LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s biomechanics program has become a powerhouse, and it will be rewarded with a lot more space.
The NU Board of Regents on Friday approved a plan to build a large addition to the three-level Biomechanics Research Building, which was erected four years ago.
The regents expect construction on the addition to start in April and to be completed in September 2019, more than doubling the size of the existing building. The $11.6 million addition is to be privately funded.
Biomechanics is basically the study of movement and the mechanics of biological activity, and can cover a wide range of projects. The NU system says the Biomechanics Research Building created four years ago was the first of its kind in the world.
UNO’s largest research grant was the $10 million award three years ago from the National Institutes of Health to the biomechanics program.
The program offers a bachelor’s degree, and UNO also has a doctorate in exercise science with a focus in biomechanics.
“It’s a jewel,” Nancy Edick, dean of the College of Education, said this week of the biomechanics program.
UNO leaders attribute the program’s success to its leader, Nicholas Stergiou, who came to the United States from Greece 28 years ago to earn a master’s degree from UNO and later a doctorate from the University of Oregon.
“Nick Stergiou is just an amazing leader in the research science” of biomechanics, said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNO. Stergiou has a faculty appointment at UNMC as well as UNO.
“He has recruited remarkable faculty and continues to get research grants,” Gold said.
Stergiou attracted the private funding for the first building, most of which came from Omahans Ruth and Bill Scott. The Scotts are contributing to the addition as well.
“We just think he’s the real deal,” the Scotts’ son, John, said of Stergiou.
Written material for the regents says the original building was designed for 46 professors, researchers, staffers and students. Current personnel exceeds 75, the information says.
“Within that center we’re doing all kinds of different things,” Stergiou said this week. “We need more space, I’m telling you. It’s unbelievable what’s going on right now.”
The biomechanics program includes projects in prosthetic devices, ways to help people with peripheral artery disease walk better, exercise programs for people with traumatic brain injuries, virtual reality simulations for stroke survivors and 3-D printing.
Jessica Fujan-Hansen, an Omahan, was in the business world but wanted to do something more altruistic.
“Little did I know there was a world-class program right down the street from me,” she said this week.
She now is studying stroke rehabilitation in the biomechanics program. She hopes to have a doctorate a year from now.
In other activity Friday, the regents:
» Approved an $18 million renovation of UNMC’s Wittson Hall with state bond money.
» Honored former UNO Chancellor John Christensen and Ron Withem, a longtime NU lobbyist, with resolutions of recognition.
» Gave the nod to a master’s degree in genetic counseling at UNMC.
» Heard presentations on the Nebraska Research Initiative, in which the state allocates $11.4 million a year to NU research.
» Gave the go-ahead to a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity operations at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
» Dedicated the tower created by Jun Kaneko at UNMC (titled “Search”) to Dr. Ken Cowan, longtime head of UNMC cancer programs.
» Named the new College of Business building at UNL after Regent Howard Hawks, who contributed to the building. He abstained from the vote.
» Approved replacement of the sanitary sewer and portions of storm sewers at UNK. The $3 million cost is to be covered by utility savings at UNK.
» Authorized NU President Hank Bounds to work out a contract for the purchase of Concur software, a travel expense reimbursement system. The cost is expected to be a total of about $1.6 million over five years.