News

News from Engineering at Illinois March 2012

3/2/2012 11:48:00 AM

Excerpts from Illinois in the News, a daily service provided by the University of Illinois News Bureau. This collection of March excerpts focuses on engineering topics and faculty contacted for their expertise by print and broadcast reporters around the world.

AIR SECURITY
Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, Tenn., March 31) -- Sheldon Jacobson, a computer science professor at Illinois, said the Transportation Security Administration has not historically spent money wisely – but that’s starting to change as programs like Pre-Check promise eventual savings of as much as 25 percent of TSA’s budget. He says Congress should let analysts and scientists decide what’s cost effective and safe. “If we let the TSA make the necessary changes and reduce its budget over time, we won’t compromise security,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to disturb this transition period. For us to make an abrupt change would hurt all of this.” Editor’s note: Jacobson is cited on Page 3 of the article.

ENTREPRENEURIAL ALUMNUS
Forbes (March 30) -- Serial entrepreneur and chairman of business review hub Yelp, Max Levchin has done a lot in his 36 years. Before he graduated from the U. of I. in 1997, Levchin had already founded NetMeridian Software, a developer of early palm-top security applications. Following a stint at PayPal, Levchin founded social app and game developer Slide Inc. Levchin is now Yelp’s chairman of the board and is also the company’s largest individual stockholder with over 7 million shares. Yelp shares have risen 24.2 percent since March 23 after initially disappointing investors in the wake of the company’s March 2 initial public offering. When markets opened last Friday morning, Levchin’s Yelp stake was worth $205 million, $39.9 million more than a week earlier.

BONE REPAIR
Scienceblog.com (March 30) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new method for the fabrication of artificial bone scaffolds that can assess important pore design factors such as porosity and their role in new bone formation. Their method’s capabilities for in vivo control of different scale porosities could lead to more flexible, efficient design of bone scaffolds used for regeneration of bone tissue lost to disease or injury.

HELPING STEM GROW
U.S. News.com (March 30) -- Neustar announced that it's partnering with the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana to open the Neustar Labs Innovation Center, which will enable university students to work with Neustar to develop commercial solutions to some of the most challenging problems our customers face. The facility will focus on technology, information, and digital media as the fulcrum for innovation at the intersection of business, science, design, and engineering.

MAKING BETTER NANOTUBES
Nanotechweb.org (Bristol, England, March 30) -- Transistors made from arrays of carbon nanotubes might perform much better if scientists can design a process to create nanotubes with more uniform diameters, according to U. of I. materials science professor John Rogers.
 
RESEARCH TOOLS
The Scientist (Philadelphia, March 29) -- The Broad Institute and Sanger Institute announced two new cancer cell line databases, the largest such repositories of genomic and drug profiling data to date that will provide researchers with a powerful new set of tools. “I think having two independent resources is a good thing,” says Jian Ma, a U. of I. bioengineering professor who did not participate in the research. “If two different groups have the same result for one cell line, it would be more reliable.”
 
SCIENCE EDUCATION
USA Today (March 29) -- In a letter to the editor, U. of I. computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson writes about how the NCAA men’s basketball tournament serves as a stimulus for young people interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

SKIN SENSORS MONITOR HYDRATION LEVELS
Chemistry World (Cambridge, England, March 27) -- On Saturday, NASCAR driver Paulie Harraka will be using a device to monitor his hydration levels as he races. The device is based on U. of I. materials science professor John Rogers' work with flexible electronics. Also: Winnipeg Sun (Manitoba, March 27).
 
Related article: AZoSensors (Warriewood, New South Wales, March 27) -- U. of I. researchers led by materials scientist John Rogers have developed electronic skin patches that can be used for wireless diagnosis of health problems or for providing treatment. The study was presented at the American Chemical Society’s 243rd National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego. Also: Zee News (Noida, India, March 27), Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., March 27), U.S. News & World Report (from HealthDay News, March 29), MSN Health (March 29).
 
SELF-HEALING PLASTICS
MSNBC (March 26) -- Scientists are creeping closer to the creation of self-healing plastics full of futuristic features that would be ideal for everything from airplanes that fix themselves in flight to cars whose parking-lot scratches disappear by the end of the day. The concept started in 2001, when U. of I. researchers made one of the first major breakthroughs in self-healing materials figured out how to embed microcapsules into polymers.

CS PIONEER WALTZ PASSED AWAY
New York Times (March 23) -- David L. Waltz, a computer scientist whose early research in information retrieval provided the foundation for today’s Internet search engines, died on March 22 in Princeton, N.J. He was 68. After completing his PhD in 1972, Waltz taught computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and, later, at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Also: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 24).

BLUE WATERS NOW COMPUTING
HPCwire (San Diego, March 21) -- Six research teams have begun using the first phase of the Blue Waters sustained-petascale supercomputer to study some of the most challenging problems in science and engineering, from supernovae to climate change to the molecular mechanism of HIV infection. “All of these outstanding science and engineering teams are poised to do great, boundary-expanding work, said Thom Dunning, principal investigator for the Blue Waters project and the director of NCSA at Illinois. “The achievements of the first set of pioneers will soon be followed by those of their colleagues when the full system becomes available later this year.” Also: Science 360 (National Science Foundation, March 23).

ENGINEERING AT ILLINOIS TRANSFER AGREEMENT WITH CoD
Trib Local--Glen Elyn (March 21) -- The College of DuPage and the College of Engineering at Illinois has announced the formation of Guaranteed Admissions Transfer Program (GATP) between the institutions. The new GATP program will facilitate transfer, minimize duplication of instruction and will build on community college and university learning experiences.

ILLINOIS ALUM & NFL OWNER PROFILED
Sporting News (March 19) -- Shahid Khan's story--from Pakistan to America profiles the NFL's most unique owner and Engineering at Illinois alumnus. The extensive feature story chronicles Khan's transition from Pakistan to America, his first impressions and work ethic, and the elements that have made him a classic American success story, including his experiences and education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

ROBOT LEARNING
Forbes (March 18) -- At Innorobo 2012 in Lyon, France, one of the most interesting robots at was the iCub. Its creators from the department of robotics, brain and cognitive sciences of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova, Italy, hope that iCub will learn how to walk and talk. iCub is an open source platform developed by IIT with the express purpose of sharing with other university research labs around the world, including the U. of I.

RESEARCH PARK
News-Medical.net (Bexhill-on-Sea, England, March 17) -- Intelligent Medical Objects, a leader in medical informatics tools, announced Saturday that it will be opening a research and development center at Illinois. IMO was attracted to the university because of its significant history in the area of data sciences, informatics, and its top-notch faculty and students, the company said.

PATENTS
Chicago Tribune (March 19) -- The U. of I. is ranked sixth in Illinois in terms of the number of patents produced, according to a March report.

COMPUTING
Science (Washington, D.C., March 16) -- As researchers produce more and more data to crunch, national labs and university-affiliated supercomputer centers are expanding and building new supercomputers, which need more and more computer scientists with high-performance computing skills to program and operate them. “We are certainly having trouble finding people with the appropriate skills,” says William Gropp, a professor of computer science at Illinois, which is installing a new supercomputer. “Everyone that I’ve spoken to has said that hiring is a problem.”
 
NANOTECHNOLOGY
TG Daily (Batavia, Ill., March 15) -- Reducing the speed of light using nanotechnology could lead to new ways to generate electricity, MIT researchers say. A paper to be published in the next issue of Nano Letters describes the work. The paper was co-written by researchers at Illinois and two universities in China: Zhejiang University and Taiyuan University. The work was funded by the U.S. and Chinese governments.

VISUALIZATION
Live Science (New York City, March 15) -- Director Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” contains what Fox Searchlight Pictures calls “images largely unseen in the pantheon of motion-picture history.” Malick, photography director Emmanuel Lubezki, and effects specialist Dan Glass inject into a dramatic narrative a stunning amount of science and natural history not typically seen in the local multiplex. Malick and Glass called upon the U. of I.’s Donna Cox, a senior scientist (and art professor) who leads the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications. For more than two decades, Cox and her AVL colleagues have created high-resolution cinematic visualizations of real scientific data generated by supercomputers.

WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
New Scientist (London, March 14) -- An attempt by U. of I. computer science graduate student Alexander Yee to expand pi to a record number of places in honor of Pi Day was doomed by technical failure.
 
‘BRACKETOLOGY’
Chicago Tribune (March 11) -- Get ready to add a little method to your March Madness. Sheldon Jacobson, a computer science professor at Illinois, has created a website that can help people fill out their NCAA basketball tournament brackets by calculating the probability certain seeds will prevail. The site focuses on picks in the Elite Eight through the championship. It uses probability theory principles to model the odds that certain sets of seeds will reach different rounds of the tournament. Jacobson said he hopes the site will spark young people’s interest in math and probability. Also: GigaOM (March 12), Bloomberg Businessweek (March 13), Discovery News (March 15), MSNBC (March 15).

STAIN-FREE CANCER DETECTION METHOD
Dark Daily (Austin, Texas, March 9) -- Reading tissue biopsies with a new stain-free method could eventually help pathologists achieve faster and less subjective cancer detection. Should this technology prove viable, it would also displace many of the longstanding tissue preparation methodologies used today in the histopathology laboratory. A research team led by ECE professor and Beckman Institute research Gabriel Propescu developed the technology.

RNA SENSORS
Chemical & Engineering News (Washington, D.C., March 12) -- Researchers led by Samie R. Jaffrey at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City have developed a new sensor, based on RNA instead of protein, that can use fluorescence to image small molecules and proteins in living cells. This “alternative approach to image and study small-molecule metabolites is an important piece of work and will potentially have broad applications,” says U. of I. physics professor Taekjip Ha.

ONLINE GAME MAY HELP GENETICISTS
Nature (March 12) -- The online game Phylo promises to be of increasing importance to geneticists, says U of I computer scientist Saurabh Sinha, who works on computational approaches to problems in molecular biology. The game was created to address the 'multiple sequence alignment (MSA) problem', which refers to the difficulty of aligning roughly similiar sequences of DNA in genes common to many species. Sinha says that, with the genomes of 10,000 veretbrate species slated to be sequenced in the next 3–5 years alone, the MSA is only going to get more difficult in future. “If you have more species to align, covering a broader evolutionary span, the current alogrithms don't scale up well computationally,” he says.

LIGHT-ABSORBING METAMATERIALS
Phys.Org.com (Douglas, Isle of Man, March 9) -- A team including researchers from the U. of I. has found a way to use metamaterials to absorb a wide range of light with extremely high efficiency, which they say could lead to a new generation of solar cells or optical sensors. Also: LaserFocusWorld (Tulsa, Okla., March 9).

$30,000 LEMELSON-MIT ILLINOIS STUDENT PRIZE ANNOUNCED
Enhanced Online News (March 7) -- Kevin Karsch, a U. of I. graduate student in computer science, is one of three winners of a 2012 $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize. Karsch developed a technique for inserting objects and special effects into photographs and videos. Karsh’s method requires no scene measurements, and can be performed by novice users in only a few minutes. The tool will greatly reduce the time and cost in creating visual effects for movies and advertisements. Also: News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Ill., March 7), News-Gazette (March 8).

VIDEO COMMUNICATION
Venture Beat (San Francisco, March 5) -- Advanced Micro Devices has made an investment in video communications startup Nuvixa. The company is investing in Nuvixa so that the startup can continue work on its StagePresence video presentation tool, which extracts a human presenter from any background and embeds him or her in a digital desktop or slide presentation. Nuvixa's founders include Sanjay Patel, former chief technology officer of Ageia Technologies, a physics technology firm that was bought by Nvidia; Minh Do, chief technology officer; computer scientist Dennis Lin; and video expert Quang Nguyen. All are engineering faculty members or students at Illinois.

PROVOST FINALIST
UB Reporter (Buffalo, N.Y., March 5) -- Finalists in the search for the University of Buffalo’s next provost are scheduled to visit campus this week. One candidate, Charles F. Zukoski, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at Illinois, visited UB last Friday. Also: Buffalo Business First (New York, March 5).

DEAN FINALIST
The Idaho Statesman (Boise, March 2) -- U. of I. aerospace engineering professor Michael Bragg, who also is executive associate dean of the U. of I. College of Engineering, is a finalist for the job of dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Idaho.

"SHRINK-WRAP" BRIDGE REPAIR
New Scientist (London; March 3) -- (London, March 3) -- When an earthquake strikes, modern bridges flex rather than break, but older bridges can sustain serious damage. Now a repair technique that wraps up damaged columns using shape memory alloys could make the bridges stronger than ever. A team led by U. of I. civil and environmental engineering professor Bassem Andrawes is developing a repair method based on shape memory alloy wire. This “remembers” its previous shape and returns to it on heating. The first stage of the repair is to remove loose concrete from the damaged column and replace it with quick-setting mortar. Also: ASEE FirstBell (March 3), News Track India (from Asian News International, New Delhi; New Delhi, March 4).

HIGH-SPEED RAIL
Asia Times (Hong Kong, March 3) -- Christopher Barkan, the director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center at Illinois, comments about China’s interest in selling its high-speed rail technology to the U.S. “They are extremely interested in the U.S.,” Barkan said. “We’re the largest untapped market for high-speed rail in the world.” 

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If you have any questions about the College of Engineering, or other story ideas, contact Rick Kubetz, editor, Engineering Communications Office, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217/244-7716.