May 2018 Newsletter

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Building Omaha’s Future Leaders
May 2018

Celebrating STEM in Omaha 

A STEM Professional You Should Know!
Andrew Prystai, Omaha Chamber Young Professional Council Member

Andrew Prystai is passionate about the STEM ecosystem as a former startup founder and seeing the importance of entrepreneurship for the future of Omaha. He earned his MBA and undergraduate at Creighton University – focusing intently on entrepreneurship. Through his time at Creighton he was able to meet his co-founder and start Drive Spotter – a company increasing safety and efficiency in the trucking and autonomous vehicle industries. While at Drive Spotter they raised just under $1.5m in venture funding and participated in two accelerators, most notable Techstars Mobility in Detroit. From these experiences he started a (still growing) blog, The Contrarians Garage, where he writes musings on startups, innovation, and the future economy.

Currently Andrew is leading marketing at MindSet, the leading experts on building a winning culture, and is most excited about working with emerging technology companies that are focused on investing in their growing leadership teams and putting in the hard work now to keep their cultures fun, focused, but most importantly successful. Additionally, he brings his STEM background and passion to bear in his volunteer roles through the Chamber’s Young Professionals Council, Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Committee, and Heartland 2050 sub- committee on Autonomous Vehicles.  Where he often brings up how we can interjecting new technologies, opportunities, and viewpoints to help keep Omaha’s on the cutting edge of technology and building tomorrow’s economy.

If you ever want to talk about startups or how to partner with one of those organizations – Feel free to connect with Andrew on Linkedin!

OWH: UNMC program readies teens for health jobs and
rewards those who ‘try their hardest’

By Michael Kelly / World-Herald Columnist

Once suspended from her high school for fighting, a 17-year-old girl talked eagerly about the future Thursday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

As the student speaker on recognition day for UNMC’s High School Alliance — a distinctive program to encourage health-care careers — Keyla Deal said she’s a bit nervous to move on.

“But I am so happy,” she told attendees, “and excited for the next chapter of my life.”

The event closed a chapter for 69 high schoolers from 15 public school districts, who have attended classes from 1 to 3 p.m. daily at the med center since August.

Heidi Kaschke, the coordinator, said UNMC knows of no other program like it. One in Texas enrolls students planning to become medical doctors, but the Omaha classes seek a broader array.

Students needn’t have posted a straight-A record in high school courses, but must carry at least a B average in algebra, biology and chemistry. It’s still competitive to get in, and more than 200 annually apply.

The alliance, which looks for students eager to learn and to excel, is funded by Susie Buffett’s Sherwood Foundation. More than a third come from low-income families, qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches at their schools.

They attend their regular high schools in the morning and UNMC in the afternoon.

Raised by single mom Shaletha Thomas-Johnson, Keyla graduates June 3 from Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson. She will enroll in August at the College of St. Mary with plans to become a physician’s assistant. The UNMC classes, she said, were great preparation.

The first semester, she took classes in infectious disease and pathology; this semester, genetics and anatomy. Courses were tough, but she found she could keep up.“One of the reasons I love this program,” she said in an interview, “is that they don’t expect everybody to be the next Albert Einstein. It’s not just about academics. It’s also helped me grow into a better person.”

To view full article:

Research event lets undergrads, grad students network

By Misty Pocwierz-Gaines, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

On April 28, in conjunction with the Nebraska Science Festival, the UNMC Office of Recruitment and Student Engagement hosted the first undergraduate and graduate research poster presentation in the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Thirty-eight undergraduates attended the event from eight college campuses across Nebraska, presenting research on a wide range of topics.

In addition to allowing undergraduates to highlight their research, the event introduced them to opportunities available at UNMC. A panel discussion with four graduate students — Brady Sillman (neuroscience), Opeoluwa “Ope” Oyewole (pathology), Tyler Kambis (genetics) and Krysten Vance (cancer research) — gave the undergraduates insight into the life of a graduate student at UNMC.

Another panel discussion, hosted by Bio Nebraska and its executive director, Phil Kozera, included Karin Gilgallon of Zoetis, Niraj Patel of Neogen and UNMC graduate Chris Connelly, Ph.D., of Streck. The panelists fielded questions from undergraduates and graduates about their careers and opportunities within their respective companies. The panelists also discussed the array of differences between working in industry and working in academia.

The afternoon session featured a poster presentation. Forty graduate students from across the spectrum of graduate studies presented posters and discussed their research with undergraduates.

“It was wonderful to witness these students’ enthusiasm for science,” said Pamela Carmines, Ph.D., executive associate dean of graduate studies. “The research presented was impressive and the students were well spoken and knowledgeable in their areas of study.”

To view full article:

Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming STEM Events


The 2018 CodeCrush Summit

~June 12-13~

Maybe you’re a girl in high school, who’s really interested in technology. Or perhaps you’re working in IT and want to learn more about how to diversify the workforce. Or, maybe you’re an educator and want to know how you can encourage more girls to pursue IT.

Sound like you? Then, the Summit was made just for you.

CodeCrush is excited to invite you to their annual Summer Summit. They’re bringing together the energetic community that is fighting to diversify the IT workforce, and celebrate each other. They’re bringing in national speakers, local heroes and a big community of people who all are working towards making technology. Among the speakers will be Jessica Zhang of Slack Technologies. She leads analytics initiatives on user acquisition insights and brand strategy.

For more information:

What’s Up?
June 1-2
For more information:

June 8-9
For more information:

Millard Airport Fly-In Breakfast and Omaha Aviation STEM Fair
June 9
For more information:

The 2018 CodeCrush Summit
June 12-13
For more information:

UNO IS&T High School Internships
July 4-27
For more information:

2018 Nebraska GenCyber Camp – Teachers
June 18-29
For more information:

2018 Nebraska GenCyber Camp – Students
June 25-29
For more information:

CTSA 2018 Annual Conference
July 7-10
For more information:

Resources and Articles 


BODYMODELS: Biomechanics to Offer Diverse Young Minds Opportunities to Develop, Explore, and Learn STEM

BODYMODELS is an NSF-funded project that will provide professional development to elementary school teachers in the form of a summer three-week session, with six Saturday morning professional development meetings throughout the academic year. Participants will be paid $150 per day to learn biomechanics – the mechanical laws associated with the movement or structure of living organisms – and then create and teach science lessons to their students, in association with education and biomechanics experts from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

If you’re interested, please learn more and apply at: or


This Mission-Driven Business Helps Millions Of Students Learn STEM Skills

WATCH: Videos From the 2018 STEM Solutions Workforce of Tomorrow Conference

We want to celebrate STEM professionals in the Greater Omaha area. Do you know of someone who has an awesome job using STEM application in their everyday work? We would love to highlight them in our next newsletter. Contact Julie Sigmon at:


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