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 2015 media appearances

Hepatitis C research

Medical Xpress (Nov. 30) -- Borrowing from several statistical science models, an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Andrew Ferguson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has developed a novel computational approach for massively accelerating the search for a hepatitis C vaccine. Also: ScienceBlog (Nov. 30).

Simulating supernovas

Inverse (Nov. 30) -- Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley used supercomputer simulations of a 10 millisecond collapse of a massive star into a neutron star to demonstrate how hypernovas can generate the magnetic fields necessary for a star to suddenly explode and emit thunderous bursts of gamma rays that can be seen halfway across the universe. The simulations took place at Blue Waters, one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, located at Illinois. Also: Space Daily (Dec. 2).

Bones as architectural model

Wired (Nov. 30) -- Nature can find its way into structural design, with human bones as an architectural model. “We would never build a bridge out of diamond, not because it’s expensive but because it’s so brittle,” says Ahmed Elbanna, a civil engineer at Illinois. “With the interest in biomimicry, it’s time to recognize that defects and disorder will be useful in construction."

Illinois team has edge in Hyperloop competition

Wall Street Journal (Nov. 30) -- Last January, Elon Musk announced plans to build a Hyperloop test track and hold a contest in summer 2016 at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The challenge? Create a functioning, half-scale pod. The Illinois team enters the SpaceX contest with a strong competitive edge. This is its fourth Hyperloop design project, the first dating to fall 2013, and the Hyperloop is now a part of the MechSE curriculum. The team has assembled an interdisciplinary network of faculty from aeronautical engineering, thermal dynamics, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and software. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 1).

Glucose meters track biomarkers

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 25) -- It is possible for people to use their personal glucose meters for the quantification of other biomarkers besides glucose in their blood, say scientists from Illinois. The Yi Lu research group wondered if it was possible to use this well-established electrochemical detection system for the quantification of other biomarkers as well, without major changes in its architecture or the chemicals used.

Intermediate Energy X-ray

Phys.Org (Nov. 23) -- The Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at Argonne National Laboratory, recently unveiled a new capability: the Intermediate Energy X-ray (IEX) beamline at sector 29. Like the formation of a new particle in a collider, it was the research trajectory of two scientists that forged the foundations for IEX beamline: Physicists Juan Carlos Campuzano of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Peter Abbamonte of the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign.

Engineer Guy: Betamax vs. VHS

NPR (Nov. 21) -- Sony will stop making Betamax tapes next year. Who knew they still were? VHS tapes dominated the market from the 1980s until the DVD, and they're now disappearing with downloads. Illinois engineering professor Bill Hammack joins NPR's Scott Simon to explain why Betamax lost to VHS.

The Engineer Guy: Nerf Blaster

Daily Mail (London, Nov. 19) -- If you were a child of the ‘90s, chances are you engaged in a little light warfare using a Nerf Blaster that fired soft foam darts. Now, ChemE professor and "Engineering Guy" Bill Hammack has explained the engineering behind the popular toy, including how it can fire spongy ammunition in such quick succession.

Professor of the Year

Inside Higher Ed (Nov. 19) -- The Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced today the four national and 35 state winners of their annual Professor of the Year Award. Mats Selen, a professor of physics at Illinois, was named Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year. Also: The Chronicle of Higher Education (Nov. 19), Phys.Org (Nov. 19), Newsroom America (Nov. 19), News-Gazette (Nov. 19).

Email security

Phys.Org (Nov. 19) -- Email security helps protect some of our most sensitive data: password recovery confirmations, financial data, confidential correspondences, and more. According to a new report, published by Michael Bailey, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan and Google, email security is significantly better than it was two years ago, but still has widespread issues. Also: ScienceBlog (Nov. 18), MediaPost (Nov. 20), TechRadar (Nov. 20).

Ecological extinction & turbulence

Phys.Org (Nov. 18) -- How does transitional turbulence die away? And what controls its lifetime? These questions have perplexed scientists ever since the first experiments were performed in 1883. Now, physicist Nigel Goldenfeld, graduate student Hong-Yan Shih, and former undergraduate student Tsung-Lin Hsieh at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a theoretical understanding of this laminar-turbulent transition that explains the lifetime of turbulent flows. Also: R&D Magazine (Nov. 18).

Robotic bats

Design & Trend (New York, Nov. 18) -- Researchers at Brown University found bats use a particular method to flip themselves back into flight mode. This kind of response could lead to the development of improved flying technologies, including drones. The researchers are adapting their research in collaboration with a team at Illinois to design a prototype for flying bat robots with soft flappable wings. Also: Christian Science Monitor (Nov. 17).

Electronic pain sensors

Discovery News (Nov. 17) -- Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and Illinois are covering new ground by implanting tiny LEDs under the skin to display where certain areas of the body are hurting. Also: MIT Technology Review (Nov. 16).

Jason's List (Nov. 17) -- Jason Yue, a 21-year-old engineering student at Illinois, was talking with his dorm chef, Eric, about super powers. Eric, 44, said if he could have any, he'd like to fly — a rather ironic wish considering he was afraid of heights and had never been on a plane. As part of a project called "Jason's List" where he helps grant people's wishes, Yue, a senior, decided to make flying a reality for Eric, who he'd been friends with since his freshman year at Presby Hall, where Eric works.

Material similarities

Phys.Org (Nov. 17) -- An extensive study by an interdisciplinary research group suggests that the deformation properties of nanocrystals are not much different from those of the Earth’s crust. Researchers representing a broad a range of disciplines contributed to the study, comparing five different experimental systems, on several different scales, with model predictions. The results should be useful for applications in materials testing, failure prediction, and hazard prevention. Also: Science Daily (Nov. 17), Science Blog (Nov. 17).

Computer science

USA Today (Nov. 17) -- Parents overwhelmingly believe that computer science skills will provide their children with bright employment futures, but for many of today’s students -- particularly girls -- that goal often seems out of reach. That’s one of the key takeaways from the second in an ongoing series of Gallup surveys commissioned by Google and released Tuesday.

Quantum mechanics and gravity

Nature (Nov. 16) -- In early 2009, determined to make the most of his first sabbatical from teaching, Mark Van Raamsdonk decided to tackle one of the deepest mysteries in physics: the relationship between quantum mechanics and gravity. He examined that relationship using mathematical tools introduced in 2006 by Shinsei Ryu, now at Illinois.

"Spooky" physics

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 12) -- Einstein was wrong about at least one thing: There are, in fact, "spooky actions at a distance," as now proven by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Researchers from Illinois and the University of Waterloo and University of Moncton in Canada helped perform the physics experiments.

Nanopores can filter salt from seawater

International Business Times (Australia, Nov. 12) -- A team of engineers has found a low-cost, energy-efficient material that could remove salt from seawater, which may lead to resolving the ongoing water crisis. The Illinois study, led by MechSE professor Narayana Aluru, has found that a nanometer-thick sheet of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) riddled with tiny holes called nanopores could filter through up to 70 percent more water than other materials. Also: Phys.Org (Nov. 11), ScienceBlog (Nov. 10), Science Alert (Nov. 12), domain-b (Nov. 12), Deccan Herald (India, Nov. 12), Business Insider (Nov. 12), The Engineer (Nov. 12), Controlled Environments (Nov. 12), Chicago Inno (Nov. 12), International Business Times AU (Austrailia, Nov. 12), Business Standard (Nov. 12), Yahoo News (Nov. 13), ASEE FirstBell (Nov. 13), Science 360 (Nov. 13), The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 15), Quartz (Nov. 13), Gizmag (Nov. 24), Tech Times (Nov. 30).

Internet contributors

The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 11) -- The Internet had many origins, but the three most cited contributors are the invention of the TCP/IP protocol (funded by DARPA), the invention of the World Wide Web (at CERN), and the creation of the Mosaic Web browser (at the U. of I.'s National Center for Supercomputing Applications).

Cosmology model

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 11) -- A new machine-learning simulation system developed at Illinois promises cosmologists an expanded suite of galaxy models – a necessary first step to developing more accurate and relevant insights into the formation of the universe. The feasibility of this method has been laid out in two recent papers written by astronomy, physics, and statistics professor Robert Brunner, his undergraduate student Harshil Kamdar, and National Center for Supercomputing Applications research scientist Matthew Turk. Also: Space Daily (Pasadena, Calif., Nov. 15).

CS alumn turns pizza entrepreneur

Seattle Weekly (Nov. 10) -- Argentina is hardly known for its pizza. Yet that’s where this story about the best deep-dish pie in Seattle, made by Illinois computer science alumnus David Lichterman, begins.

Alumnus' entrepreneurial success story

Recode (Opinion, Nov. 11) -- "It is hard to imagine that I would have been able to go on and found and invest in companies such as PayPal, Yelp and Affirm – which combined are employing thousands of other Americans – had I not had the fortune to attend the University of Illinois," writes Illinois alumnus Max Levchin.

MechSE alumnus to lead Minneapolis Fed bank

Los Angeles Times (Nov. 10) -- Neel Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official who was the Republican nominee for California governor in 2014, was named as the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.The MechSE alumnus is known nationally for running the $700-billion bank bailout initiative known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. After leaving the Treasury Department, Kashkari was managing director at Southern California bond fund giant Pacific Investment Management Co. Also: Federal Reserve of Minneapolis (Nov. 10), New York Times (Nov. 10), CNBC (Nov. 10), Wall Street Journal (Nov. 10), Bloomberg (Nov. 10), Forbes (Nov. 10), U.S. News and World Report (Nov. 10), Financial Times (Nov. 10).

HackIllinois project turns into startup

Smile Politely (blog, Nov. 10) -- “When roommates Mehul Goyal and Mayank Jain--both seniors in CS--got together for last year's HackIllinois competition they weren't necessarily trying to start a business out of the idea. Now the two developers are finishing up the project known as Shoutout, and are looking at a launch date coming this week.

Wireless technology combats pain

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 9) -- Building on wireless technology that has the potential to interfere with pain, scientists at Illinois and Washington University in St. Louis have developed flexible, implantable devices that can activate – and, in theory, block – pain signals in the body and spinal cord before those signals reach the brain.Because the new, smaller, devices are flexible and can be held in place with sutures, they also may have potential uses in or around the bladder, stomach, intestines, heart or other organs, according to co-principal investigator John A. Rogers, professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois. Also: (Nov. 9), Science World Report (Nov. 10), (original article, Nov.), Laboratory Equipment (Nov. 9), Tech Times (Nov. 11), Popular Mechanics (Nov. 10).

UI Labs

Chicago Tribune (Nov. 9) -- The digital manufacturing institute on Goose Island is in fast-growth mode, putting UI Labs CEO Caralynn Nowinski Collens and her staff on an accelerated path to change. The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute is the first lab in UI Labs’ public-private effort to support manufacturing research and development. It recently awarded its first five research contracts – a huge step in UI Labs’ vision to transform industry.

Related Story: Chicago Tribune (Nov. 9) -- DMDII branch to open in Rockford, Illinois.


Chicago Tribune (Nov. 6) -- The U. of I. began a teaching program called Plato, using what were then advanced computers. Plato stood for Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations and was far different from the teaching methods of Plato the man. At the time, however, it was thought that the introduction of computers in the classroom would revolutionize education.

Big Data (Nov. 5) -- In a study of Big Data, researchers at Illinois found that the largest astronomy labs, YouTube and the 20 largest human genomics labs currently require about 100 petabytes of additional storage per year. (Twitter only adds about a half a petabyte of storage a year.) 

IntelliWheels (Nov.) -- Product feature on IntelliWheels' Fit Grips, a wheelchair accessory that provides extra grip on the pushing surface leaving the underside exposed for fine adjustments and braking. Scott Daigle, who earned both B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical science and engineering, is co-founder and CEO of IntelliWheels, an innovation house for wheelchair technology.

"Crumpling" nano-material improves sensitivity

Phys.Org (Nov. 4) -- By "crumpling" to increase the surface area of graphene-gold nanostructures, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have improved the sensitivity of these materials, opening the door to novel opportunities in electronics and optical sensing applications. “One of the key advantages of our platform is its ability to shrink and adapt to complex 3D surfaces, a function that has not been previously demonstrated,” explained SungWoo Nam, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois. Also: R&D Magazine (Nov. 4), ScienceBlog (Nov. 4), Nanotechnology Now (Nov. 4).

By "crumpling" to increase the surface area of graphene-gold nanostructures, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have improved the sensitivity of these materials, opening the door to novel opportunities in electronics and optical sensing applications.

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Aviation security

Huffington Post (Nov. 2) -- CS/ISE Professor and airline security expert Sheldon Jacobson was interviewed in the wake of the Russian airliner crash in Egypt.

Related articles: WJLA-TV (ABC, Washington, DC, Nov. 11) -- Transportation Security Administration officials have acknowledged that a chaotic scene at a Miami airport recently was the result of officers not following proper procedures at a checkpoint. It was only the latest of several recent headlines that have raised doubts about the agency's effectiveness and spurred some calls for privatization of airport security. "When one overreacts...people start questioning, well, are they really doing their job," said Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois. Also: WTVC-9 TV (Chattanooga, Tenn., Nov. 11).

Chicago Daily Herald (Nov. 9) -- The government is enhancing security on flights bound for the U.S. from certain foreign airports, authorities announced. U.S. fliers can take heart that the "TSA has created the most hardened security infrastructure in the world," University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign aviation security expert Sheldon Howard Jacobson said.

University Of Illinois & Carle Health System sign research deal

News-Gazette (11/2) -- The University of Illinois “signed a 10-year research affiliation agreement with Carle Health System designed to spur new biomedical advances at the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine.” Carle also agreed to pay the University $1.5 million per year for services such as preparing grant proposals and overseeing compliance. Also: Daily Illini (Nov. 2), Becker's Hospital Review (Nov. 3), ASEE FirstBell (Nov. 4).


Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 2) -- The most insidious type of cyberattack that researchers are looking to thwart is one in which grid operators may themselves be unwitting participants. Cedric Langbort, an Illinois engineer who uses game theory to develop secure control algorithms, says the challenge is that "you don't know what you don't know." Also: ScienceBlog (Nov. 3), Scientific Computing (Oct. 30).

Related story: The Verge (New York, Nov. 13) -- In a recent blog post, Google unveiled the results of its research into email security. The joint study, which was conducted in partnership with Illinois and the University of Michigan over the course of two years, revealed promising results, showing increased reliance on encryption industry-wide. Also: NBC News (Nov. 13).

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