the City’s 1,000 traffic signals operate to this day. However, starting this year, we’re embarking on a plan to upgrade the hardware, software, and communications systems Citywide. This infrastructure will allow us to monitor all the signals 24/7/365, identify problems in real-time, and introduce new types of traffic control features, all of which will result in a safer and more efficient system for travelers.

I currently serve as the Vice President for the local transportation engineering professional organization. It’s a great way to meet your colleagues outside of work-related activities and have some fun. Our group also speaks to high school sophomores about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. Collectively, we have spoken to over 10,000 students in the Omaha and Lincoln areas.

[As a team…]

Get experience and take the initiative to get your career started. Get internships while you’re in school, and network while you’re there. Along with a host of other benefits, you’ll meet a lot of people, some of whom will be your future employers and colleagues.

Get involved in study groups while in school. It’s a chance to get help, but it also allows you to interact with your peers. This team-oriented interaction continues throughout your career – especially as engineers – where you’re almost always working as part of a team.

Good communications skills are often a challenge for engineers but can be a great asset. You will have to work with all types of people (engineers, non-engineers, the general public, politicians). Having good communication is a great way to make yourself stand out.

Shout out that idea in the back of your head. As engineers, we tend to hold ourselves back, but let the creative juices flow. Be innovative. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. It might lead to something great.

Special Reception for Walter Scott

Walter Scott honorSept. 25, 2014Over the last 16 years, the Walter Scott Jr. Scholarship Fund has supported 663 students towards earning their degrees from the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO). On Thursday, September 25, 2014, Chancellor John E. Christensen, the Scott Scholar Alumni Organization (SSAO), and the University of Nebraska Walter Scott honorSept. 25, 2014Foundation hosted a special reception honoring Walter Scott, Jr. for his incredible generosity.

The event was appropriately held in the Scott Conference Center on the UNO’s Pacific Campus. In addition to Walter Scott, Jr. and Walter Scott honorSept. 25, 2014three of his children, attendance included many Scott Scholar alumni as well as University of Nebraska Interim President James Linder and a number of Nebraska Regents, UNO faculty, and NU Foundation staff.

The evening started with a social hour and continued with a program led by UNO Chancellor, John E. Christensen. President James Linder began by speaking about the countless ways that Walter Scott, Jr. has positively impacted the University of Nebraska as a whole. The Scotts have contributed to the construction of a multitude of campus buildings including: Scott Court, Scott Conference Center, Scott Residence Hall, Scott Village, and Scott Technology Center as well as supporting many other facilities across the University.

Scott Scholar Alumni Organization executive board member, Kevin Walters, followed by speaking about the amazing opportunity Walter Scott, Jr. provided to hundreds of students through the Scott Scholar Program. Kevin talked about being among the first group of students at the Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) and the Scott Residence Hall before introducing a video from the SSAO.

This video was composed of clips from Scott Scholar Alumni expressing messages of gratitude to the Scott family. Derek Gardels, Lynn Mrsny Griffis, Kristina Wylie, Daina (Morrill) Jones, Ben Jones, and Becker Jones all shared words of appreciation. A number of other Scott Scholar Alumni working at businesses in Omaha and from various cities around the globe also provided a big thank-you to the Scotts.

Chancellor Christensen spoke about Walter Scott’s tremendous influence on UNO. The Scott Foundation has helped propel UNO’s amazing growth and transformation over the last 16 years. Because of Mr. Scott’s amazing contributions, UNO has been able to educate thousands of students in the fields of engineering and technology.

The SSAO then presented Walter Scott and his children with a book containing photographs and personal letters of thanks from many Scott Scholar alumni. Mr. Scott was very touched by this gift and gave an emotional speech about how much the success of each and every Scott Scholar means to him and his family.

Eric Gitt, the President of the SSAO, announced the Scott Scholar Alumni Scholarship Fund as a way for Scott Scholars to come together and focus on reflecting the Scott’s generosity. Mr. Gitt thanked Walter Scott for inspiring so many young minds and challenged the audience to follow Walter Scott’s terrific example by continuing to make a positive impact on their industries, communities, and university.

Chancellor Christensen thanked everyone for attending, and Walter Scott ended the program by enthusiastically telling the group that “you will make a difference!”

Quick Bytes

  • Upcoming Event: Scott Scholar Alumni Social – November 20, 6:30pm at Super Beercade – Benson – 6104 Maple St (casual attire)
  • Scholarship Fund Update: for the 2014 campaign, we’ve received 20 gifts, totaling $1,795 – Contribute a Donation
  • Nancy (McCormick) Melby was named one of Midland Business Journal’s 40 under 40
  • Interested in mentoring the current Scott Scholars? The SSAO wants to establish a formal mentoring program. If you are interested in being a mentor, contact Sheila (Korth) Karpf. Mentors do not need to be Omaha-based, and the expected start date is August 2015.
  • WorkFusion, an NYC-based technology startup, is looking for top IT talent – if you have any interest in relocating to NYC to take part in the finance or e-commerce sectors, contact Kyle Hoback
  • <send over your byte so we can include it in the next issue>

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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Three Minutes with Jon DeJong

jonDeJongJon DeJong is originally from Omaha, Nebraska and graduated high school in Urbandale, Iowa. He started his Scott Scholarship in 1998 and graduated from PKI in 2002 in Computer Science. He currently lives in Minneapolis and works for Object Partners. Contact him via Facebook.

There’s a lot more work in the Twin Cities. I like it up here. I like living in a bigger city. There’s a lot to do. It’s cold. The summers are great. I do a lot of biking and running. There are lots of parks for that type of thing. Rooftop decks have been a big thing around here, which you wouldn’t think of since it’s only good for three months. I think it’s important for the reputation of the school for graduates to expand away from Omaha. There are a lot more opportunity in bigger cities for technical-type of people, or that want to work in that field.

I can trace my career directly back to an internship that I had through PKI in Houston. It was called Orillion, a small telecom software company. In the telecom bust, two of their biggest clients went belly-up in the same week. The lady that I ended up working for actually knew Ted Plugge, then the Coordinator of the Career Resource Center. Her recommendation got me in the door at Union Pacific, and then I went with co-workers to a defense contractor at Offutt. Eventually one of those guys went to a company that is now a client of my current firm.

We don’t have much management. We have an owner, two sales guys, and a recruiter, and and an operations director. Pretty much everyone else is billable one way or another. Everybody cares about the growth of the company so everybody is involved. Object Partners is about about 45-50 employees doing java-based consulting, mostly for Fortune 500 companies, with custom application development. We have about 40 consultants up here and three in Omaha. We have a few business analyst consultants, maybe two. The rest are all technical.

Almost all of our programmers are at the Senior Architect type of level. We don’t really send in junior developers. I’m working directly with the business leaders on the client sites on a daily basis.

Our philosophy is to hire good people you want and not necessarily a skillset the client immediately needs. You don’t want to grow for the sake of growth. You want to manage that growth with great people, and sometimes it’s tough. You can read a book and memorize it and ace an interview. But that’s really worthless in our field. It’s more if you understand the basics and the fundamentals of software development and object-oriented programming. That’s tough to get out in a one-hour interview.

Managing growth is an interesting concept. You don’t want to turn down work but you don’t want to hire people just for a job and not have it turn out. Other firms in the area got hit a lot harder in the recession because they didn’t have as good of reputation as we had, so they were the first people to go. We’ve taken a small hit but not a huge hit. It’s difficult to figure out where you draw that line.

We do mostly JVM-based Java, along with Groovy and Groovy on Grails. Recently we’ve begun to get into the mobile space as well, mostly in iOS but also a little into Android. We’ve seen a lot of clients exploring the potential of the iPad.

The professional community is great up here. I do mostly just the Java User Groups. I was fairly active in the Omaha one before I moved.

I don’t know where I’m headed. I really like my company. I would like to go on and get some sort of grad schooling, but I’m not sure in what yet. I honestly don’t know if it would help me out from the technical career point. For the time being, I want to stay technical.

I get to see how a lot of different companies operate without switching jobs. I like it. I essentially switch jobs every month to eighteen months, without switching jobs.

The most important thing, from a consulting standpoint, is you have to be self-motivated. You’re expected to walk into any situation and be the expert in that technical field. You really need to spend a lot of time on your own researching and becoming familiar with new and odd technologies, so when you get thrown into new or tough situations you’re still effective. As a new employee, you go in and train. As a consultant, you go in and lead right away. You really need to be self-motivated and self-educated at learning new things and not be afraid of the challenge of walking into the situation and figuring it out quickly.

This and interviews of other alumni can be found at If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, have a request to hear about someone else, or just have any other comments or suggestions, please contact Kyle Hoback.

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Three Minutes with Steve Ryherd

Steve Ryherd is originally from Ankeny, Iowa. He started his Scott Scholarship in 2001 and graduated from PKI in 2006 with a Master’s of Architectural Engineering. He currently lives in Atlanta and works for Arpeggio Acoustic Consulting, LLC. Contact him via Facebook and LinkedIn.

As acoustics consultants, we work with people in the building industry to address sound and vibration issues in the built environment. Arpeggio does anything sound vibration related that doesn’t have wires – we don’t do sound system design.

I came to Arpeggio Acoustic Consulting as a partner three years ago. Every project is unique. Right now, we’re developing a noise ordinance for municipalities in Louisiana. We are helping the policy makers understand the impact of environmental noise on a community. I’m also designing a brand new training facility for the Army Band at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It involves looking at room acoustics, sound isolation between practice rooms, and mechanical noise control within the building. The neat part about the band training facility is we are a driving force in the design process. Too often we’re brought in as an afterthought.

Recently I was approached by a large church with speech intelligibility issues in their existing sanctuary. In that case, we go on-site to take measurements with a sound level meter to investigate reverberations times. Site visits can be as much qualitative as it is quantitative, running the spectrum from number- crunching analysis to listening for where a noise is coming from or how something sounds.

Living in Atlanta has been wonderful. It’s warm but we still have all the seasons including  our one week of snow per year. This year, we got an unusually high four inches of snow along with a quarter inch of ice with freezing temperatures because of no sun for three days. A guy was even ice skating on Peachtree Street in downtown. This rare winter event shut the city down. Atlanta has four million people and ten snow plows – you do the math. Some people complain about Atlanta’s heat in the summer, but I will take that heat with air-conditioning over months of winter anytime.

I had a friend come down to visit two years ago [who may or may not be the interviewer]. After visiting  the world’s largest aquarium, we left our car there and headed to a Braves game, confirming with a security guard it would be fine before departing. After the game, we get back to find the parking garage closed. We had to climb a wall and get onto a fire escape before finally find our car. After driving around and around, we found a hand-operated exit. We had to answer some questions from another security guard, but it’s one of my more unique stories from Atlanta.

Erica and I are finishing the last few things on our former foreclosed home. We spent the first month with a contractor making it inhabitable and then moved in. The previous owners had managed to destroy it, taking out all lighting fixtures, half of the mechanical systems, and a tub. We’ve been slowly working on it for the last two and a half years but just have the last couple of rooms to paint.

I am the proud owner of a shuffle board table—a lifelong goal that came true much sooner than expected. Sam’s Club had them on clearance for $75. I couldn’t pass it up. We had to rent a special vehicle to get the thing here, but it was well worth it!

The Scott Scholarship provided me the most opportunity for post-secondary education that I could find. It’s a quality degree through the University of Nebraska, but on top of that, you’re surrounded by some of the most intelligent minds in the Midwest with access to professors and staff who are open and supportive of you and your efforts in whatever it is you want to do.

I can’t encourage people enough to study abroad. I spent a semester abroad in Budapest, Hungary, in undergrad and a year abroad in Gothenburg, Sweden, after graduating from the University of Nebraska. The opportunity to look at American society – most likely the only culture you’ve ever known and lived in – from the outside makes you appreciate it more. It opens you up to new ways of thinking. Until you experience living abroad, it’s tough to understand, but it is worth the risk of stepping out of your comfort zone.

Swedish soccer fans were the craziest fans I have ever seen in my life. Sweden is perceived at times as a very passive, neutral country, but when it comes to “football” they are true fanatics. They stood and sang/yelled the whole game. At one point, they brought out road flares in the middle of the crowd which emitted so much smoke I couldn’t see three people away from me, let alone the field.

For a Fulbright Scholarship, there are endless possibilities of where you can go and what you can do. Do your research on the program. Be creative in selecting your destination and your topic of study. I encourage you to not be intimidated about the idea of applying.

Find this and other interviews of Scott Scholar Alumni at If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, have a request to hear about someone else, or just have any other comments or suggestions, please contact Kyle Hoback.

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