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Mid-America Transportation Center

UNL Graduate Student Kevin Schrum is named 2012 MATC Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year

Kevin Schrum - UNL PhD

Not all departments can offer students opportunities that will shape them professionally and personally. But luckily for University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Kevin Schrum, the department of civil engineering was one of those departments. Schrum was able to continue his education and conduct research with the Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) under the wing of Dean Sicking, Ph.D. Sicking is the director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF) at UNL’s Nebraska Transportation Center (NTC), which is where Schrum has been assisting with research since he was an undergraduate—an experience which he said he’s very thankful for receiving.

“I’ll be forever grateful and indebted to it (the experience at MwRSF),” Schrum said. “In my field of structural engineering, you can’t really doing anything without a master’s degree, so I needed a master’s degree. The fact that Dr. Sicking was willing give the opportunity means everything now and for the future.” He is now pursuing a doctoral degree at UNL. This year, Schrum was named MATC’s Doctoral Student of the Year. He said he was very humbled by the honor. “It’s almost like I don’t know if I deserve it. It’s a humility kind of thing,” Schrum said. “I’m very thankful for it and it’s kind of overwhelming.” MATC Faculty Researcher Ronald Faller, Ph.D., nominated Schrum for the honor based on his “exemplar character, enthusiasm, outstanding work ethic and excellent dedication.” Faller also works at MwRSF.

While working at NTC’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, Schrum has worked on several research projects including the “Safety Performance Evaluation of the Non-Blocked Midwest Guardrail System (MGS)” and “Redesign of the Boston Tunnel Guardrail” projects. As a part of his master’s thesis, he investigated the balance point between “safe” and “inexpensive” as it pertains to roadside slope design using simulations. The information from his thesis has been incorporated in a design manual for engineers in Wisconsin, which is currently in phase two of research.

One of the things Schrum said he enjoyed about the facility was working with the faculty. He said he appreciated their skill and willingness to help students. “It’s not just (that) they’re good. It’s that they’re very intelligent and very good at what they do, and as result I think I have become a better researcher because of it,” he said. Schrum said the entire faculty has influenced him over the year, but especially his adviser: Sicking. “He has a way of challenging you to think differently than your accustomed to, and that allows you to kind of get out of your comfort zone and find solutions that you wouldn’t have otherwise,” Schrum said.

He explained this challenge has also changed his mindset. For example, Schrum said this new, deeper way of thinking has also made him a better parent. He is a husband and father of two children—a son and a daughter. Schrum said his education has been a humbling and enlightening experience. “When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I felt I can go out and get a job now, like I knew everything,” Schrum said. “As I continued my education, the more I learned, I find the less I really know, so it’s awe-inspiring that I can do this type of thing. That I can do research for the rest of my life and still have questions to ask and problems to solve. It’s exciting.” Schrum said he believed the graduate education and experiences at MATC not only changed him as a student, but shaped him as an individual. He said the past two years of his education have shaped him in ways he can’t even understand, for which he’s grateful.

“I’ve been told the two most powerful words in the English language are ‘thank you.’ So, I would say thank you,” Schrum said. Schrum said he planned to graduate spring 2014 and wanted to work as a researcher.