Nebraska EPSCoR announces annual FIRST Award recipients

April 3, 2020

Nebraska EPSCoR FIRST Awards provide funding, expert reviews for selected early-career faculty

To help Nebraska’s early-career scientists prepare to pursue important large research grants, such as the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, Nebraska EPSCoR conducts annual FIRST—For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—Awards.

Each year several dozen CAREER Award aspirants submit pre-proposals to Nebraska EPSCoR’s FIRST Awards competition, with a select group of these applicants meriting FIRST Award “Finalist” status. In late 2019, 13 Finalists were invited to advance, and prepare full proposals patterned after the NSF CAREER Award format; all FIRST Award Finalists gain expert scientific reviews on their submissions. From the Finalists group, FIRST Award Recipients are chosen to receive $25,000 for their further national award submission efforts (an amount which must be matched by each Recipient’s department), in addition to the valuable reviews by members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), engaged by Nebraska EPSCoR.

At Nebraska EPSCoR’s meeting of its State Committee on March 25, the following FIRST Award Recipients were selected:

  • James Checco, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Department of Chemistry
    Chemical approaches to identify peptide-receptor interactions
  • Catherine Eichhorn, UNL Dept. of Chemistry
    Mechanisms of ribonucleoprotein folding and assembly
  • Jae Sung Park, UNL Dept. of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
    Theoretical and computational studies towards elucidating predictive dynamics in chaotic nature of turbulence for flow control
  • Xinghui Sun, UNL Dept. of Biochemistry
    Novel roles of long noncoding RNAs in the regulation of mitochondrial function and cell senescence
  • Fabio Torres Vitor, University of Nebraska at Omaha Dept. of Mathematics
    Multidimensional Search Algorithms to Solve Optimization Models
  • Ashley Votruba, UNL Dept. of Psychology
    Dispute Resolution: Psychological Determinants of Resolution Preferences

More information about Nebraska EPSCoR’s FIRST Awards program is at, including past Recipients since the program began in 2004. Nebraska EPSCoR conducts this program with funding currently through NSF RII Track-1 OIA #1557417. ###