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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January 2014 media appearances

Logistic solutions for leftovers

Fast Company (Jan. 30) -- Every year, tens of billions of pounds of perfectly edible food are thrown out by restaurants, groceries, catering companies, and delis. In Chicago, two computer science Ph.D.s --Rajesh Karmani and Caleb Phillips--are trying to bring that number down to zero, with a little bit of logistics and a lot of code. “What keeps me up at night is the fact that there’s still food in the dumpsters,” says Phillips. Their company--Zero Percent--started out simply, somewhere between Karmani’s home and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was a grad student.

Optical profilers (Warriewood, Australia, Jan. 27) -- Optical profilers are used often to characterize surface properties of materials under varying conditions. The materials science and engineering department of the U. of I. utilizes an optical profiler to characterize grain boundary effects on the growth and optoelectronic efficiency in CIGS bi-crystals.

Modeling macroscale plasmonic convection

Science Daily (Jan. 22) -- Researchers at Illinois have developed a new theoretical model that explains macroscale fluid convection induced by plasmonic (metal) nanostructures. This work is the first to establish both theoretically and experimentally that micron/s fluid velocities can be generated using a plasmonic architecture, and provides important insight into the flows affecting particle dynamics in plasmonic optical trapping experiments.

White-light diffraction tomography

LaserFocusWorld (Tulsa, Okla., Jan. 22) -- White-light diffraction tomography, a new imaging technique developed at Illinois, needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution 3-D quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures – all with conventional microscopes and white light. The team of U. of I. researchers, led by electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering professor Gabriel Popescu, published their work in Nature Photonics. Also: The Huffington Post UK (Jan. 23), California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (San Francisco, Feb. 5).

MechSE alumnus in CA governor race

Mercury News (San Jose, Calif., Jan. 21) -- Pledging to create jobs and fix the state's public schools, former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari on Tuesday said he will run for California governor. Kashkari, an Indo-American (and MechSE slumnus) who lives in Laguna Beach in Orange County, previously worked for Goldman Sachs and ran a controversial Treasury Department program that bailed out the nation's largest banks. Also: News-Gazette (Jan. 22), The Fresno Bee (California, Jan. 22), Bloomberg Politics (Jan. 21), LA Times (Jan. 21). Editor's note: This story has been picked up widely by print and electronic media across the U.S.

Energy harvesting for implantable devices

The Scientist (Midland, Ontario, Jan. 20) -- John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois, and his colleagues have constructed flexible energy-harvesting devices that can convert the movement of body parts – such as the heart and lungs – into energy captured by a battery that could be used to power implantable devices like pacemakers. Also: CNET News (San Francisco), Gizmodo India (New Delhi, Jan. 20), New Scientist (Cambridge, England, Jan. 20), News Track India (from Asian News International, Washington, D.C.; New Delhi, Jan. 21), HealthDay (Jan. 21), CBS News (Jan. 21), ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 22), The Philadelphia Inquirer (from HealthDay News, Jan. 21), CNET Asia (Centrepoint, Singapore, Jan. 21), The Hindiu (Jan. 22), Popular Mechanics (Jan. 21), Authint Mail (Jan. 22), Medical Daily (Jan. 21), Chemistry World (Jan. 22), Voice of America (Jan. 22), Science 360 (NSF, from Popular Mechanics, Jan. 23), CNET News (San Francisco, Jan. 23), Red (Dallas, Jan. 26), Energy Harvesting Journal (Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 27), New Zealand Herald (Auckland, Jan. 28), (Bristol, England, Jan. 31), Daily Fusion (New York City, Feb. 5).

Aviation safety

The Economist (London, Jan. 18) -- Technology to reduce the incidents of birds striking aircraft is being tested at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, O’Hare airport in Chicago and Seattle-Tacoma airport in Washington state, in an experiment run by the U. of I. and sponsored by the FAA.

Alumnus Khan

India TV (Noida, India, Jan. 18) -- A profile of billionaire and Engineering at Illinois' alumnus Shahid Khan.


Nanowerk News (Honolulu, Jan. 17) -- The alien world of aquatic micro-organisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots. A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own. Led by Taher Saif, the U. of I. Gutgsell Professor of mechanical science and engineering, the team published its work in the journal Nature Communications. Also: Design & Trend (New York City, Jan. 19), French Tribune (Bouches-du-Rhône, France, Jan. 19), ScienceBlog (Jan. 17), National Monitor (Washington, D.C., Jan. 18), Red (Dallas, Jan. 19), Tech Times (New York City, Jan. 20), Earth & Sky (Austin, Texas, Jan. 20; e-news Jan. 24), The Engineer (London, England, Jan. 20), IEEE Spectrum (Jan. 22), MSN New Zealand (Wellington, Jan. 22), Business Standard (from Asian News International, Washington, D.C.; New Delhi, Jan. 19), CNN (Jan. 17), Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 20), HealthDay News (Norwalk, Conn., Jan. 21), International Business Times (New York City, Jan. 18), International Science Times (New York City, Jan. 20), Medical News Today (Bexhill-on-Sea, England, Jan. 22), DailyTech (Chicago, Jan. 22), Wall Street Journal (Jan. 24).

Wearable electronics

Mashable (New York City, Jan. 16) -- Move aside, Google Glass – smart contact lenses could the next big thing in wearable tech. Swiss scientists at ETH Zurich, a university focused on technology and natural sciences, have developed an ultra-flexible and transparent electronic circuit that could be used in the production of smart contact lenses. This development is a positive step forward, says U. of I. materials science and engineering professor John Rogers, a flexible-electronics expert. He says this research “suggests a bright future for such classes of electronic systems.”

Nanotechnology (Bristol, England, Jan. 13) -- Using molecular dynamics simulations, researchers at the U. of I. have now calculated a threshold beam flux above which nanopores form orders of magnitude faster through a thermally dominated explosive boiling mechanism.

Alumnus insights

Business Insider (New York City, Jan. 12) -- Marc Andresseen, a U. of I. alumnus, says he might not have been involved in the founding of Netscape had the NSF grant he applied for while at Illinois had come through.


Crain’s Chicago Business (Jan. 13) -- The state’s universities, led by the U. of I. and Northwestern, have seen a surge in patent activity in recent years. The number of patents issued to the state’s universities between 2008 and 2012 increased 47 percent from the previous five-year period. That’s almost three times the increase in patents issued to all U.S. universities, according to a report by the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.

Related story: Crain’s Chicago Business (Jan. 22) -- More than three out of four patents produced by top American universities in 2011 had an immigrant inventor, including 90 percent of patents from the U. of I., according to the Partnership for a New American Economy.

Improving bioimaging

Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., Jan. 13) -- “Plasmonic nanostructures are of great current interest as chemical sensors, in vivo imaging agents, and for photothermal therapeutics,” says David G. Cahill, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois. Also: Science Daily (Jan. 13), (Pittsfield, Mass., Jan. 14), AZoNano (Warriewood, New South Wales, Jan. 16), R&D Magazine (Jan. 13), Nanotechweb. org (Bristol, England, Jan. 17), ScienceBlog (Jan. 13).


Discover (January-February issue) -- Research on optogenetics, a technique that allows researchers to affect an animal’s behavior by beaming light onto genetically modified neurons – was cited by Discover as one of the top 100 stories of 2013. U. of I. materials science and engineering professor John Rogers developed the lightweight wireless system that has been tested on mice. Editor’s note: Discover is available online only to paid subscribers.

Super-cooled water

NPR (Jan. 6) -- The physics department at the U. of I. explains how super-cooled water works.

Concussion monitor

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Jan. 7) -- Athletes can wear headgear equipped with mobile sensors that measure and report impacts – data that could raise crucial flags about potential concussions from hard hits in football, hockey or other sports. Reebok offers the technology in the $150 CheckLight, created in partnership with MC10 Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. Reebok and MC10 – the latter founded by a U. of I. materials scientist, John Rogers, who invented a stretchable circuit – won one of the Consumer Electronics Association’s Innovations 2014 awards for design and engineering. Also: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Jan. 8).

SC13 presentation

PC Advisor (London, Jan. 7) -- Marc Snir, the director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at the Argonne National Laboratory and a computer science professor at the U. of I., addressed the recent SC13 supercomputing conference.

Start-up challenge

Crain's Chicago Business (Jan. 6) - The brainchild of Gov. Pat Quinn's Illinois Innovation Council, the Illinois Corporate/Startup Challenge endeavors to bridge the gap between young companies and corporate giants to focus on complementary challenges. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 7).

Tech hubs (South Bend, Ind., Jan. 6) -- Champaign-Urbana has been named as one of the “Most Promising Tech Hubs to Watch in 2014.”

Knuckleball physics

io9 (San Francisco, Jan. 4) -- U. of I. emeritus professor of physics Alan Nathan talks about the dynamics of the baseball pitch known as the knuckleball.

River research

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Jan. 3) -- Edwardsville, Ill.-based Contegra Construction Co. recently completed a $6 million expansion project at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center on the Mississippi River at East Alton, Ill. Begun by the U. of I. and Lewis and Clark Community College, the center is staffed by researchers studying major rivers, their watersheds and the communities that depend upon and affect them.

Alumni start-up teaches coding online

SFGate (San Francisco, CA, Jan. 2) -- While online courses through Coursera, Code Academy, Udacity, Udemy and others have gained popularity recently, one San Francisco education startup is breaking the model. Bloc is a 12-week online apprenticeship designed to teach the fundamentals of Web development, using a mentor for guidance. Both in their 20s, co-founders Dave Paola and Roshan Choxi moved to San Francisco after meeting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008. Paola majored in computer science there, while Choxi majored in computer engineering.

Top supercomputing discovery

HPC Wire (San Diego, Jan. 2) -- The Illinois model of the interior of the HIV-1 virus using the Blue Waters system made HPC Wire’s list of the top supercomputing discoveries of 2013.


Mobi Health News (Boston, Jan. 2) -- MC10 raised $20 million from undisclosed investors, according to an SEC filing. The company has previously raised $40 million in first-, second-, and third-round funding, bringing its total funding to $60 million. This latest round is the company’s largest single round to date. John Rogers of the University of Illinois, MC10′s cofounder, published a paper in Nature last fall proving that flexible sensors like the ones MC10 is developing could detect a range of things from blood flow to cognitive function.

Shahid Khan

The Bulletin (Norwich, Conn., Jan. 1) -- Wealth tends to create more wealth, but a rich background is not the only way to the top. Some of the world’s wealthiest people started out dirt poor. At one time, U. of I. alumnus and businessman Shahid Khan washed dishes for $1.20 an hour. He’s now one of the richest people in the world.

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