In The News

This monthly summary includes excerpts from Illinois in the News, a daily service provided by the University of Illinois News Bureau and other media search tools. This collection of recent stories focuses on engineering topics and faculty contacted for their expertise by print and broadcast reporters around the world.

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November 2013 media appearances

Beckman & Early Robotics

IEEE Spectrum (Nov. 29) -- Feature article about William Schockley and Illinois' alumnus Arnold Beckman. The two were part of the diverse web of people, institutions, resources, and dynamics that gave rise to Silicon Valley. 

Curious alumnus

Ad Age Dataworks (Nov. 26) -- As Ooyala's chief data scientist for two years, Matt Pasienski spends his time turning "crazy messy data sets into something meaningful for our customers." Toting a PhD in physics from University of Illinois -- "with emphasis on quantum information, phase transitions and cold atoms" -- Pasienski is not unlike other top data crunchers with backgrounds across the sciences from biology to mechanical engineering to, yes, physics. "I believe that anyone can do this job, if you have one trait -- intense curiosity. OK, you need strong mathematical and computational skills, but the most successful data people are the ones that have a desire to keep looking."

Microbattery (Douglas, Isle of Man, Nov. 25) -- Materials scientists at Harvard University have been recognized by the printed electronics industry for their work on 3-D-printed lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand. U. of I. researchers collaborated on the project.

AAAS Fellows (Douglas, Isle of Man, Nov. 25) -- Four U. of I. faculty members have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also: Daily Illini (Dec. 4).

Related story: India West (San Leandro, Calif., Dec. 11) -- The American Association for the Advancement of Science has elected 388 new AAAS fellows, including Kanti Jain, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the U. of I.

Genomics & Computing

The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C., Nov. 25) -- After 25 years of breakthroughs and $14-billion in federal support, the revolution in genomics is now firmly in the hands of the computer geeks. An elite group of some of the world’s top research universities and corporations, pulled together by the National Science Foundation, is now working to figure out how to grapple with the huge amount of DNA and genomic data that’s being produced. The coalition, called CompGen, includes the U. of I., IBM, Intel, and Microsoft, as well as several other academic leaders in computing and genomics, such as the Baylor College of Medicine and Washington University in St. Louis.

Self-healing nanotubes

The Engineer (text and video; London, Nov. 26) -- U. of I. electrical and computer engineering professor Joseph Lyding has developed a way to join carbon nanotubes to turn them into more efficient transistors. The “nano-soldering” method was created by engineers at Illinois as a way of joining carbon nanotubes for use in flexible electronic components as an easier-to-manufacture alternative to traditional silicon transistors. The researchers claim the technique, which involves using gases to deposit metal molecules on the nanotubes as they heat up, improves the performance of nanotube devices by an order of magnitude. Also: Chemistry (Berlin, Nov. 27), ECNMag (Rockaway, N.J., Nov. 26), New Electronics (London, Nov. 27), Science 360 (Washington, D.C., Nov. 26), (Douglas, Isle of Man, Nov. 25), Lab Manager (New Milford, Conn., Dec. 2), Printed Electronics World (Cambridge, England, Dec. 17).

Engineering alumna

Financial Times (London, Nov. 22) -- Parisa Tabriz may work on the frontline of Web security, tasked with keeping Google Chrome users around the world safe from an army of cyber criminals, but she still lives the life of a young adult. After completing a computer science degree and masters at the U. of I. and an internship at Google, she landed a job at the Internet company as a security engineer.

CS alumnus

Fortune (Nov. 21) -- U. of I. alumnus Marc Andreessen is never short on opinions and never shy about sharing them either. The co-creator of Mosaic, the first commercially used Web browser, Andreessen runs the upstart venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Doodling circuits

Engadget (San Francisco, Nov. 21) -- When dreaming up that world-changing invention, wouldn’t it be great if you could just sketch out the circuits and have them magically work? That’s the idea behind Circuit Scribe, a ballpoint pen that’s full of quick-drying ink that’ll help you doodle your circuits on notebook paper. Emerging out of research from the U. of I., the team is now accepting your cash through Kickstarter to help bring it into the real world. Also: Fast Company (Nov. 23), University Herald (New York City, Nov. 25), News-Gazette (Dec. 8).

Related story: PSFK (Nov. 26) -- A new company called Electroninks is seeking to make DIY electronics child’s play ... literally. The circuit-drawing pen first gained attention in 2011 during its research phase at Illinois. Also: Macgasm (Nov. 24), WebNews (in Italian, Nov. 28), Complex Art & Design (Dec. 1), Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 1), NeoTek (in Spanish, Dec. 1), and many more publications worldwide.

Women in CS

Crain’s Chicago Business (Nov. 19) -- Of first-year students in computer science at Illinois, the number of women has doubled in the past three years to 20 percent. And women made up 10 percent of incoming computer engineering students this year, up from 5 percent in 2010. Editor’s note: Access to the full article requires registration.

Rogers' Smithsonian Award (Nov. 20) -- Feature article about John Rogers, the recent recipient of a Smithsonian Ingenuity Award. "...Rogers’ lab, an idea factory whose rate of publication in major scientific journals is matched only by its output of headline-grabbing gizmos. Rogers, who holds one of the university’s loftiest chairs, has appointments in five departments." Also: WJZ-Channel 13 (CBS; Baltimore, Nov. 19). Editor's note: “Genius in America,” which profiles John Rogers and other winners of this year’s American Ingenuity awards, premiered Nov. 21 on the Smithsonian Channel.

Natural gas option

IEEE Spectrum (Nov. 19) -- As its primary power source, eBay’s newest data center, in Utah, uses 4.8 megawatts of an available 6 MW from a natural gas–powered fuel-cell system made by Bloom Energy. The operation will also lower eBay’s carbon emissions by 49 percent compared with those of the local coal-powered grid, according to an analysis from the University of Illinois.

Computer science

The Register (London, Nov. 19) -- The general chair of the SC13 supercomputing conference thinks the semiconducting industry has reached a tipping point more radical – and uncertain – than it has gone through in decades. “We’ve reached the end of a technological era where we had a very stable technology,” says Bill Gropp, a professor of computer science at Illinois. “We’re about to get back to where we were about 25 years ago, when the technology suddenly changed on us.”

What's next in supercomputing?

ComputerWorld (Nov. 19) -- Supercomputing users are relentless in their pursuit of compute power so they can run simulations of increasing complexity and scale to tackle mankind's truly big problems. Today, supercomputing relies on architectural changes, such as adding speedy GPUs, to boost performance. Researchers may increasingly turn to chips that integrate interconnects and memory to speed processing and reduce energy. "We have reached the end of the technological era," said William Gropp, chairman of the SC13 conference and a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Improved solar materials

Phys.Org (Nov. 18) -- An interdisciplinary team of Engineering at Illinois researchers has set its sights on improving the materials that make solar energy conversion/photocatalysis possible. Together, they have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other "metallic" oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications. Also: Nanowerk (Nov. 18), ScienceBlog (Nov. 18), Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Nov. 25).

Related article: The Philadelphia Inquirer (Nov. 19) -- In a new study published in Nature, scientists in Pennsylvania reported they had created a new ceramic material that could change the way solar panels are made. Lane W. Martin, a professor of materials science and engineering at the U. of I., says the approach has potential. “It’s a pretty promising first step in this realm,” Martin says. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Nov. 20).

An interdisciplinary team of Engineering at Illinois researchers has set its sights on improving the materials that make conversion/photocatalysis possible. Together, they have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other "metallic" oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications.

Read more at:

An interdisciplinary team of Engineering at Illinois researchers has set its sights on improving the materials that make conversion/photocatalysis possible. Together, they have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other "metallic" oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications.

Read more at:
An interdisciplinary team of Engineering at Illinois researchers has set its sights on improving the materials that make conversion/photocatalysis possible. Together, they have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other "metallic" oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications.

Read more at:
An interdisciplinary team of Engineering at Illinois researchers has set its sights on improving the materials that make conversion/photocatalysis possible. Together, they have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other "metallic" oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications.

Read more at:
Body electronics

The New Yorker  (Nov. 25) -- Ever since humans invented computer chips, we have dreamed of plugging them into us, or plugging us into them. Researchers traditionally considered marrying electronics to biology using circuits made not from inorganic silicon but from pliable organic materials. But John Rogers had another idea. In 2011, he and his colleagues announced the invention of a device that had hitherto seemed impossible: an integrated silicon circuit with the mechanical properties of skin. (Online article requires subscription).

Computational biology

HPC Wire (San Diego, Nov. 18) -- Klaus Schulten, a physics professor at Illinois, says the molecular dynamics and visualization programs NAMD and VMD, which serve over 300,000 registered users in many fields of biology and medicine, are pushing the limits of extreme scale computational biology.

IV drug detector

BioOptics World (Nov. 18) -- Computerized systems can deliver intravenous medications in precise amounts, but cannot identify or determine concentrations of drugs in the tubing. Now, an optical device can overcome this limitation through real-time characterization of fluid in an IV line. The invention of electrical and computer engineering students led by Brian Cunningham at Illinois, it uses surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) technology, which boosts sensitivity to molecular signals that can identify chemicals.

Self-healing batteries

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 17) -- U. of I. materials scientists Paul Braun and Nancy Sottos are cited regarding work on self-healing high-capacity batteries.

Related story: The Christian Science Monitor (Nov. 19) -- Stanford University researchers and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have created a battery electrode that heals itself that could mean a longer life for the lithium-ion batteries used in iPhones and other devices. The silicon electrodes can store 10 times more lithium resulting in longer battery life. The approach may provide a new way forward for promising materials that have been stalled. “This points to a way to solve a general problem with high-capacity anodes,” says Paul Braun, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is not involved in the work. Also: MIT Technology Review (Nov. 19), Chemistry World (Nov. 17).


The New York Times (Nov. 16) -- In a list of innovations created at universities, the U. of I. is cited as being the home of Mosaic, the graphical browser credited with kicking off the growth of the Web.

NCSA grant to develop data management

Daily Herald (Chicago, Nov. 15) -- The National Science Foundation has given the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications more than $10 million to develop software to manage vast amounts of un-curated digital scientific data. The NCSA says it will work with faculty at the University of Illinois, Boston University and the University of North Carolina. Also: (Southwestern Ill., Nov. 15), Crain's Chicago Business (Dec. 2).

Weather Modeling

HPC Wire (San Diego, Nov. 14) -- Using the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois, a five-member team, including Mark Straka, from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the U. of I., achieved an unprecedented level of performance for any weather model.

Gifts invest in Engineering Schools

Huffington Post (Canada, Nov. 14) -- Engineering schools are enjoying a remarkable boom at a time when belts are tightening across the post-secondary education sector as a whole. Barely a month goes by in North America without another mega-donation. Earlier this year the University of Illinois received $100 million for engineering programs. A $133 million gift is creating the centrepiece of the new Cornell NYC Tech campus, and only last month the University of Calgary was awarded a government grant of $142.5 million.

Alumnus Gift

Chicago Tribune (Nov. 14) -- Illinois alumnus and YouTube co-founder Steve Chen (BS 2002, CS), has donated $1 million to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. The academy will use the gift to help build an “Innovation Hub.” Chen attended the academy in the mid-1990s. He said in a statement, “IMSA helped guide me to the tools and knowledge I needed to develop my ideas into a successful business, but those tools keep evolving.” Also: Crain's Chicago Business (Nov. 14), Aurora Beacon News (Nov. 14), ASEE FirstBell (Nov. 15).

CS Open Source Credit

VentureBeat (Nov. 13) -- Facebook announced that it has partnered with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MIT, Stanford, University of Waterloo, Carnegie Mellon, University of California, Los Angeles, and many other colleges to pair up computer science students with open source projects that need help — for academic credit. Also: The Next Web (Nov. 13).

Micro LED Medicine

Bioscience Technology (Rockaway, N.J., Nov. 13) -- To better understand and one day provide improved treatments for depression, addiction and anxiety, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine are using tiny, electronic devices to identify and map neural circuits in the brain. Michael Bruchas, a professor of anesthesiology, and his colleagues will conduct studies with micro-LED devices that his group recently co-developed with a team at the U. of I.

Supercomputer Concepts

EE Times (San Francisco, Nov. 13) -- “Every three or four years, supercomputer developers look around for what’s new, seize on something, and really milk it for a few years,” says Wen-mei Hwu, a professor of computer science at Illinois.

Landing a Faculty Job

Science (Oct. 30) -- How do you know if you're ready to apply for faculty jobs? One crude measure is the number of papers you've published. An applicant "with no publication will get a harder time getting recognition than one that has three or four," says Jonathan Dantzig, a professor emeritus and research professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at Illinois. Dantzig suggested that young scientists should focus on doing good-quality work, publishing when they’ve got something to say, and presenting their research at meetings so that other people know about them.

International Students

Wall Street Journal (Nov. 11) -- A record number of foreign students is flocking to U.S. universities. The top four—the University of Southern California, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University and New York University—each drew more than 9,000 foreign students.Nearly half of all Chinese students are studying either business or engineering. Indian students are more heavily concentrated in engineering, math and computer science. Also: U.S. Department of State (original report, Nov. 11), TIME (Nov. 11), NBC Southern California (Nov. 12), Los Angeles Daily News (Nov. 11), NPR (blog, Nov. 11), Fox News (from The Associated Press, Nov. 11), The Christian Science Monitor (Nov. 11). The story has generated more than 150 stories worldwide.

Related story: Times of India (Nov. 11) -- The 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educatonal Exchange shows a 3.5 per cent decrease in student enrollment from India in 2012/2013 (on top a four per cent decline the previous year). In contrast, China, which was displaced by India as the biggest source of foreign students for a few years at the turn of the century, has surged ahead.

Green Course

GreenBiz (Oakland, Calif., Nov. 12) -- The U of I will offer a new course in spring 2014 to introduce the environmental and social impacts associated with technology at each stage of the product life cycle, including design, manufacture, consumption and disposal and recovery. The course is a collaborative effort of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), the College of Engineering and the Technology Entrepreneur Center.

Hand-held bio monitor

Forbes (Nov. 11) -- U. of I. researchers are using a smartphone camera and its processing power to perform sophisticated laboratory-equivalent tests for allergens, pathogens, and toxins in food or soil. “A lot of medical conditions might be monitored very inexpensively and non-invasively using mobile platforms like phones,” says Brian T. Cunningham, a professor of bioengineering at Illinois.


Chemical & Engineering News (Washington D.C., Nov. 11) -- The detailed workings of biomolecules as they generate and respond to mechanical forces can be analyzed effectively with computer simulations and experimental techniques. “High-speed force spectroscopy will enhance experiment-simulation complementarity,” says computational biophysicist Klaus Schulten, of the U. of I. “There has been a lingering doubt about how much molecular dynamics simulations can really tell us because of the huge mismatch in timescale relative to experiments,” comments UIUC’s Taekjip Ha, an expert in single-molecule imaging and manipulation. Thanks to the new work, Ha says, agreement between simulation and experiment is now “impressive and deeply satisfying.”

Wearable Electronics

The Independent (London, Nov. 8) -- U. of I. engineering professor John Rogers’ work on the development of flexible, wearable electronics is cited in an article on the development, by Motorola, of another type of flexible electronic device.

Related story: WTTW (Chicago, Nov. 12) -- Video essay demonstrating the electronic tattoos developed by MatSE professor John Rogers and his colleagues. Rogers appeared at the Chicago Council on Science and Technology to give a talk about Body & Machine: Epidermal Electronics at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus that included a live streaming video of the event.

Online Education

WGN Radio (Nov. 8) -- Rob Rutenbar, head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, joined The Steve Cochran Show Friday to explain “Coursera” the program that allows students to learn outside of a traditional classroom.

Robotic Surgery Concerns

Wall Street Journal (Nov. 8) -- A robotic-surgery device called the da Vinci Surgical System is linked to "an overall increasing trend in the rate of injury and death reports" since 2004, according to a draft analysis of such events reported to the Food and Drug Administration. The draft analysis was developed by the chief of adult cardiac surgery at Rush University Medical Center and co-authors from the University of Illinois and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (subscription required to view entire article).

Faculty Recognition

The Chemical Engineer (London, Nov. 7) -- U. of I. engineering professor Andrew Ferguson received the Young Chemical Engineer of the Year Award at IChemE’s North American awards ceremony in San Francisco earlier this week in recognition of his work on thermodynamic modeling for the development of HIV vaccines.

4D Materials

NPR (Nov. 6) -- A collaboration among the U. of I., University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University recently got an $855,000 grant from the U.S. Army Research Office to explore how adaptive materials can respond to stimuli like light or temperature. Also: Boise State Public Radio (KBSX-FM (91.5; Idaho, Nov. 6), WFAE (NPR, Charlotte, NC, Nov. 6).

Data Transmission

Phys (Douglas, Isle of Man, Nov. 5) -- High-speed communication just got a turbo boost, thanks to a new laser technology developed at the University of Illinois that transmits error-free data over fiber optic networks at a blazing fast 40 gigabits per second – the fastest in the United States. Also: CNN Money (nov. 7), ScienceBlog (Nov. 5), HPC Wire (Nov. 8), GigaOM (Nov. 6), WTTW (Chicago, Nov. 26).F

Railroad Inspections

RT&A (Nov. 5) -- Machine vision systems are currently in use or under development for a variety of railroad inspection tasks. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is working on machine-vision research projects for turnout inspection (as well as inspection of other railway components) under the sponsorship of the various railroads, industry associations and government agencies.

Entrpreneur Alumnus

Recess (Nov. 5) -- At 19, Cory Levy has raised over $1 million in funding from investors to start his company One, a mobile application that lets you know when there are people next to you who share similar interests. After Cory graduated high school, the University of Illinois offered him a scholarship for his “entrepreneurial talents.” However, after one year studying computer science, he dropped out to pursue One full-time in San Francisco with friend (and current CEO) Michael Callahan (who also is a U of I engineering alumnus).

Research Funding

Chicago Sun Times (Nov. 4) -- Illinois ranks eighth nationwide in industry funding for university research — a position that has stayed constant for the past decade. Illinois industries contributed $100 million to universities statewide in fiscal year 2011, the latest data available adjusted for inflation— a 20 percent increase from fiscal 2010, which itself was a record funding year. The largest beneficiary of the private money was the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with $34.6 million in fiscal 2011, more than double the prior year.

Chicago Tech

Chicago Sun-Times (Nov. 4) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a technology summit on Monday that he want to double the number of tech jobs in the city in the next decade. Mayor Emanuel plans to expand his “recruiting efforts to bring newly graduated tech workers to Chicago by visiting four universities this year in addition to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he visited” in 2012. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Nov. 6).

Related story: Crain's Chicago Business (Nov. 5) -- Andreas Cangellaris, dean of the College of Engineering at Illinois sees a bright future for Chicago in the next phase of high tech, which he says will be dominated more by applying technology to existing industries than by developing raw computer technology. Cangellaris is bullish on UI Labs, the proposed downtown Chicago research hub that would bring top talent from University of Illinois and other top universities together with corporate R&D teams to solve commercial problems. It's chasing a $70 million Defense Department grant to create an institute for advanced digital manufacturing.

Related story: Huffington Post (Nov. 16) -- With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on board as the city's chief tech evangelist, it's no surprise that the city itself is applying a startup, tech-friendly mentality to solving its citizens' most pressing needs. But despite all the progress and the increase in the number of startups, Chicago has been stung by startups in the past. The founders of Netscape, PayPal, Yelp and YouTube all studied at the University of Illinois, one of the best schools in the country for computer science and engineering. But upon graduation, they made a beeline for Silicon Valley.

Electron Microscopy

Phys (Douglas, Isle of Man, Nov. 3) -- An international team of researchers, including faculty members at the U. of I., has used pioneering electron microscopy techniques to discover an important mechanism behind the reaction of metallic nanoparticles with the environment. Also: Hispanic (Santa Barbara, Calif., Nov. 19)

Black Carbon

WFPL-FM (89.3) (NPR; Louisville, Ky., Nov. 1) -- U. of I. engineering professor Tami Bond says that when black carbon gets into the atmosphere, it ends up in clouds. These clouds usually reflect the sunlight and help cool the planet, but something else happens when they contain more and more black carbon. “I think that everybody has had the experience of walking across a black parking lot on a hot day,” Bond says. “The asphalt absorbs light and puts it into the atmosphere, and that’s why you feel hot. And that’s what black carbon is doing as it’s floating in the atmosphere.”

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