Nebraska EPSCoR announces new recipients for annual FIRST Award

March 3, 2021

Funding, expert reviews assist early-career faculty in pursuing national distinctions

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 early fall 2020, 10 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 national-level scientists outside Nebraska, engaged by Nebraska EPSCoR.

At Nebraska EPSCoR’s meeting of its State Committee on January 20, the following FIRST Award Recipients were selected:

  • Wei Bao, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Explore Room-Temperature Quantum Liquid: Exciton-Polariton Condensate from Fundamental Science to Device Applications
  • Maria Becker, Nebraska Wesleyan University Dept. of Physics
    Investigations of Quantum Decoherence: Acoustic Analogues, Light-Matter Interactions, and Quantum Computing
  • Joel Destino, Creighton University Dept. of Chemistry
    Through the Looking Glass: Elucidating the Chemistry of Bottom-Up Silica-Germania Glasses & Educational Plans to Connect Two Worlds
  • Katarzyna Glowacka, UNL Dept. of Biochemistry
    Understanding Non-Photochemical Quenching Under Chilling in the Warm-Season C4 Grasses
  • Keegan Moore, UNL Mechanical and Materials Engineering
    FIRST: The How, Why, and When of Unwanted Disassembly: Inexpensive Dynamical Models for Loosening of Bolted Joints
  • Robert Streubel, UNL Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
    Quantized Spin Excitations in Amorphous Materials (Q-SEAM)
  • Joseph Yesselman, UNL Dept. of Chemistry
    A Predictive Model of RNA 3D Thermodynamics Through Massively Parallel Biochemical Experiments and Computer-Guided Design”

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 Award OIA #1557417.