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.

Previous Month Next Month

October 2014 media appearances

Teaching engineering graphics

The New York Times (Oct. 31) -- Engineering and art were not always completely separate disciplines. Take Leonardo da Vinci, who seamlessly combined the two. “Five hundred years ago, you couldn’t really tell the difference between artists and engineers,” says James Michael Leake, a senior lecturer in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering and director of engineering graphics at Illinois. Few schools actually require engineering students to take art, but Illinois comes close. Leake incorporates freehand sketching and computer-aided design in his engineering graphics class.

Semprius offers cheaper solar power solution

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 30) -- Semprius, a startup based in Durham, North Carolina, claims that the next generation of a new power unit will make solar power the cheapest option for utilities installing power plants. The technology originated in the lab of John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois.

PLATO was the first "chat room"

The Washington Post (Oct. 30) -- Just look at the earliest, successful forerunner to online chat — a program that academics invented, almost by accident, long before the birth of the World Wide Web. Talkomatic, the program’s appropriately retro name, was born out of PLATO, a computer-based education program at Illinois, in 1973.


National Science Foundation (Oct. 30) -- Responding to the need for a cybersecurity workforce prepared to deal with today's complex problems is a National Science Foundation's CyberCorps®: Scholarships for Service (SFS)project for undergraduates and graduate students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The project has graduated 25 students who are already working in government (reflecting another 100 percentage placement rate), and another 20 are set to graduate next May. Since last year, this project offers scholarships to law students as well as engineering and computer science students. According to PI Roy Campbell, few lawyers understand cybersecurity and few computer scientists understand the legal framework involved in prosecuting and preventing cyber crimes.

DNA study tracks plant evolution

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Oct. 28) -- Scientists from North America, Europe and China today published a paper that reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet. Illinois CS/BioE professor Tandy Warnow and her student Siavash Mirarab developed new methods for analyzing the massive datasets used in the project. Also: R&D Magazine (Oct. 28).

Robots powered by muscle cells

Science 360 (National Science Foundation, Oct. 28) -- Rashid Bashir, head of the Department of Bioengineering at Illinois, describes the development of robots powered by actual muscle cells in a Science Update Podcast.

Taxi GPS data aids storm research

Motherboard (Oct. 27) -- The largest Atlantic hurricane on record, Sandy offered a chance for Illinois researchers to try out a new computational method they developed that promises to help municipalities quantify the resilience of their transportation systems to extreme events. CEE researchers analyzed GPS data from nearly 700 million taxi trips—representing four years of taxi travel in New York City—to determine the city’s normal traffic pattern and study the variations during extreme events like the hurricane and snowstorms. Also: Phys.Org (Oct. 27), ScienceBlog (Oct. 21), Minneapolis Star (part of larger weather story, Oct. 27).

Hiring engineers

Chicago Tribune (Oct. 27) -- Some say Chicago and the U.S. suffer a critical shortage of engineers and developers. Others say that’s a myth. But all agree that companies must fight to grab the best. Employers must emphasize their culture, salary and growth opportunities, said Amy Fruehling, director of engineering career services at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Engineering. “If you’re not that top salary, there has to be another draw,” she said. Chicago companies say they trumpet the city’s cost of living, lower than in tech hubs on the East and West coasts, and other tangible benefits at their companies. Also: ASEE FirstBell (10/29).

Female STEM pioneer

The Atlantic (Oct. 27) -- Twenty-year-old Rosalyn Sussman, who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in 1977, cut a steely, solitary figure in September 1941 as she started her doctorate in nuclear physics at Illinois. She was the only female faculty member among 400, and there were no women’s bathrooms in the lab facilities—a major inconvenience, especially during the many nights she spent sleeping on the floor of the lab. Sussman is included in the article about the "The Female Pioneers Who Changed STEM Forever." Also: The Huffington Post (from The Atlantic, Oct. 28).

Dark matter signal

New Scientist (United Kingdom, Oct. 22) -- NASA’s Fermi space telescope has seen signs of high-energy photons around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, where dark matter is expected to cluster. Some think it is our best sign of dark matter so far. Jessie Shelton, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois, and her colleagues argue that if the signal is truly from dark matter, it is an order of magnitude too weak to match up with conventional ideas of how the black hole formed.

UI Labs

The Chicago Tribune (Oct. 22) -- UI Labs announced its first board of directors Wednesday, naming a group of nine very established leaders from big industry and academia. Board members include Lawrence B. Schook, vice president for research at the University of Illinois. Also: Chicago Sun Times (Oct. 22), Crain's Chicago Business (blog, Oct. 22), Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette (Oct. 25).

Related story: Daily Herald (from The Associated Press; Chicago, Oct. 30) -- The developers of a public-private research lab involving Illinois are expected to break ground on its headquarters in Chicago. UI Labs said in a news release that officials involved with the project will break ground Thursday on the Goose Island facility. Also: Bloomington Pantagraph (from The Associated Press, Oct. 30), The Chicago Tribune (Oct. 30).

Electronic tattoos

WTOP-FM (CBS; Washington, D.C., Oct. 21) -- Researchers at Illinois have come up with a tiny mesh of computer fibers that can be tattooed on skin to monitor body systems.

Super battery

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Oct. 21) -- One of the improvements affecting the smartphones of the future wil be lithium-ion, a revolutionary new battery technology being developed by Illinois researchers, has the potential to extend battery life up to 2,000 times beyond what current batteries can provide.

Levchin visits campus

News-Gazette (Oct. 21) -- Women, if you're dismayed with the number of females studying and working in technology and are thinking of leaving the field, don't do it, says Max Levchin, entrepreneur, investor and University of Illinois computer science graduate. On the University of Illinois campus for the Department of Computer Science's 50th anniversary, Levchin met with students who have their own start-up dreams and delivered a keynote address on topics ranging from women in computer science to opportunities available for those studying computer science, and he provided an update on his recent business ventures. Also: WCIA-TV (Oct. 20), ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 22).

Alumnus Andreessen

New York Magazine (October 19) -- An interview with Illinois alumnus Marc Andreessen, known for creating the first graphical web browser, Mosaic.

Engineering Education

Desktop Engineering (Oct. 17) -- David Goldberg and his colleagues struck up an institutional partnership with iFoundry, the cross-disciplinary curriculum incubator at the U. of I. To identify the students’ primary motivation, they asked, “Why do you want to become an engineer?” The answers gave Goldberg and the faculty insights into who wanted to become an inventor, who wanted to tackle the world’s toughest sociopolitical problems, and who aimed to become an entrepreneur.

Alumnus leads U of Florida

Bradenton Herald (Florida, Oct. 16) -- An Engineering at Illinois alumnus who became provost of Cornell University was chosen to become the 12th president of the University of Florida Wednesday morning. W. Kent Fuchs expects to begin Jan. 1 pending approval next month by the state Board of Governors. In May 2014, Fuchs (MS, 1982, PhD, 1985, Electrical Engineering) was recognized with the College of Engineering Alumni Award for Distinguished Service.

College of Engineering Alumni Award for Distinguished Service - See more at:
  • MS, 1982, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois
  • MDiv, 1984, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • PhD, 1985, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois
  • - See more at:


Alumnus Levchin out to change banking system

Fast Company (Oct. 16) -- With his latest entreprenerial effort, CS alumnus Max Levchin has set out to change the banking system just as he changed online purchasing with PayPal. His new company, Affirm, Levchin plans to harness big data and smart design to create innovative financial services. The startup's first product is called Buy With Affirm, which provides short-term loans to consumers at the very moment when they purchase something online. Also: Business Spectator (Oct. 16), The Austrailian Business Review (Oct. 19), (Sept. 30).

Searching the "dark" Internet

PBS Newshour (Oct. 15) -- As much as 90 percent of information on the Internet is “dark” – locked away in clunky or outdated formats that makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, to access. Kenton McHenry, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois, believes in accessing data as quickly and efficiently as possible, whether that’s your old wedding video or a massive scientific dataset. And he’s developed a search engine to do just that.

Engineering at Illinois and Chicago Booth partnership

Crain's Chicago Business (online story, Oct. 15) -- The University of Chicago doesn't have an engineering school to help bring some entrepreneurial ideas to life, so a partnership between the U of C Booth School of Business and the University of Illinois College of Engineering will bring students from both schools together to work on startups. Booth, meanwhile, was No. 1 for the fourth time in five years on the Economist's list of Top MBA programs. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 16), News-Gazette (Oct. 17), Daily Illini (Oct. 23).


Nanowerk News (Oct. 15) -- Nanomedicines consisting of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells offer new solutions for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Understanding the interdependency of physiochemical properties of nanomedicines, in correlation to their biological responses and functions, is crucial for their further development of as cancer-fighters. In a recent study, MatSE professor Jianjun Cheng and his collaborators systematically evaluated the size-dependent biological profiles of three monodisperse drug-silica nanoconjugates at 20, 50 and 200 nm. Also: ScienceBlog (Oct. 15), AzoNano (Oct. 16), Medical Xpress (Oct. 16), R&D Magazine (Oct. 16), Controlled Environments Magazine (Oct. 17), (Oct. 17).

Engineering alumni on "Survivor"

The Guardian (Oct. 13) -- Nuclear engineer J’Tia Taylor, who competed for the $1 million prize on reality show Survivor as a member of the Brains tribe, says part of reason more women don’t opt for an engineering career might be that it doesn’t seem like the most obvious way to help others. “A lot of times, women want to help,” she says. “They have the math or science background, but go into medicine. I tell them that they can help – be a biomedical engineer and design hearts. Design a solution.” Taylor recently became the first African-American woman to defend her PhD dissertation in the NPRE department at Illinois, and now works at Argonne National Laboratory.

Dissolvable circuits (Ontario, Oct. 13) -- Electronic devices that dissolve completely in water, leaving behind only harmless end products, are part of a rapidly emerging class of technology pioneered by Illinois researchers. Also: Times of India (Oct. 13), EE Times (San Francisco, Calif., Oct. 14).

New ECE building

The Pantagraph (from The Associated Press; Bloomington, Ill., Oct. 11) -- Illinois has opened a new $95 million Electrical and Computer Engineering Building. Gov. Pat Quinn and university President Robert Easter were both at the new building Friday to dedicate it. The 235,000-square-foot building almost doubles the space available to the university's Electrical and Computer Engineering Program. Also: eNews Park Forest (Oct. 10), KWQC-TV6 (Iowa, Oct. 11).

CS Startup Rithmio

Techli (St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 10) -- “The night before the Cozad Competition Finals, my partner, Prashant Mehta, and I talked about our next steps,” said Rithmio’s co-founder Adam Tilton. “My lease was ending; I didn’t know if I should re-sign. You know, the typical startup story.” That next day, the Cozad Competition at Illinois set in motion a concrete future for Rithmio, the company that is building a gesture recognition platform that’s ahead of its time.

Milky Way's dark center

Physics (Oct. 9) -- The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope recently detected unexpectedly intense gamma rays coming from the center of the Milky Way, where a supermassive black hole is believed to exist. Brian Fields, Stuart Shapiro and Jessie Shelton at Illinois have calculated the intensity of gamma-ray radiation that such a spike could generate. They show that, under some of the most plausible scenarios, the expected signal would exceed by far that observed by Fermi. This leads to two possible conclusions: either the emission is not due to dark matter, or the Galaxy’s center is different than that envisioned by the simplest galactic models.

Charged graphene & DNA

Health Canal (Melbourne, Australia, Oct. 9) -- When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they did not know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Also: Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., Oct. 14), Science 360 (NSF, Oct. 15).

Attachable computers

The New York Times (Oct. 9) -- Company MC10 is testing attachable computers that look like small rectangular stickers, about the size of a piece of gum, and can include wireless antennas, temperature and heart-rate sensors and a tiny battery. MC10 recently teamed up with John A. Rogers, an Illinois professor of materials science and engineering, who has been working for nearly a decade to perfect flexible devices that can be worn on the skin or implanted internally. Also: Irish Times (from The New York Times; Dublin, Oct. 16).

NIH Awards to tackle Big Data in Medicine

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Oct. 9) -- In 2012, the National Institutes of Health created the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative to enable efforts to harness the potential of this flood of information. As part of the first wave of BD2K funding, Illinois and Mayo Clinic have now received a $9.34M, four-year award to create one of several new Centers of Excellence for Big Data Computing. Also: Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct. 10). Also: News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Ill., Oct. 10), ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 13), The Pantagraph (from The Associated Press; Bloomington, Ill., Oct. 14).

Farm safety

Belleville News-Democrat (from The Quincy Herald-Whig; Belleville, Ill., Oct. 8) -- Statewide, farm-related deaths increased after experiencing record lows last year, according to Country Financial, the top insurer of Illinois farms. “We need to continue to promote and evaluate effective means to reduce the injury rate,“ says Bob Aherin, professor pf Agricultural and Biological Engeening and program leader at Illinois, in a release. “Fatigue is a significant issue, as are the effects of medications on reaction time.”


Time (Oct. 7) -- Micropayment systems have the potential to reward creativity and exceptional content—on a realistic scale. The rise of Bitcoin, the digital cryptocurrency, has resurrected the hope of facilitating easy micropayments for content online. One of the greatest advocates of using Bitcoin for micropayments is the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who as a student at Illinois, created the first popular Web browser, Mosaic.

NSF Data Infrastructure Building Blocks grant

ECN Magazine (Rockaway, N.J., Oct. 8) -- It can take 20 years between the creation of a new material in the laboratory and the fabrication of next-generation devices that employ the material - and that time lag is passed on to consumers, delaying their access to more advanced cell phones, computers and other devices. Researchers at Illinois are seeking to accelerate the technology transfer processes – perhaps by as much as 50 percent – through a new cyber-infrastructure grant funded by the National Science Foundation.

Renewable energy crops

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Oct. 8) -- In addition to providing renewable energy, grass crops like switchgrass and miscanthus could store some of the carbon they pull from the atmosphere in the soil, according to a new study by Illinois researchers. The study, led by civil and environmental engineering professor Praveen Kumar, compared soil dynamics--the ratio of carbon to nitrogen and microbial activity--of bioenergy crops with that of a standard corn-corn-soybean rotation. They found that in bioenergy crops, a certain threshold of plant matter left in the field after harvest lets much more carbon accumulate in the soil.

Holonyak and the LED

News-Gazette (Oct. 7) -- Three scientists were honored with Nobel prizes for their work on light-emitting diodes, but the man considered the father of the LED wasn’t among them. Retired University of Illinois engineering professor Nick Holonyak Jr. developed the first visible LED in 1962 and other components that paved the way for the invention of the blue LED honored by the Nobel committee. Although the committee recognized the importance of the LED and its impact on solid-state, environmentally friendly lighting, the trio that came up with a long-elusive component of the white LED lights built on the work of Holonyak and his proteges over the course of decades. Also: ABC News (from The Associated Press, Oct. 7), Belfast Telegraph (from AP, Oct. 8), Daily Jounal (Franklin, IN, from AP, Oct. 8), Santa Fe New Mexican (from AP, Oct. 7), Western Daily Press (from AP, Oct. 8), News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C., from AP, Oct. 7), Engineering & Technology Magazine (England, Oct. 8), ECN Magazine (from AP, Oct. 8), Belleville News-Democrat (from AP, Oct. 11).

Related stories: Dallas News (Oct. 7) -- In the story about the three physicists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physics for their blue LED breakthrough, Nick Holonyak Jr. called the LED the “ultimate lamp” because “the current itself is the light.” Also: Boston Globe (from The New York Times, Oct. 8).

Kansas City Star (Oct. 8) -- Not all reactions to this year's prize recipients were laudatory. Many colleagues of Nick Holonyak Jr. have long said his work was unjustly overlooked by the Nobel committee. In the past, Holonyak, now 85, has said the award was far less important to him than the work. But Holonyak said the work done by the new winners was built on achievements by himself and dozens of others who worked with him.

New York Times (blog and video clip, Oct. 7) -- I thought it worth noting how such discoveries almost always build on a body of earlier work — in this case by another physicist, Nick Holonyak Jr., who paved the way for this team’s achievement with the invention of the first practical (red) LED, in 1962.

Scientific American (blog, Oct. 7) -- in "The Practical Blue LED, the author stated that, “the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.” There are, of course, other colored LEDs, including the red one invented by University of Illinois’ Nick Holonyak, who has been honored in many ways (sans a Nobel), but creating the blue LED was a particular challenge which was ultimately solved by using the element gallium. We use blue LEDs all the time as it is a major component of computer screens and so much more! Bill Hammack, aka The Engineer Guy, shows us a bit about the role of LEDs in his 2011 video “LCD Monitor Teardown” (embedded video).

Read more here:
Alumnus Kashkari

San Francisco Gate (Oct. 5) -- State Republican gubernatorial candidate and Illinois alumnus Neel Kashkari is making his case with California voters. He received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Screening for Ebola

The Washington Post (Oct. 2) -- Invited Op Ed article from Sheldon H. Jacobson, a computer science professor in the College of Engineering at  Illinois suggests that airport screenings for Ebola should have the same level of importance as screening for terrorists. "Certainly, implementing the various levels of screening for Ebola will require a delicate balance between public health and personal freedom — similar to the debates that occurred when aviation security was augmented following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the severity of the Ebola threat requires vigilance. The challenge of Ebola prevention occurs at the interface of critical issues that include protecting the public, personal privacy, appropriate screening for a threat, and unpredictable human behavior." Also: Standard-Examiner (Oct. 6).

Related stories: Chicago Tribune (Oct. 7) -- President Barack Obama has that stopping Ebola is "a top national security priority." Federal authorities promise expanded screening protocols for airline passengers overseas and in the U.S. to control Ebola. What should those protocols be? On our Sunday Commentary page, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson suggested a smart move: Passengers entering the U.S. should have to document that they have not been exposed to Ebola in those West African countries over the previous three weeks, which is the incubation period for Ebola. Those who fail to do so "should be subject to more severe restrictions, beginning with blood tests and, in extreme cases, quarantine for up to three weeks." Also: The Tallahassee Democrat (Op-ed from The Chicago Tribune; Florida, Oct. 9).

The Associated Press (Oct. 4) -- Federal health officials and airlines have dismissed any risk to passengers who flew with the man last month and say they are protecting travelers by screening passengers and wiping down airplane cabins nightly. The article lists five things to know about efforts to contain transmission of the virus on planes. Also: MSNBC (video story, Oct. 4), The Current (CBC, radio, (Oct. 6), The Washington Post (from The Associated Press; Oct. 4), WAND-TV (Decatur, Ill., Oct. 5), ABC News (from AP; Oct. 4), Philadelphia Inquirer (Oct. 7), Omaha World Herald (Oct. 7), (Oct. 6).

Live interviews: “Weekends with Alex Witt," MSNBC (Oct. 5), WANDTV (NBC affilitate, Decatur, IL, Oct. 5), “The Current,” CBC Radio Canada (Oct. 6), HuffPost Live (Oct. 6), WTOP CBS Radio (Washington DC, Oct. 6) WCIA-TV (Champaign, Ill., Oct. 6), HuffPost Live (Oct. 9), CBC News (Toronto, Canada, Oct.11).

Alumni @ Google

Business Insider (Oct. 2) -- As the Wall Street Journal declared earlier this year, everybody wants to work for Google. With that in mind, we took to LinkedIn’s clever new education utility - which sorts through users’ LinkedIn history to find trends - to figure out where you should go to college if you want to end up at the Googleplex. The University of Illinois comes in at No. 9 with 490 alumni at Google.

3D heat transfer problem

Nanowerk (Oct. 1) -- Thermal considerations are rapidly becoming one of the most serious design constraints in microelectronics, especially on submicron scale lengths. A study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has shown that standard thermal models will lead to the wrong answer in a three-dimensional heat-transfer problem if the dimensions of the heating element are on the order of one micron or smaller. Also: Phys.Org (Oct. 1), ScienceBlog (Oct. 1).

Black Carbon

Public Radio International (Oct. 1) -- Scientists believe black carbon -- the stuff that comes from burning fossil fuels like coal and diesel as well as forest fires and cooking stoves -- is second only to carbon dioxide as a contributor to climate change. “Like most other particles, it floats through the atmosphere, it interacts with clouds, and because it’s black it absorbs sunlight,” says Tami Bond, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Illinois who recently was named a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award.

View more In The News articles