Faculty Spotlight: Jenny Keshwani

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Jenny Keshwani
Jenny Keshwani
About Jenny Keshwani:  I grew up on a sugar beet farm outside of Fargo, North Dakota. I decided to move to Lincoln for college because it wasn’t where all of my classmates were going but still close enough to home. I earned both my bachelor's and master's degrees in biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln before moving to Kansas City to earn an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in oral biology and engineering. My research focused on improving the mechanical properties of dental composites and bone cements. Throughout my education I sought out opportunities to work with students and education. For example, I tutored inner city kids at a learning center in Kansas City and helped refugee women communicate with customers and learn basic math skills to make change while selling their produce at a small farmers market. 

What is your position at UNL? I am an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and Science Literacy Specialist through Nebraska Extension. I’m also the coordinator for the National Center for Agricultural Literacy. I teach undergraduate courses in biomedical engineering and engineering properties. However, my main focus is promoting science and engineering education in both formal and informal settings through my research and extension activities. One of my goals is to make science and engineering engaging and relevant by exposing people of all ages to the joys of exploration and problem solving while connecting science and engineering to their everyday lives.

What drew you to UNL? There is something about living in Lincoln that makes you not want to leave! I spent several years here while completing my bachelor's and master's degrees at UNL before leaving to do my Ph.D. in Kansas City. When the opportunity presented itself to move back to Lincoln, I was thankful to get to move back to the city that had grown to feel like home. The positive, creative, team-oriented environment at UNL was an added bonus. 

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?  I have the privilege of working with learners across the spectrum; from elementary students to college students to professional educators. I enjoy watching the lightbulbs go on when a student finally understands a difficult concept. But what I really love is watching the power of knowledge transform how people see themselves; when a teacher realizes that she can teach engineering design to her students or a student realizes he or she can use information to solve a real world problem.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Overcoming my tendency to be shy. While I’m still on the quieter side of the spectrum, my job requires talking with lots of people. Even through my undergrad I was terrified of speaking in front of a group, but now I do it regularly and have even grown to enjoy it.

On a professional note, I am thankful for the collaborations I’ve been fortunate to develop with numerous amazing people across our university and state. For example, I have developed a collaborative project with a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Sciences that enables engineering majors and elementary education majors to jointly develop and implement outreach programs to teach youth about engineering. 

What is something that most people don't know about you? I took figure skating lessons starting in kindergarten through my senior year of high school. I never competed, but I did perform in a yearly ice show.

What is your life like outside of work? My husband and I just bought a house so that has been taking up a lot of our time! When we’re not so distracted, I love bringing together groups of people to eat dinner, share stories and play games. Anything I can do to build community and develop authentic relationships. I also play piano for a band at my church and enjoy spending time outside.