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 2014 media appearances

Computing speed

San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif., Nov. 30) -- Hopes are pinned on an attempt to break the speed limit of how fast musical notes can travel, launched in October by a team led by computer research scientist Brighten Godfrey of Illinois and Duke University colleagues.

Stretchable sensors

Forbes (Nov. 26) -- Illinois researchers, working with colleagues in Singapore, “have figured out how to embed flat, flexible, stretchable electronic sensors into temporary tattoos that can withstand wrinkling, bending and twisting of the skin. These micro-electronics, which are thinner than a human hair and applied with water, could be used to provide irritation-free monitoring of electric signals produced by the heart, brain and muscles.”

Passive house

Chicago Tribune (Nov. 25) – “Passive house” is based on a set of design principles used to create buildings that use minimal heating and cooling, employing elements such as thick insulation, energy-recovery ventilation, high-performance windows and a steady supply of fresh air. A group of engineers and architects at the University of Illinois in the 1970s used the term “superinsulation” and developed the idea of the “Lo-Cal” (low-calorie) house. The term evolved to passive house.

Medical implants aid healing

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 24)  -- An electronic implant that can eliminate bacterial infection by delivering heat to infected tissue when triggered by a remote wireless signal has been developed. The silk and magnesium devices created by researchers at Tufts University and John Rogers' team at Illinois harmlessly dissolved in mice. Also: Business Standard (India, Nov. 25), Tufts Now (Nov. 24), Medical Daily (Nov. 25), Daily Mail (United Kingdom, Nov. 26), Medgadget (El Granada, Calif., Nov. 26), BostInno (Nov. 28), (Armenia, Nov. 27), (Nov. 27), (Chandigarh Tribune (India, Nov. 30), Science 360 (National Science Foundation, Dec. 1), Outpatient Surgery magazine (Dec. 1), Popular Science (Dec. 2), Gizmag (Dec. 2), ars technica (Dec. 9), Science 360 (NSF, Dec. 10).

3D printing

The New Yorker (Nov. 24) -- In this feature about the development of biomedical 3D printing, Jennifer Lewis, an engineering alumnus and former MatSE faculty member, discusses her work with current faculty members Scott White and Nancy Sottos. Their work on self-healing materials resulted in the production of a capillary network inspired by biological models. “My big role in the project was to find ways to use 3-D printing to embed this microvascular network," Lewis said. "Once we did that, it was pretty easy for me to see the broader implications.” Lewis and her team have created an environment that the cells consider home—it is far more natural to them than a petri dish or the inorganic scaffolds that had previously played host to cultured tissues.

Hammack's gift book

Scientific American (New York, Nov. 23) -- Albert Michelson’s harmonic analyzer was a 19th century machine that used gears to perform Fourier analysis mechanically. Bill Hammack, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at Illinois, has made a superb set of YouTube videos that show the machine in action. Along with U. of I. colleagues Steve Kranz and Bruce Carpenter, he also has put together a beautiful book illustrating exactly how it worked.

Plasma fusion facility comes to Illinois

WDWS-AM (audio story, Nov. 21) -- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign joins a short list of universities worldwide that has an operating fusion device on its campus. Earlier this year, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics gifted its multi-million dollar plasma/fusion WEGA advanced physics testing facility to the University of Illinois as a result of the relationship the Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) plasma/fusion group has developed with the German institute. The machine, renamed the Hybrid Illinois Device for Research and Applications, or HIDRA, arrived in Urbana on several flatbed trailers during the week of November 17. In an audio interview, David Ruzic, a professor and director of the Center for Plasma-Material Interactions at Illinois said that the HIDRA plasma fusion device takes 2 million watts of power to run and that it will be a very beneficial research project and learning tool for students. Also: News-Gazette (Nov. 21), ScienceBlog (Nov. 20).

ECE Alumnus makes movies

The New York Times (Nov. 21) -- In a few months, Kevin Niu is set to receive his Ph.D. from Harvard in physics. So what’s he going to do with that Harvard degree? He’ll be spending time in Louisiana, producing a horror movie called “Abattoir.” Sometime during his undergraduate years as an electrical engineering major at Illinois he discovered his calling - in the entertainment industry.


Gigaom (San Francisco, Nov. 17) -- Illinois grad student Caroline Cvetkovic is working on microbots – walking bots that are powered by muscles. Her team harnessed the electrical impulse of heart cells to propel the small bot, whose backbone is made of hydrogel, forward.

Cultivating computer scientists

The Huffington Post (Nov. 16) -- It's no secret that really smart computer science and engineering students come from Midwest campuses like Illinois, Ohio State and others. Google and Yahoo! have opened strategically located R&D and other outposts in the shadows of Carnegie Mellon, Illinois and University of Michigan campuses.

Dissolving electronics

Tech Cocktail (Las Vegas, Nov. 16) -- Just imagine, one day in the not-too-distant future, being able to take old electronic devices and submerge them in liquid and then watch as they dissolve into harmless end-stage materials. Illinois researchers are developing just that now.

NCSA Visualization Grant

Washington Times (from The Associated Press, 11/12) -- A team led by University of Illinois Professor Donna Cox, director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at NCSA in Urbana, to raise awareness about the Centrality of Advanced Digitally Enabled Science. The piece details many of the AVL’s works, including a recent show on extreme solar storms, and Cox’s collaborations with various high-profile producers. The nine documentaries will be distributed online via YouTube, Hulu, and other outlets. Also: News-Gazette (Nov. 11), The State (from AP; Columbia, S.C., Nov. 11), WAND-TV (Decatur, IL, Nov. 11), ASEE FirstBell (Nov. 12).

Microtubes for neuron growth

Phys.Org (Nov. 11) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Wisconsin-Madison created the microtube platform to study neuron growth. They posit that the microtubes could one day be implanted like stents to promote neuron regrowth at injury sites or to treat disease. Also: Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., Nov. 11), Nanowerk News (Honolulu, Nov. 11), ScienceBlog (Nov. 11), Chemical & Engineering News (Nov. 6), AZoNano (Warriewood, New South Wales, Nov. 12), Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (New York, Nov. 12), Zee News (Australia, Nov. 12), Med Device Online (Nov. 11), Laboratory Equipment (Nov. 12), Controlled Environments Magazine (Nov. 12), (Nov. 12).

Tech Challenge

The Chicago Tribune (Nov. 6) -- The 50 students for the Illinois Technology Association’s fifth annual Tech Challenge are in town. Three previous years saw more Illini finalists than from any other school. But this year it ranks fifth out of 10 schools in that respect, with four students among the 50 finalists.

Mousr robotic cat toy

Geeky Gadgets (Nov. 6) -- A team of three friends that include a Ph.D. and two Ph.D. candidates from Illinois in electrical engineering have pooled their talents to create a smart robotic mouse cat toy to entertain cats in a new and innovative way with the creation of Mousr. Also: Gizmag (Nov. 6), Daily Mail (UK, Nov. 7), Digital Trends (Nov. 7), TechnoBuffalo (Nov. 9), CNet (Nov. 10), Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 11), Pocket-lint (Nov. 10), Wearable Technologies (UK, Nov. 10), Ubergizmo (Nov. 11), (Ontario, Nov. 20), Chicago Inno (Nov. 24), Daily Illini (Dec. 1).

Social media election influence (Rockaway, N.J., Nov. 5) -- With the tight gubernatorial race in Illinois, voters were being bombarded with TV ads, yard signs, and robo calls. But what if candidates could use their campaign dollars to subtly influence your vote on social media? “You can envision the possibility,” says Michael Bailey, a new Illinois ECE and CSL faculty member. “Where turnouts are only a couple hundred votes, could one use the sciences of influence and persuasion and a knowledge of Facebook and Google customization and personalization to actually influence the outcome?”

UI Labs

Crain's Chicago Business (Nov. 5) -- Lawrence Schook, Illinois vice president for research who helped launch UI Labs, says of new Governor Bruce Rauner: “From my interactions with Bruce he has a great sense of the need to be a place where the young innovators gravitate, as opposed to only making equity investments. I do have optimism for Bruce in linking big and small companies to create economic clusters.”

Girls Who Code

The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 5) -- Illinois alumna Reshma Saujani's goals for Girls Who Code - the nation’s pre-eminent nonprofit dedicated to closing the tech gender gap - are not just about leveling the playing field: they are aimed at addressing an urgent concern of the U.S. tech industry.

"Smart bomb" for childhood cancer

Fox News (Nov. 5) -- Scientists have taken the first steps towards developing a so-called "smart bomb" to attack the most common and deadly form of childhood cancer. They joined forces with Jianjun Cheng, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois and an affiliate with the National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. Also: Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., Nov. 5), Nanowerk (Nov. 5), Futurity (Nov. 5), Laboratory Equipment (Nov. 5), News-Medical (Nov. 6).

Circuit Scribe

The Hindu (Chennai, India, Nov. 4) -- The circuit-drawing pen first caught public attention way back in 2011 when it was being researched at Illinois in the lab of professor Jennifer Lewis. Now, Lewis, along with Brett Walker (who is an expert on reactive silver ink) formed Electroninks to produce and market Circuit Scribe.

Science of "Interstellar"

Science Channel (Nov. 4) -- In addition to the new Christopher Nolan film, "Interstellar," Warner Bros. Home Entertainment produced an accompanying documentary, “The Science of Interstellar,” which features animations of space that were created by Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Advanced Visualizations Laboratory on campus. NCSA’S AVL, led by director Donna Cox, works with scientists to create accurate high-resolution scientific visualizations for cinema. “The Science of Interstellar” will begin broadcasting on Discovery channels Wednesday (Nov. 5). It educates viewers about wormholes, black holes and cosmic inflation.

CS & Ed. Psychology identify bullies

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 4) -- A social computer game designed by researchers in computer science and educational psychology at the University of Illinois can identify bullies in elementary school classrooms and help scholars better understand peer aggression, whether it occurs face to face or online. "What we wanted was to have more real–time information and to include advancements in computer science to process the data and get more insights into it so we could understand the problem of bullying better and create interventions," said Juan F. Mancilla-Caceres, who developed the algorithms for the game while earning a doctorate in computer science at Illinois.

"What we wanted was to have more real–time information and to include advancements in to process the data and get more insights into it so we could understand the problem of bullying better and create interventions," said Juan F. Mancilla-Caceres, who developed the algorithms for the game while earning a doctorate in computer science at the university.

Read more at:
Car window condensation explained (Chicago, Nov. 4) -- In another of life's mysteries, at times only some of a car's outside windows may have frost or condensation, not all. What's up with that? Mats Selen, an Illinois physics professor, explains.

Alumnus noted for election support

NBC News (Nov. 4) -- The big money behind the elections Tuesday comes from a host of familiar billionaires. But there's one name on the top 10 list most people won't recognize: Illinois alumnus and co-head of Renaissance Technologies Robert Mercer. He got a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he helped a professor, Dan Slotnick, on the Illiac IV, then the world's fastest computer.

Flying robot tango

NBC News (Nov. 3) -- The "Dance Your Ph.D." contest recognizes researchers who turn their Ph.D. thesis topics into interpretive dance. Online voters picked a "People's Choice" winner: Venanzio Cichella of Illinois wowed the audience with a tango that demonstrated how flying robots can coordinate their trajectories and avoid running into each other. "An autonomous flying robot who can safely navigate a crowded dynamic environment, and coordinate with its teammates, can definitely tango!" Cichella writes. Also: Tech Times (New York City, Nov. 5).

Alumus project reduces food waste

DNAinfo Chicago (Nov. 3) -- Through his firm Zero Percent, CS alumnus Raj Karmani is seeking to revolutionize the food waste industry in Chicago. The idea is simple: Zero Percent's drivers act as a roving transport, picking up surplus food from Chicago grocery stores and restaurants and delivering that food to nonprofits the same day.

Student team's "smart" prosthetic hand

Phys.Org (Oct. 29) -- A multi-disciplinary team of University of Illinois students have created one of the first 3D-printed prosthetic hands with pattern recognition capability. A machine-learning algorithm allows it to do more than just open and close. It learns other positions of the hand for more functionality. Just as importantly, it can be created for a mere $270 compared to the average myoelectric prosthetic, which retails for between $30,000-$40,000--especially good news for those in the developing world. Also: WAND-TV (Decatur, Ill., Oct. 29), China Topix (Oct. 30), Mumbai Mirror (India, Oct. 30), ENC magazine (Oct. 30), Overclockers Club (Oct. 30), 3D (Oct. 30), Pune Mirror (India, Oct. 31), Gizmag (Nov. 5), Daily Illini (Nov. 6), KOB-Channel 4 (from WAND; Farmington, N.M., Nov. 12).

CS Alumna among UK Tech City's "Most Influential"

Forbes (Oct. 31) -- CS alumna Eileen Burbidge is one of Tech City UK’s biggest personalities. She is a partner at Passion Capital, the leading early-stage technology and internet VC firm in London, ranked #18 in the Wired 100 in 2012-13. Eileen was named as one of London’s 1000 Most Influential People 2014 by the Evening Standard newspaper, and serves on the advisory board for TechCity UK (chaired by the Prime Minister’s Office at No 10 Downing Street). At Passion, Eileen acts as board director for DueDil, Digital Shadows, wireWAX, Lulu and other portfolio companies. She is a well-known media personality, frequently appearing on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, Sky News and the BBC.

Nose-cancelling technology

New Scientist (United Kingdom, Oct. 30) -- Has someone burned the toast and stunk up the kitchen again? Fire up the smell canceller and sniff freely. That's the proposal from two researchers, including Lav Varshney of Illinois, who are applying the principle behind noise-cancelling headphones to noses. Also: The Huffington Post (Nov. 2), Discovery News (Nov. 3), BBC World News (Nov. 4, audio broadcast--story begins at 16:40), Gizmag (Nov. 6).

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