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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April 2014 media appearances

NSA "Lablets"

Venture Beat (San Francisco, April 29) -- The National Security Agency has begun an initiative to strengthen contacts between tech-heavy U.S. American colleges and universities. The project will coordinate academic collaboration to best protect Internet infrastructure. Already, the NSA has awarded funds and resources to Illinois, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina to set up “lablets” on their campuses.

Ultra-high efficiency solar cells

ENC magazine (April 28) -- Researchers led by MatSE professor John Rogers, use a printing process to assemble tiny cells into multilayer stacks for extraordinary levels of photovoltaic conversion efficiency. The strategy involves high-speed, printing-based manipulation of thin, microscale solar cells and new interface materials to bond them into multilayer stacks. The group's quadruple-junction, four-terminal solar cells have individually measured efficiencies of 43.9 percent. Also: Nanowerk News (April 28), Cellular-News (London, April 28), Product Design & Development (April 28), ScienceBlog (April 29), (April 29), Nature World News (April 29), Economic Times (Gurgaon, India, April 29), Overclockers Club (April 29), Compound Semiconductor (April 29), Chemistry World (April 30), Daily Fusion (April 30), Nanotechweb (April 30), (April 28).

Related story: Solar Novus Today (April 28) -- Semprius, Inc., a specialist in high concentration photovoltaic solar modules, has manufactured the first four-junction, four-terminal stacked solar cell using its proprietary micro transfer printing process. In this effort, Semprius worked in collaboration with Professor John Rogers and his team at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and researchers at Solar Junction, a leading III-V high-efficiency solar cell manufacturer and Semprius partner. Also: Herald Online (Durham, NC, April 28), Fort Mill Times (Fort Mill, SC, April 28), Semiconductor Today (April 29), (April 28), (April 29), PV-Tech (April 29), (April 29), Solar Industry (April 28), Green Energy News (April 30).

Semprius, Inc., a specialist in high concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) solar modules, has manufactured the first four-junction, four-terminal stacked solar cell using its proprietary micro transfer printing process. In this effort, Semprius worked in collaboration with Professor John Rogers and his team at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and researchers at Solar Junction, a leading III-V high-efficiency solar cell manufacturer and important Semprius partner.  - See more at:
Financial engineering

Chicago Tribune (April 28) -- Forget sports. At some elite universities, algorithmic trading competitions offer plenty of action. As the demand for computer science-literate traders grows, universities seem to be ever more interested in producing them. The U. of I. offers a master’s of science in financial engineering, while computer science students at Northwestern University’s sometimes add on a business institutions minor.

Computers in education

Chicago Tribune (April 28) -- Jana Sebestik, who works in the U. of I. Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education, teaches contemporary lessons with the help of one of the world’s hottest video games: “Minecraft.” She had university students build a nuclear plant and windmill farm in a “Minecraft” world, then asked middle schoolers in Urbana to construct houses that share the same virtual power grid.

Smartphone "fingerprints"

Phys (Douglas, Isle of Man, April 28) -- Fingerprints are mostly invisible. They can affirm your onetime presence, but they cannot be used to track your day-to-day activities. But what if our hand-held electronics are leaving real-time fingerprints instead? Fingerprints that are so intrinsic to the device that, like our own, they cannot be removed? U. of I. computer science and electrical engineering professor Romit Roy Choudhury and graduate students Sanorita Dey and Nirupam Roy have demonstrated that these fingerprints exist within smartphone sensors, mainly because of imperfections during the hardware manufacturing process. Also: TG Daily (April 28), Quartz (April 28), NDTV (India, April 29), Red Orbit (April 29), FirstPost (April 29), Business Standard (India, April 29), Financial Express (India, April 29), Crazy Engineers (April 29), Jagran Post (India, April 29), The Telegraph (London, April 29), Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, April 29), Delhi Daily News (New Delhi, April 29), Times of India (April 30), EE Times (San Francisco, April 29), The Huffington Post (April 30), Headlines & Global News (April 30), Think Digit (April 30), The Voice of Russia (April 29).

Researchers studying Washington mudslide

Washingon Times (from The Associated Press, April 25) -- A Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Rapid Response Grant is funding five researchers from the University of Illinois to research the recent mudslide in Washington state. School officials said that the team will be going to the town of Oso, but will have to wait until local officials open up restricted areas where rescue efforts are still underway. Also: ASEE FirstBell (April 25), (from AP, April 24), The Tribune (from AP, Seymour, IN, April 24), Seattle Times (from AP, April 24),Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce (from AP, subscription required, ‎April 25), Emergency Management (from McClatchy News Service; Folsom, Calif., May 19).


The Wall Street Journal (April 24) -- A day after he was caught smearing pine tar on his neck in a game against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended 10 games by Major League Baseball “for possessing a foreign substance on his person.” The incident reignited an old debate in baseball circles: Was Pineda gaining an unfair advantage by using the pine tar? Alan M. Nathan, a professor emeritus of physics at Illinois, has spent years studying the physics of baseball, weighs in.

Shell Eco-marathon Americas

Houston Chronicle (April 25) -- Hansel Sjukur, an Illinois freshman, is cool and collected despite last-minute hurdles facing his team. Sjukur and his peers have traveled hundreds of miles to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, an international competition in which teams vie to design and build the most fuel-efficient vehicles possible. But things aren’t going exactly as planned.

The brain

Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., April 24) -- By using a novel technique to test brain waves, postdoctoral fellow Kyle Mathewson and colleagues at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness.


Illinois professors elected to AAAS

The Pantagraph (from The Associated Press; Bloomington, Ill., April 24) -- MatSE professor John Rogers is among the three Illinois professors have been elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

UI Labs

Chicago Tribune (April 24) -- In five to 10 years, Mike Hobbs said he envisions his plant operated by robots, the reason he hosted the Digital Lab for Manufacturing’s first forum Wednesday for small to midsize companies. The $320 million lab, announced in February, will be based on Goose Island in Chicago. The lab aims to team manufacturing experts, software companies and universities to spread cutting-edge technology through supply chains, to design and test new products, and to reduce costs in manufacturing processes across many industries. The lab will employ 80 to 100 people by the end of its first year. Oversight will be managed by UI Labs, a nascent U. of I.-affiliated effort focused on turning academic research into moneymaking, job-creating products. William King, a U. of I. professor of mechanical science and engineering, is the lab’s chief technology officer.

Rail Safety

Toledo Blade (Ohio, April 22) -- The public-safety benefit from routing trains hauling crude oil or ethanol to avoid heavily populated areas could be offset by the higher risk of derailments on lesser-used tracks, U. of I. civil and environmental engineering professor Christopher Barkan said during a rail safety forum on Tuesday. Higher-density railroad lines have lower derailment rates, and “traffic density tends to go to populated areas,” Barkan, the executive director of the railroad engineering program at Illinois, told the safety board’s forum on crude-oil and ethanol transport during the first of two days of panel discussions at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Asian carp

Discovery Channel (August 1) -- Daily Planet features video story of asian carp research being conducted by CEE professor Marcelo Garcia. Garcia heads the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory where the researchers are studying river actions that may provide answers for limiting the growth and dominance of this invasive species.


Emergency Management (Folsom, Calif., April 22) -- The sudden increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma has people wondering whether the onset of tremors is linked to hydraulic fracking. For centuries, Oklahoma has experienced more earthquakes than most of the country, notes U. of I. civil and environmental engineering professor Paolo Gardoni, the director of the university’s Mid-America Earthquake Center, which studies how to minimize damage from disasters.

Flexible electronics

The Wall Street Journal (April 21) -- Imagine a digital tattoo that transmits skin temperature; a transparent sensor on a contact lens that tests for glaucoma; a pliable pacemaker wrapped around a beating heart; and an implant that controls pain after surgery, then dissolves harmlessly when it is no longer needed. “It is such a different way of thinking about electronics, making things stretchy,” says U. of I. materials science and engineering professor John Rogers who helped pioneer the technology. “There are a lot of things in human health care that we could do with these that are impossible today.” Also: Epoch Times (New York City, April 22), WCBU-FM (89.9) (NPR; Peoria, Ill., May 7).

New app

Asia One (from The Straits Times, Singapore; Singapore, April 21) -- Photobombers beware – unwanted faces can now be removed from photographs, thanks to new software. When the software is used in a smartphone app, it just requires a user to move his finger within the boundaries of the object he would like to etch out. “With everyone on-the-go these days, it is important to make mobile functions faster as users get impatient easily,” says researcher Niu Zeping, who developed the technology at the Advanced Digital Sciences Center, a joint center established by the U. of I. and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Robotic mouse = more kitty fun

Product Design & Development (April 21) -- An estimated 58 percent of domestic cats are overweight. A large contributing factor is that their owners simply don’t have the recommended 20 minutes per day to commit to playing with them. Dave Cohen, a U. of I. doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering, is leading a group that is working on a potential solution to the problem. The group has built the initial prototype of a robotic pet that can sense the movements of a cat and react the way a real mouse would. The result could be endless amounts of playtime for the cat. Also: ECNMag (Rockaway, N.J., April 22).

Imaging the brain

Singularity Hub (Moffett Field, Calif., April 20) -- To know the brain, you have to observe the brain. A team of Illinois scientists, led by electrical and computer engineering professor Gabriel Popescu, recently developed an imaging method to do just that.

Related story: (Pittsfield, Mass., April 25) -- The brain’s preparation state – whether it’s focused or unconscious – can have a significant impact on vision. Alpha waves, which characterize the brain’s electrical activity while at rest, can influence vision, a team of researchers from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois and the City University of New York has found. Also: (Sydney, April 26).

In Memoriam

ABC News (from The Associated Press, April 20) -- John C. Houbolt, an engineer whose contributions to the U.S. space program were vital to NASA’s successful moon landing in 1969, has died. He was 95. Houbolt died Tuesday at a nursing home in Scarborough, Maine, of complications from Parkinson’s disease. Houbolt grew up in Joliet, Ill., and earned degrees in civil engineering at the U. of I. Also: News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Ill., April 21), The New York Times (April 27).

PECASE recipient

Science (Washington, D.C., April 17) -- In town this week to receive their awards, the winners of the most prestigious U.S. government prize for young scientists – including Illinois materials science and engineering professor Lane Martin – had some advice for anyone hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Related story: “Morning Joe” (MSNBC, April 17) -- MatSE assistant professor Lane Martin, among 102 researchers to receive a 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, discusses “brain drain” (scientists leaving the field) and the importance of supporting scientific research (Martin appears at 5:31 in the video interview.).


Medical Xpress (Douglas, Isle of Man, April 17) -- One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive option, according to a new study co-authored by Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and of mathematics at Illinois. Also: Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., April 17), ScienceBlog (April 21), (Sydney, April 22).

Molecular engineering (Warriewood, New South Wales, April 17) -- The University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering will build a major new facility for nanoscale fabrication within the William Eckhardt Research Center, supported by a $15 million gift from the Pritzker Foundation. “Having a world-class nanofabrication facility on campus will dramatically enhance the capacity of the Institute for Molecular Engineering and change the dynamics of interactions with numerous departments, Argonne National Laboratory and researchers at Northwestern University, the U. of I. and startup companies in Chicago,” says David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering.

Microscopy exhibit

Lab Manager Magazine (Midland, Ontario, April 16) -- An art exhibit at Chicago’s Midway Airport features images created using microscopy equipment. Researchers from the U. of I.’s Institute for Genomic Biology used state-of-the-art microscopes for pioneering research to capture images that address significant problems facing humanity related to health, agriculture, energy and the environment. Twelve different images from IGB’s innovative research have been turned into pieces of artwork that travelers can view while using the airport.

Self-healing 3-D vascular system

Business Standard (from Asian News International (New Delhi); New Delhi, April 16) -- Researchers at Illinois, led by professors Nancy Sottos, Scott White, and Jeff Moore, have created a 3-D vascular system that allows for high-performance composite materials such as Fiberglass to heal autonomously, and repeatedly. Also: Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, April 16), Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., April 15), redOrbit (April 16), Zee News (April 16), India Times (April 16), ANI News (April 16), Product Design & Development (April 16), ASEE FirstBell (April 17), Space Daily (Pasadena, Calif., April 22).

Nuclear nonproliferation

WRAL-Channel 50 (Fox; Raleigh, N.C., April 16) -- North Carolina State University was named Wednesday as the lead institution on a five-year, $25 million program to develop the next generation of leaders with practical experience in technical fields relevant to nuclear nonproliferation. Other institutions involved in the project include the U. of I., as well as North Carolina A&T State University, Michigan, Purdue, Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Also: The Charlotte Observer (North Carolina, April 16).

Transient electronics

The Columbia Chronicle (Chicago, Ill., April 14) -- Destroying the evidence is becoming easier thanks to the increasing demand for transient technology. According to Illinois materials science professor John Rogers, the goal in developing such devices is to increase the use of volatile electronic sensors and circuits in popular consumer products such as computers and cell phones.


Transportation & Distribution World (Orland Park, Ill., April 14) -- ComEd has announced that work related to its sweeping smart grid initiative supported 2,871 full-time equivalent positions in 2013. ComEd works with the Regional Economic Applications Laboratory (REAL) at the U. of I. to calculate the number of indirect positions resulting from the smart grid investment.

International students

The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Ariz., April 13) --  Thousands of students across America come from nations in turmoil. While juggling the typical demands of any student and the additional challenges of studying in a foreign language and living in an unfamiliar culture, these students must also deal with the particular trials of coming from a torn homeland. Ahmed Abdelmohsen, who is getting his doctorate in civil engineering at the U. of I., said he and other Egyptian students have disabled their Facebook accounts "to avoid hearing bad news and focus on their research." Also: The Des Moines Register (April 12).

Heart power

Phys.Org (Douglas, Isle of Man, April 10) -- An interdisciplinary research team including Illinois' John A. Rogers and Northwestern University's Yonggang Huang has developed a flexible medical implant that harvests the energy of the beating heart. Also: (Warriewood, New South Wales, April 11), Australian Popular Science (April 11).

Unconventional superconductor

R & D Magazine (April 10) -- An international team of scientists, led by condensed matter physicist Peter Abbamonte, has reported the first experimental observation of the quantum critical point (QCP) in the extensively studied "unconventional superconductor" TiSe2, finding that it does not reside as predicted within the superconducting dome of the phase diagram, but rather at a full GPa higher in pressure. Also: Science Codex (April 9), ScienceBlog (April 9), Phys.Org (Douglas, Isle of Man, April 9), eScience News (April 10), Product Design & Development (April 10).

Solar farm

Northwest Herald (from the Associated Press; Crystal Lake, Ill., April 9) -- Illinois officials said they hope work could begin later this year on a field of solar panels that will ultimately supply about 2 percent of the school’s electricity. The nearly 21-acre “solar farm” is a key part of the university’s renewable energy efforts. Also: Agri News (from the Associated Press; Rochester, Minn., April 10).

Water treatment

Sauk Valley Media (Dixon, Ill., April 8) -- Dixon, Ill., wants to take a closer look at a new potential use for its wastewater treatment facility. Lance Schideman, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Illinois, gave a presentation to the city council about a pilot plant that could turn the city’s wastewater into algae, which could then be turned into oil.

Bio-bots explained

Science 360 (April 8) -- NSF-funded Taher Saif, the Gutgsell Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at Illinois, develops tiny bots to swim through the body for medical purposes. He is interviewed on Science 360 Update Podcast by Bob Hirshon, AAAS.

Drug delivery

Chemistry World (Royal Society of Chemistry; London, April 7) -- Recent research, led by Brian Cunningham, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Illinois, has produced biomedical tubing that uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy to monitor the contents and concentrations of drugs within a patient’s intravenous line.


The New Yorker (April 4) -- “Japanese hitters aren’t the best in the world,” says U. of I. emeritus physics professor Alan Nathan, who has studied the physics of baseball. “If they were, they’d be in the major leagues.” Nathan’s comment addressed the uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka as he moves from being Japan’s top pitcher to Major League Baseball’s most closely watched rookie. Also: The National (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, April 6)

Engineering start-up winner

Crain's Chicago Business (April 4) -- EP Purification Inc., based in Champaign, won $100,000 from Wells Fargo & Co. as the best early-stage company that presented its business model to a panel of judges and others in the challenge, sponsored by the Clean Energy Trust. The company employed licensed technology from the University of Illinois to isolate the ozone molecule and use it as a cleaning agent for laundry, doing away with hot water and chemicals, saving energy and money. The startup was founded by Gary Eden and Sung-Jin Park, both faculty members in the College of Engineering at Illinois.

The startup was founded by Gary Eden and Sung-Jin Park, both faculty members at the University of Illinois. - See more at:
The startup was founded by Gary Eden and Sung-Jin Park, both faculty members at the University of Illinois. - See more at:
Stick-on electronic patches monitor health

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., April 3) -- Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have demonstrated thin, soft stick-on patches that stretch and move with the skin and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for sophisticated wireless health monitoring. The new device was developed by John A. Rogers of Illinois and Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University. Also: Phys.Org (April 3), Denver Sun (April 3), Phys.Org (April 3), Free Press Journal (April 3), Science Codex (April 3), ScienceBlog (April 3), R&D Magazine (April 4), Business Standard (April 4), Tasnim News Agency (Iran, April 4), Times of India (April 4), Medical News Today (April 4), RTT News (April 4), Scicasts (Leicester, England, April 3), Science (original article, April 4), CBS News (April 4), Huffington Post (April 4), Red Orbit (April 4), RTT News (April 4), Tech Times (April 4), E&T Magazine (April 4), Nature World News (April 4), Zenopia (April 4), Nanowerk News (April 4), Health (April 3), Counsel & Heal (April 4), (April 6), The Engineer (April 7), Fast Company-Design (April 4), Refinery 29 (April 6), Forbes (April 7), Medgadget (El Granada, Calif., April 4), University Herald (New York City, April 5), Yahoo! News (April 7), Gizmag (April 10), Electronics Weekly (Croydon, England, April 14), Medical Physics Web (Bristol, England, April 16).

Better soybeans

e! Science News (Quebec City, April 3) -- Crops that produce more while using less water seem like a dream for a world with a burgeoning population and already strained food and water resources. This dream is coming closer to reality for U. of I. researchers who have developed a new computer model that can help plant scientists breed better soybean crops. "The model lets you look at one of those goals individually or all of them simultaneously," said Praveen Kumar, a co-author of the study who is the Lovell Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Illinois. "There might be some areas where you look at only one aspect – if you're in an arid zone, you can structure things to maximize the water efficiency. In other areas you may want to concentrate on food productivity." Also: Lab Manager Magazine (Midland, Ontario, April 3), ECNMag (Rockaway, N.J., April 3), Phys.Org (Douglas, Isle of Man, April 3), Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., April 3), Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., April 3), (Vilnius, Lithuania, April 4), Scientific Computing (April 3), Pacific Standard (April 25).

Sustainability course

The Guardian (London, April 2) -- Sustainable materials may be some years away but a new course looking at the environmental and social impact of technology at each stage of a product’s life cycle is due to start this spring at the U. of I.

Heart Sock

Wired (San Francisco, April 1) -- U. of I. materials science and engineering professor John Rogers and Hyun-Joong Chung, a professor of chemical and mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta, say a stretchable silicone device can monitor vital signs and could help doctors pinpoint heart problems.

Bandage sensors

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., April 1) -- Offering a preview of what future wearable medical devices may look like, researchers in Korea have built a skin patch that’s thinner than a sheet of paper and can detect subtle tremors, release drugs stored inside nanoparticles on-demand, and record all of this activity for review later. The work builds on the fundamental research of John Rogers, a materials science and engineering professor at Illinois. Three years ago, he introduced the idea of “epidermal electronics,” or ultrathin, skin-like semiconductor materials that could monitor vital signs on the skin.

Related story: BioNews Texas (Dallas, April 1) -- In a presentation made at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in San Diego on March 26, U. of I. materials science and engineering professor John Rogers explained how “electronic skin” patches similar to the temporary tattoos children stick on their arms for fun may one day monitor and wirelessly diagnose health problems or deliver medication.

Invisibility cloaks

International Business Times (London, April 1) -- Researchers, including engineers at Illinois, have made a breakthrough in the development of invisibility cloaks by figuring out how to print larger pieces of 3-D metamaterial. Also: Orlando Sentinel (Florida, April 7).

Engineering undergraduate enrollment

Chicago Tribune (April 1) -- More than 8,000 undergraduate students were enrolled in engineering fields in 2012 at the U. of I. campuses, a number that exceeds the combined total of Berkeley, Caltech, MIT and Stanford.

Generating neurons

Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., April 1) -- U. of I. researchers report they can generate human motor neurons from stem cells much more quickly and efficiently than previous methods allowed. Also: Medical Xpress (Douglas, Isle of Man, April 1), (April 2), Bioscience Technology (April 1), ScienceBlog (April 2), BioNews Texas (Dallas, April 9).

Hopkins to speak at University Commencement

KDSK-Channel 5 (NBC; from The Associated Press; St. Louis, April 1) -- Astronaut Michael Hopkins will deliver the commencement address at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on May 17. Hopkins graduated from Illinois in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. Also: Northwest Herald (from The Associated Press, April 2).

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