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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August 2014 media appearances

Student entrepreneur

Times of India (Aug. 29) -- Call them India’s Restless Teenage Inc. Some are still in high school, some barely out of it; but they are already into fascinating ventures - a transaction platform for bitcoins, applications for Google Glass, and more. Take Kshitij Kumar, 18, who has just finished class XII from Khaitan Public School in Delhi, and is heading to the U. of I. for a degree in business and computer science. He started a magic tricks tutorial portal, called, when he was 10.

Venture capital for entrepreneurs

Chicago Tribune (Aug. 27) -- Over the past five years, 146 entrepreneurs with undergraduate degrees from the U. of I. have received venture-capital funding for businesses they’ve started, more than any other college in the state and ranking 12th worldwide, according to a new study.

Battery break-throughs

The Washington Post (Aug. 27) -- There’s an odd micro-trend playing out via news media and press releases that all but insists society is perpetually on the cusp of a battery revolution. Just last year, news broke that a new lithium-ion battery technology developed at Illinois was “2,000 times more powerful than comparable batteries.”

Optical amplifier design paves the way for power-on-a-chip applications

Nanowerk News (Aug. 26) -- By combining plasmonics and optical microresonators, researchers at Illinois have created a new optical amplifier (or laser) design, paving the way for power-on-a-chip applications. “We have made optical systems at the microscopic scale that amplify light and produce ultra-narrowband spectral output,” explained ECE professor J. Gary Eden, leader of the research team. “Their potential applications in medicine are exciting because the amplifiers are actuated (‘pumped’) by light that is able to pass through human skin. For this reason, these microsphere-based amplifiers are able to transmit signals from cells and buried biomedical sensors to electrical and optical networks outside the body.” Also: ScienceCodex (Aug. 26), R&D Magazine (Aug. 26), ScienceBlog (Aug. 26), ENC Magazine (Aug. 26), Science Daily (Aug. 26), Bio-Medicine (Aug. 26), Science Newsline/Technology (Aug. 26), Laser Focus World (Aug. 26), (Aug. 26), Laboratory Equipment (Aug. 27), Photonics (Aug. 27).

New ECE building opens

News-Gazette (Aug. 26) -- University of Illinois engineering students enjoyed their first day of classes in the $95 million Electrical and Computer Engineering building. The 230,000 square foot facility is almost double the size the ECE department's previous home, the 1940s-era Everitt Laboratory, which will be renovated for Department of Bioengineering. Designed to be net-zero energy user, with solar panels, low-energy lighting, efficient heating and cooling systems, plus, a soaring atrium designed as a community space for students and faculty, state-of-the-art design labs open to undergraduates, and 400-seat auditorium that is largest on north campus. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 27), PR Web (Sept. 17).

New glucose meter changes color

Phys.Org (Aug. 26) -- University of Illinois engineers are bringing a touch of color to glucose monitoring. The researchers, led by MatSE professor Paul Braun, developed a new continuous glucose monitoring material that changes color as glucose levels fluctuate, and the wavelength shift is so precise that doctors and patients may be able to use it for automatic insulin dosing  – something now possible using current point measurements like test strips. Also: ScienceBlog (Aug. 25), Business Standard (India, Aug. 27), Science Codex (San Jose, Calif., Aug. 26), Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 27), WCIA-TV (CBS, Champaign, Ill., Sept. 2).

Alumna at Google Security

Wired (New York, Aug. 26) – Illinois alumna Parisa Tabriz is one of those Google engineers who guard the company’s technologies against malicious attack – a white-hat hacker who seeks out security holes in the Internet’s most important operation. She discovered information security as an undergraduate at Illinois.

In memorium

Galesburg Register-Mail (Galesburg, Ill., Aug. 22) – Canton lost a hometown hero Thursday when Steve Nagel, 67, a Canton native, Illinois aerospace engineering alumnus, and former NASA astronaut, lost his two-year battle with cancer in Missouri.

Dark Energy Survey

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Aug. 18) -- Using the Dark Energy Camera, a 570-megapixel imaging device mounted on the Victor M. Blanco Telescope in Chile, the Dark Energy Survey’s five-year mission is to unravel the fundamental mystery of dark energy and its impact on our universe. Hundreds of thousands of individual images of the sky are being analyzed by thousands of computers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois, among others.

Electronic camouflage

Time (Aug. 19) -- Scientists have developed a color-changing device inspired by octopuses and their natural camouflaging techniques. The research, carried out by researchers at the University of Houston and an Illinois team led by John Rogers, a materials science and engineering professor, looked at how the skins of octopuses, squid and cuttlefish can change color so rapidly. Also: BBC News (Aug. 18), National Geographic (Aug. 18), Popular Mechanics (Aug. 18), Yahoo! News (Aug. 17), Gizmodo (Sydney, Aug. 19), News Ledge (Aug. 19), Nature World News (Aug. 19), Beta Boston (Aug. 19), Value Walk (Aug. 19), Argyll Free Press (Aug. 19), IEEE Spectrum (Aug. 18), Discovery News (Aug. 19), (Aug. 18), Tech Times (Aug. 19), Red Orbit (Aug. 19), Design & Trend (Aug. 18), Gulf Times (Aug. 19), Capital OCT (Aug. 19), Ubergizmo (Aug. 19), Northern Voices Online (Aug. 19), NBC News (Aug. 19), Wall Street OTC (Aug. 19), Headlines & Global News (Aug. 19), Daily Digest News (Aug. 19), Science Recorder (Aug. 19), Engineering & Technology Magazine (Aug. 19), KSHB-TV (Kansas City, KS, Aug. 19), Techsonia (Aug. 19), Angle Chronicle (Aug. 19), Canada News Journal (Aug. 19), Dehli Daily News (India, Aug. 19), Guardian Liberty Voice (Aug. 18), Newsweek (Aug. 19), The Christian Science Monitor (Aug. 19), Science News (Aug. 19), WRTV (Indianapolis, Aug. 19), Dumb-Out (Aug. 19), News Tonight Africa (Aug. 20), Latino Post (Aug. 19), Engadget (New York City, Aug. 19), Mashable (Aug. 19), Popular Science (New York, Aug. 20), Fox News (Aug. 21), Yahoo! News (from Business Insider; Aug. 21), Scientific American (8/22), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 22), WCBE-FM (NPR; Columbus, Ohio; Aug. 23).

Tokyo Flood Control

Bloomberg News (August 14) -- To control potential flooding as typhoons swamp subways, Tokyo government is spending 24.5 billion yen ($240 million) project to build a giant subterranean reservoir -- the city’s second of three -- to handle flood waters from the Furukawa river that winds through the area. “We decided the best approach was to go underground.” “Japan has no choice,” Marcelo H. Garcia, director of the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a phone interview. “With the lack of space they have, they have to come up with some ingenious way of doing this.”

DNA sequencing

Phys.Org (August 13) -- Gene-based personalized medicine has many possibilities for diagnosis and targeted therapy, but one big bottleneck: the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process. Now, researchers, led by Narayana Aluru, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois, have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available. Also: Nanotechnology News (August 13), Nanowerk (August 13), ScienceBlog (August 13), R & D Magazine (August 14), Bioscience Technology (August 14), (London, August 14), Controlled Environments Magazine (Brentwood, NY; August 15).

Research Park

The Chronicle of Higher Education (Aug. 13) -- Motorola shuttered its operations in Champaign in 2007, leaving behind a team of engineers and empty offices in the University of Illinois Research Park. The jettisoned employees wanted to stay in Illinois, setting off a scramble for their services. With University officials playing matchmaker, several companies jockeyed to win the team.

Job creator

Chicago Tribune (Aug. 13) -- Dag Kittlaus, the Chicago-area visionary who helped give the world Siri, has been working on Viv, an artificial intelligence system that could become the indispensable electronic personal assistant that Apple’s Siri has never quite managed to be. He is a big supporter of Chicago-based UI Labs, an effort affiliated with the U. of I. that seeks to turn academic research into the kind of lucrative ventures that create jobs.

Alumnus Max Levchin

San Jose Mercury News (California, Aug. ) -- For Illinois alumnus Max Levchin, the once-shy and at times off-putting whiz kid who co-founded PayPal, his early success has become his biggest burden. The entrepreneur and investor says he will rest only when he has another startup that matches the success of PayPal.

Venom as cancer-fighter (Isle of Man, Aug. 11) -- Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, Illinois scientists, led by Dipanjan Pan, a bioengineering professor, will report today. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins would otherwise cause. Also: The Telegraph (UK, August 11), Drug Discovery & Development (August 11), Business Insider Austrailia (August 11), Nanowerk News (August 12), CNN (August 12), Science Update (AAAS podcast, August 12), (August 12), International Business Times-India Edition (August 12), Lab Manager Magazine (August 11), Net News Ledger (August 12), Laboratory Equipment (August 12), TheHealthSite (August 12), WDIV-TV (Detroit, August 12), (August 12), Entomology Today (August 11), TIME (August 13), CBS News (August 13), Nature World News (August 12), WREG-TV (Memphis, August 12), WEAR-TV (N.W. Florida/S. Alabama; from CNN, August 13), KMOX-TV (St. Louis, August 13), Monthly Prescribing Reference (August 12), FierceDrugDelivery (August 13), Tech Times (August 12), Red Orbit (August 13), Huffington Post UK (August 12), News on Wellness (August 13), Hindu Business Line (India, August 13), The American Bazaar (August 12), KDVR-TV (from CNN, Denver, August 12), WIBW-13 TV (from CNN; Topeka, Kan., Aug. 14), Chemical & Engineering News (Washington, D.C., Aug. 18), PBS Newshour (Aug. 18), Newsweek (Aug. 20), Metro (Sept. 30).

Tank car spill concern

Merced Sun-Star (California, Aug. 10) -- An analysis of the two planned 50-car daily oil trains between the California communities of Roseville and Benicia concluded that an oil spill could be expected to happen once every 111 years. Christopher Barkan, an Illinois professor of civil and environmental engineering, authored the report.

Transportation planning

Rockford Register-Star (Rockford, Ill., Aug. 10) -- Walk Score says downtown Rockford is “somewhat walkable,” but “almost all errands” require a car in west-side neighborhoods. “We need to include all neighborhoods” when planning for better transportation, says Yanfeng Ouyang, an Illinois professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We cannot leave anybody out.”

Alumnus creates website to support those with serious illness

News & Observer (from the News-Gazette; Raleigh, N.C., Aug. 9) -- Now three summers past her cancer treatments, Illinois engineering alumna Mallory Casperson, 28, has started an online magazine called Lacuna Loft that provides lifestyle support and ideas to help young adults going through cancer and other serious illness.

Want a Tech Job? Advice...

The Washington Post (August 8) -- Advice on how to prepare, from Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr and more. Mayank Jain will be a junior this fall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is working this summer at a startup in San Francisco, helping to develop an iPhone app. He said he wants to launch his own startup after college and was impressed with UI’s strong computer science department and “spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.” (He’s also quick to point out that Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, and Mark Levchin and Luke Nosek, PayPal founders, attended UI.) “The old paradigm of education was that you get good at one thing and you do that one thing for the rest of your life,” Jain says. “Nowadays, students don’t know what jobs are going to exist in the next two to three years. It’s becoming less and less important to teach specific things and more important to teach how to think critically and solve problems.”

Handheld biosensor

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (New Rochelle, N.Y., Aug. 6) -- Illinois researchers, led by Brian Cunningham, have developed a cradle and app for the iPhone to make a handheld biosensor that uses the phone’s own camera and processing power.

Cancer cell mechanics

Nanotechnology Now (August 6) -- Some particularly enterprising cancer cells can cause a cancer to spread to other organs, called metastasis, or evade treatment to resurface after a patient is thought to be in remission. The Illinois team, lead by MechSE professor Nigh Wang, along with colleagues in China, found that these so-called tumor-repopulating cells may lurk quietly in stiffer cellular environments, but thrive in a softer space. "The importance of knowing these mechanisms is that we now have targets that we didn't have before, specific targets for new types of drugs that will interfere with this renewal pathway. It could give us a new avenue for treatment and preventing relapse," Wang said. Also: Drug Discovery & Development (August 6), ScienceBlog (August 6), Medical Xpress (August 7), Bioscience Technology (August 7), (August 8), Bioscience Technology (August 7).

Miss Possible

Motherboard (Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug. 5) -- An engineering alumna from Illinois launched an Indiegogo campaign to create a “Miss Possible” doll meant to inspire girls to consider a range of possible fields. The dolls mimic real historical female role models, like Ada Lovelace. It’s raised $65,000 of its $75,000 funding goal with 12 days left. Also: Daily Beast (Aug. 11), Chicago Tribune (Aug. 15), Co.Exist (New York, Aug. 18), Huffington Post (August 18), TakePart (Los Angeles, Aug. 19).

Related story: Entrepreneur (Irvine, Calif., Aug. 28) -- Illinois students Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves, co-founders of Miss Possible Dolls, have been named two of the “Four Startup Founders Under 30 to Keep an Eye On.”

Intelliwheels receives NIH grant

MFRtech (Aug. 5) -- A $1.5-million grant will enable IntelliWheels, Inc. to advance development of ultra-lightweight, multi-geared wheels for manual wheelchairs. This new innovation will further wheelchair functionality, allowing manual wheelchair users to be more physically active and increase their independence, health and well-being. IntelliWheels originated as an engineering student start-up from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is headquartered at the University's Research Park. Also: Sys-Con Media (Aug. 6), BioSpace (Aug. 6), Broadway World (Aug. 6), News-Gazette (Aug. 8), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 11), The Accelerator (ASEE student news blog, Aug. 14).

Mini-train promotes safety

WCIA-TV (CBS, August 4) -- CN Railroad is using a miniature train to educate people about railway safety. Their train, called Little Obie is touring the UI Engineering campus to teach people about the dangers of trespassing on railroad property and safety at crossings. A big draw for families, Little Obie's appearance is part of a conference being held at the University. Also: News-Gazette (photos, August 6).

Railway research center

Rail Track & Structures (August 4) -- Rail safety and innovation has been given an even greater emphasis at the federal level these days. The Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), based in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is at the heart of cutting edge research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and other public and private sponsors.

Energy conversion

Oil & Gas Technology (London, Aug. 4) -- Scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago have synthesized a catalyst that improves their system for converting waste carbon dioxide into syngas, a precursor of gasoline and other energy-rich products. Brian Rose and Richard Haasch of the U. of I., and Wei Zhu of Dioxide Materials in Champaign are co-authors of the study published July 30 in the journal Nature Communications.

Cheap solar cells

Technology Review (August 6) -- Stacking different semiconducting materials that collect different frequencies of light—could provide nearly as much of an increase in efficiency as any radical new design. And a new manufacturing technique, developed by MatSE professor John Rogers could soon make this approach practical. Semprius, co-founded by Rogers in 2006, is commercializing ultrahigh efficiency photovoltaic modules, and has sold units that are now in operation at 14 sites around the world.

Ebola screening

National Journal (August 1) -- "The nature of Ebola makes it similar to, but also different than traditional aviation threats. Aviation security protects against the flight on hand, while screening for Ebola has a longer footprint to display and protect," Sheldon H. Jacobson a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois told Defense One. "A natural tendency, when limited information is available about from where the next threat will come, is to overestimate the overall risk in the system" Jacobson said in a statement around the time of the paper's release. Pre-screening passengers for Ebola on the basis of where the passenger has been and the likelihood of coming into contact with the disease is probably a more effective means to catch it than is trying to take the temperature of thousands of people with a camera, according to Jacobson. Also: Defense One (August 1), io9 (Aug. 4).

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