Software engineering student awarded NDSEG Fellowship

Evan Palmer
Evan Palmer

University of Nebraska–Lincoln School of Computing student Evan Palmer was recently awarded a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship.

The NDSEG Fellowship program was established by U.S. Congress in 1989 to increase the number of citizens receiving doctoral degrees in science and engineering disciplines to Department of Defense relevance. The program is highly competitive and only awards approximately 4,000 fellowships to 60,000 applicants each year, placing Palmer in the top .66 percent of applicants.

Palmer’s fellowship will support him has he begins work on his doctoral degree at Oregon State University.

“With support from this fellowship, I will be able to focus on my research and on producing the highest quality of work that I can,” Palmer said. “I will be better able to explore solutions to the robotics problems that motivate me and support the Department of Defense’s security mission.”

Palmer is a senior software engineering major who has been working in the Nebraska Intelligent Mobile Unmanned Systems (NIMBUS) Lab since 2020. Co-director and associate professor Brittany Duncan invited Palmer to join the lab as an undergraduate research assistant after he completed one of her courses.

“Evan is an exceptional undergraduate student and has demonstrated incredible drive, passion, and creativity in his research throughout his time in the software engineering program,” Duncan said. “He has taken on increasingly complex projects to the point that he now functions in a role similar to our graduate students.”

During his time in the NIMBUS Lab, Palmer contributed to several projects that involved enabling in-ground sensor emplacement using digging techniques on UAVs, developing adaptive autonomous systems, and integrating reinforcement learning to control robotic swarms. Palmer said the most exciting part of contributing to such innovative research was working through the problem-solving process with his peers.

“Their solutions created a positive impact in society and in the field of robotics,” Palmer said. “It’s a wonderful thing to consider the problems that exist in the field and develop solutions in collaboration with other students for those challenges that advance upon human knowledge and better enable integration of robotic systems into society.”

As an undergraduate student, Palmer also co-authored a paper that has been published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. He will present his work at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia this May, following his graduation from Nebraska.

“It has been a delightful experience to watch Evan learn and mature within his research, to guide him through engaging meaningfully in outreach activities with K-12 students, and to advise him in his graduate application process,” Duncan said. “I look forward to cheering Evan on throughout his graduate work and hope to work with him again in the future.”

This fall, Palmer will begin work on his Ph.D. He plans to continue to focus on his robotics research and eventually teach the subject as a professor. Palmer credits his experiences and mentors at the Nebraska in helping him achieve his goals and prepare for his future.

“The university, the School of Computing, and the NIMBUS Lab have each been foundational in preparing me for my future as a researcher,” Palmer said. “Because of the diverse, multidisciplinary environment, I will be better able to collaborate with new students and to approach robotics problems from a novel perspective during my research career.”