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

May 2014 media appearances

Technology education

Crain’s Chicago Business (May 30) -- lllinois’ technology powerhouses – including the U. of I., the Illinois Institute of Technology and Northwestern – grant a disproportionate number of degrees to foreign-born students. And the numbers are rising. Nearly 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and math degrees in 2012 went to foreign-born students, compared with the U.S. average of 15 percent, according to data from the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.

Defense Department awards fund research equipment

ExecutiveGov (May 28) -- Several researchers from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and the Department Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois were among the 149 university researchers to receive $39.9 million combined in research equipment funding from the U.S. Defense Department. Also: ASEE FirstBell (May 30).

The Defense Department has picked 149 university researchers to receive $39.9 million combined in research equipment funding. - See more at:
John Rogers explains bio-friendly electronics

Science 360 (National Science Foundation, May 30) -- NSF-funded John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois, is interviewed for Science 360 Radio where he explains his work on electronic implants that would kill bacteria in the body after surgery. Provided by ABC Radio in Australia.

Stem cell specialization

Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., May 30) -- The gap between stem cell research and regenerative medicine just became a lot narrower, thanks to a new technique that coaxes stem cells, with potential to become any tissue type, to take the first step to specialization. It is the first time this critical step has been demonstrated in a laboratory. U. of I. researchers--led by MechSE professor Ning Wang--in collaboration with scientists at Notre Dame University and the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China, published their results in the journal Nature Communications. Also: Phys.Org (May 30), Health Canal (May 30), R&D Magazine (June 2), Bioscience Technology (June 1).

Alumnus named dean

University of Texas (Austin, May 30) -- Sharon L. Wood, who earned her doctorate in civil engineering at Illinois and was a U. of I. professor for 10 years, has been named the ninth dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She has served as interim dean since October 2013 and will assume the post permanently Sept. 1. Also: Austin Business Journal (May 30), Daily Texan (May 30), ASEE FirstBell (June 4).


The Republic (Columbus, Ind., May 29) -- The U. of I. will receive a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to research how cleaner-burning cookstoves will affect air quality in Alaska, China, Mongolia and Nepal. Also: U.S. EPA (original release, May 28), Daily Journal (from the Associated Press, May 29),  Product Design & Development (May 28), Peoria Journal Star (from AP, May 29).

Alumnus is a technology leader in India

The Guardian (London, May 29) -- Illinois alumnus Rohan Parikh (MS, CEE) is the head of infrastructure at Infosys, India’s second biggest information technology company, which recently won an award for what the judges described as game-changing efforts to reduce energy use throughout its 10 campuses across India.

Energy from the heart

Product Design & Development (Rockaway, N.J., May 29) -- A 28-year-old U. of I. doctoral student led a research group that developed a new class of biocompatible devices to harvest and store piezoelectric energy directly from the motion of the heart, lung and diaphragm.

UI Labs

Chicago Tribune (May 28) -- Siri co-founder and Chicago-area resident Dag Kittlaus on Tuesday said the UI Labs $300 million digital manufacturing research center, announced this year, will be a game-changer for Chicago, tapping into the top engineering talent coming out of the U. of I. and other area schools.


Max Levchin

Entrepreneur (Irvine, Calif., May 28) -- Max Levchin immigrated to the United States from Ukraine and attended the U. of I. He liked building operating systems for computers and after he graduated decided to co-found Confinity, a company that would build operating systems for the handheld Palm Pilots that proliferated in the 1990s.

Quantum computing

Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh, May 28) -- A University of Pittsburgh physicist exploring the potential of quantum computing has won a $3 million grant from the Office of Naval Research Basic Research Challenge to further his work, Pitt officials announced Wednesday. Sergey Frolov will lead a team charged with researching the possible uses of the elusive Majorana fermion in quantum computing. Pitt scientists and others at the U. of I.; Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands; and Yale University make up Frolov’s research team. Also: Pittsburgh Business Times (May 29).

Physics of baseball

The Washington Times (from The Associated Press; District of Columbia, May 26) -- Alan M. Nathan, an emeritus professor of physics at Illinois, has found that a pitch released at 95 mph will cross the plate in about four-tenths of a second, and that each additional mile per hour trims that flight time by about 1 percent.

Engineer Guy

Science 360 (National Science Foundation, May 23) -- ChemE professor Bill Hammack, The Engineer Guy, explains the inner workings of an IBM selectric typewriter, predecessor of today's computer keyboards.

Alumnus in California governor race

Los Angeles Times (May 21) -- U. of I. alumnus Neel Kashkari’s career has taken him from engineering to investment banking to managing the federal government’s $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, overseeing stock funds and running for governor — all by age 40. What others might view as a young man’s wandering ambition, Kashkari sees as the accumulation of skills needed to unseat incumbent California Gov. Jerry Brown. Also: Businessweek (May 29).

Digital Manufacturing & Design Innovation Institute

Crain's Chicago Business (May 23) -- Crain's talks with Caralynn Nowinski, chief operating officer for Chicago's digital innovation lab, about her team's progress in its first few months. Also, hear the elevator pitches Illinois' Midwest rivals make in their attempts to win business. The College of Engineering at Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications are central to the Digital Lab for Manufacturing.

New contrast agent improves MRI imaging

Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., May 21) -- When U. of I. chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Hyunjoon Kong, graduate student Cartney Smith and their colleagues set out to improve magnetic resonance imaging, they turned current contrast agent technology on its head – or rather, they turned it inside out. Also: R&D Magazine (Rockaway, N.J., May 22), RedOrbit (May 22), Bioscience Technology (May 22), Laboratory Equipment (May 22), Phys.Org (May 21), Nanowerk (May 21).


ECNMag (Rockaway, N.J., May 20) -- The U. of I. is one of four universities selected to receive funding for cybersecurity research through the National Security Agency’s Science of Security initiative. The NSA awarded $2.1 million to Illinois’ Information Trust Institute to create the Science of Security for Systems Lablet. Also: WCIA-TV (Champaign, Ill., May 20).

How Oculus came to be

Wired (May 20) -- Recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, Oculus' flagship product, the Rift, is widely seen as the most promising VR device in years. Steve LaValle, an alumnus (PhD 1995, Electrical Engineering) and professor of computer science at Illinois, has been leading Oculus’ R&D efforts as its head scientist since taking leave from the University in September 2012.

Steve LaValle, an alumnus (PhD 1995, Electrical Engineering) and professor of computer science at Illinois, has a special insight into the development of the new virtual reality (VR) technology.   - See more at:
Origami engineering

Chronicle of Higher Education (May 19) -- Everyone remembers origami. It’s that thing you did in grade school where you folded a piece of paper into the shape of a bird or a fish. Increasingly, however, it’s also the stuff of serious science. As director of the Mechanics of Materials program at the National Science Foundation from 2009 to 2011, MechSE professor Glaucio Paulino led the development of a program, known as Odissei, that financed research based on origami principles. Last month, Paulino hosted a conference last month at the University of Illinois campus, where participants included Sergio Pellegrino, a professor of aeronautics and civil engineering at the California Institute of Technology, who has used origami techniques to design high-precision retinal implants, and Yihui Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University, who has used origami concepts to develop a flexible lithium-ion battery that patients can wear without being connected to a bulky power supply.

Power lines

Concord Monitor (New Hampshire, May 18) -- Industry experts say it is technologically possible to run transmission lines underground; buried projects already exist around the world. The biggest factor for all underground projects, is the cost, says George Gross, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Illinois.

Hopkins' commencement address

WCBU-FM (NPR; Peoria, Ill., May 19) -- NASA Astronaut and Illinois alumnus Mike Hopkins delivered the commencement address on Saturday at Illinois. Sean Powers, a reporter for WILL at the U. of I., interviewed Hopkins about his experiences in orbit and thoughts about the future of the space program. Also: The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Ill., May 17), Daily Illini (May 17), CBS (Chicago, May 16), The Republic (from The Associated Press, May 18), Daily Reporter (Greenfield, Ind., from AP, May 18).

Related article: WSIU-FM (NPR; Carbondale, Ill., May 19) -- A NASA astronaut who was Saturday’s commencement speaker at the U. of I. says he’s optimistic political differences between the U.S. and Russia won’t affect the International Space Station.

Activity analysis

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., May 15) -- “We’ve known for a very long time that the things that people do are made up of subactivities,” says David Forsyth, a professor of computer science at the U. of I. “The problem is we don’t know what the pieces are, and nobody has given us labeled training data saying, ‘There are two pieces in a dive and seven pieces in a weightlifting and 21 pieces in a hammer throw and these are their names.’ ”

Computer science

MIT News Reports (Cambridge, Mass., May 14) -- Among the tools that computer scientists are developing to make the profusion of video more useful are algorithms for activity recognition – or determining what the people on camera are doing when. “We’ve known for a very long time that the things that people do are made up of subactivities,” says David Forsyth, a professor of computer science at the U. of I.

Tracking receipts

ECNMag (Rockaway, N.J., May 13) -- For those tired of trying to find a receipt or hanging on to stacks and stacks of them, Illinois students are making organizing them easy and printing them irrelevant with a receipt-reducing app called Babu.


PSFK (New York City, May 13) -- Buildies are life-size blocks, mortar and roofing made in the USA from recycled cardboard that enable children and adults to build a variety of forts. Developed by product designer Brian Lilly, who is also an Illinois professor in the Technology Entrepreneur Center, the system of interlocking blocks can be used to create different sturdy constructions.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer (from Business Insider; Washington, May 12) -- Whatever you do, don't ask Netscape co-founder and Illinois alumnus Eric Bina how he feels about inventing the browser ... or the Web ... or the Internet. If you do, he will adamantly respond that, although he made a contribution, he was certainly not responsible. Yet, despite Bina's protests, and the fact that he has retreated from public life (no interviews, no tech conference speeches, no personal blog) the world insists on honoring him. Just last month, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. A few years before that, he was inducted into the U. of I. Engineering Hall of Fame, among other accolades.

Dutta named Purdue's provost

Journal & Courier (Lafayette, Ind., May 8) -- Debasish “Deba” Dutta, Gutgsell Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, the dean of the U. of I. Graduate College, will be Purdue University’s next provost, effective July 1. He succeeds Tim Sands, who is leaving Purdue to become president of Virginia Tech.

Related article: Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Ind., May 27) -- Purdue University political science professor S. Laurel Weldon will serve as interim provost at Purdue from June 1 through June 30. Weldon will hold the position for one month until Debasish Dutta arrives July 1 from the U. of I., where he serves as associate provost and dean of the graduate college.

Regenerating plastic

Popular Mechanics (May 8) -- Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. Until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. The new regenerating materials fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material. Inspired by nature, Scott White, Nancy Sottos, and their colleagues invented a restorative material is delivered through two, isolated fluid streams. The supportive yet porous gel that the two liquids form is reminiscent of a blood clot. And like a blood clot, this ability allows the repair fluids to reach damaged sites while not bleeding out before they can solidify in place. Also: Science (original journal article, May 9), Phys.Org (May 8), New Scientist (May 8), Chemistry World (May 8), Science News (May 8), ScienceBlog (May 8), e! Science News (May 8), ASEE FirstBell (May 9), R&D Magazine (May 9), Nanowerk (May 8), Zee News (India, May 9), Times of India (May 9), Science World Report (May 9), Financial Express (India, May 9), Jagran Post (India, May 9), BBC News (May 9), (May 9), Gizmodo India (May 9), (May 9), Highly Cited (May 8), (May 8), CNet (May 8), ANI News (May 9), Plastics Today (May 2), Red Orbit (April 16), Nature World News (May 9), Ubergizmo (May 8), Business Standard (India, May 9), Opposing Views (May 9), Tech Fragments (May 11), The Blaze (May 9), China Topix (May 12), Laboratory Equipment (May 9), Engadget (New York City, May 11), Daily Mail (London, May 9), E&T Magazine (Stevenage, England, May 9), Inernational Science Times (New York City, May 9), Malaysia Sun (Sydney, May 11), Science 2.0 (Reno, Nev., May 10), Times of India (from Indo-Asian News Service, New Delhi, May 9), Nova Next (PBS, May 9), Voice of America (May 9), Discovery News (May 11), International Business Times (May 9), EarthSky (Austin, Texas, May 12), (Mississauga, Ontario, May 14), Smithsonian (May 22), The Wall Street Journal (May 23), The Weather Network (Oakville, Ontario, May 23).

Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. Until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. The new regenerating materials fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material. Led by professor Scott White, the research team comprises professors Jeffry S. Moore and Nancy Sottos and graduate students Brett Krull, Windy Santa Cruz and Ryan Gergely. They report their work in the May 9 issue of the journal Science. - See more at:
Cellphone health monitor

Medical Xpress (Douglas, Isle of Man, May 7) -- By simply carrying around their cellphones, patients who suffer from chronic disease could soon have an accurate health monitor that warns their doctors when their symptoms worsen. GaitTrack, an app developed by researchers at the U. of I., turns a smartphone into a sophisticated medical device. Also: Health (May 7), Nature World News (May 8), Red Orbit (May 8), India TV (May 13), Zee News (Noida, India, May 11), Oman Daily Observer (Muscat, May 11), GCN Tech (Vienna, Virginia, May 13), Med Device Online (Pittsburgh, May 14), Medgadget (El Granada, Calif., May 16), ENC Magazine (May 8), International Business Times UK (May 9).

Biofuels research

Scientific American (New York, May 7) -- Stanford University will stop investing in coal companies after its board of trustees voted to eliminate direct investments in publically traded companies that mine coal for electricity generation. Ultimately, the best possible choice to support an energy transition away from fossil fuels is for profits from fossil-related activities to fund renewable energy research. Fortunately, this is happening already. For instance, BP made a $500 million deal with The University of California, Berkeley, and the U. of I. to fund the Energy Biosciences Institute, which is devoted to biofuels research.

Heart sock

The Independent (London, May 4) -- Scientists, including U. of I. materials science and engineering professor John Rogers, have created a revolutionary new electronic membrane that could replace pacemakers, fitting over a heart to keep it beating regularly over an indefinite period of time.

Fuel from plastic bags

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash., May 5) -- Plastic shopping bags could help power diesel-engine cars and pickup trucks. The lead author of a recent study on this topic is Brajendra Sharma, a research scientist at the sustainable technology center at Illinois. Also: Waste 360 (April 16), Moscow-Pullman Daily News (May 3), WSU News (April 29), India-West (San Leandro, Calif., May 15).

Soft robotics

Scientific American (May 2014) -- Girish Krishnan, an assistant professor in industrial and enterprise systems engineering at Illinois, is mentioned in an article "Shape-Shifting Things to Come," written by Sridhar Kota, his former advisor at the University of Michigan. As a graduate student, Krishnan and his colleagues conducted elastic-design research--soft robotics--inspired by animals that had no apparent skeletons (article appears on pages 58-65 of the magazine).

Smartphone sensors

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., May 1) -- According to a team of researchers from the U. of I., the University of South Carolina and Zhejiang University, signals produced by smartphones turn out to be so identifiable that it seems impossible to use them anonymously. “Even if you erase the app in the phone, or even erase and reinstall all software the fingerprint still stays inherent,” said Romit Roy Choudhury, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Illinois who led the team. “That’s a serious threat.” Also: EE Times India (Manila, Philippines, May 2), Deseret News (Salt Lake City, May 4), KTAR-FM (from The Deseret News, Salt Lake City; Phoenix, May 5).

View more In The News articles