Five more UNK faculty members named National Strategic Research Institute Fellows

The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska has appointed 30 researchers from the University of Nebraska System’s four campuses as NSRI Fellows.

Bringing forward their expertise from a range of disciplines — chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, pharmacology, psychology and more — the new fellows expand the network to 161 researchers. NSRI Fellows aim to build multidisciplinary teams that develop solutions for complex problems across the spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats.

“It is motivating to see this program continue to expand — to see so many University of Nebraska researchers commit to using their expertise for national security,” said Joshua Santarpia, NSRI science and technology advisor. “Advancing and evolving threats demand this type of nimble, interdisciplinary contingent of academic researchers. This network has already proven to be incredibly valuable to NSRI and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and we look forward to engaging this new group of fellows.”

NSRI is the DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and affiliated with the University of Nebraska System. As a UARC, NSRI must maintain essential research and engineering capabilities for the DOD to leverage. The NSRI Fellows help bring that requirement to fruition, contributing their expertise, laboratories and students to deliver defense solutions.

New NSRI Fellows from UNK are:

  • Paul Burger, professor, geography
  • Chris Exstrom, professor, chemistry
  • Krista Forrest, professor, psychology
  • Austin Nuxoll, associate professor, biology
  • Basheer Qolomany, assistant professor, cyber systems

Exstrom brings forward deep research experience with solvatochromic compounds, gold and semiconductor nanoparticles, xerogels and concrete materials, positioning him to respond to needs for sensors, electronics and building materials.

“It is an honor to be recognized by NSRI for my research background and potential contributions to national security,” he said. “The partnership that NSRI forges between the University of Nebraska and the Department of Defense is unique and a shining star in our university system. I am excited that NSRI ‘thinks through the entire range of strategic deterrence scenarios.’ This maximizes opportunities for faculty, students and other research staff at all of our university campuses.”

Forrest is inspired by the opportunity to add her expertise to this select group of interdisciplinary researchers.

“Although NSRI typically deals with deterring and countering chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, these threats start and end with people,” she said. “For 30 years, I have taught classes and conducted research across many subdisciplines in psychology. My expertise would allow me to support existing working groups as well as study factors which increase the likelihood of social media users reporting threats by fellow users. Earlier identification of those who will become domestic terrorists could give the DOD more time to respond to said threats.”

Learn more about the NSRI Fellows at