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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December 2015 media appearances

Swipe Out Hunger

Chicago Tribune (Dec. 31) -- Illinois may soon join Northwestern University on Swipe Out Hunger, where excess credits on students' university meal cards are converted to food pantry donations. Samantha Barnes, 20, a junior chemical engineering major at the school, is pitching the idea of a chapter there. Like Northwestern, Illinois' dining services administrators support the concept but worry about lost revenue, she says.

New interdisciplinary design center

Chicago Inno (Dec. 28) -- UIUC is building a home for design thinking on campus, set to open December 2018. The Design Center, which was approved by the University's board of trustees in September and has been going through town hall meetings with stakeholders through December, is going to be a 60,000 square foot space created specifically with design thinking, creativity, and making in mind. They hope bringing the right students together with the right resources can spark inspiration for the next social impact innovations. Also: News-Gazette (Dec. 27), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 29).

Featured faculty

Chicago Inno (Dec. 22) -- Mechanical science and engineering researchers at Illinois, John Rogers and Naira Hovakimyan, are included in a list of researchers that wowed us in 2015.

Teacher of the Year

Big Ten Network (Dec. 21) -- Someone who’d just earned a “Professor of the Year” award from a national teaching organization would be justified in feeling a swelled sense of pride and accomplishment. But Illinois professor Mats Selen, who received just such an honor, definitely hasn’t let it go to his head.

Aquifers and the food chain

The New York Times (Dec. 21) -- Megan Konar, an engineer at Illinois, is among the experts eager to see California lead the world toward more sustainable methods. Recent research she did with a graduate student, Landon Marston, found that 18.5 percent of the American grain supply, an essential link in the food chain, is coming from parts of the country where the aquifers are being depleted.


Motherboard (Dec. 20) -- Earlier this year, researchers at Illinois collected information from Samsung Gear Live smartwatches to make alarmingly accurate guesses about what volunteers wearing them had typed.

Ultra-high solar energy conversion

ScienceBlog (Dec. 18) -- Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in collaboration with AMI Research and Development, LLC (AMI), have developed advanced technology supporting an ultra-high—greater than 65 percent—solar energy conversion system. With the current emphasis on the fast-track development of clean-energy projects to combat global warming, these advancements provide a head start towards marketable solutions.

Single drop biosensor

R&D Magazine (Rockaway, N.J., Dec. 18) -- Teams of researchers from Illinois have demonstrated a biosensor capable of counting the blood cells electrically using only a drop of blood.

Mobile device security

National Science Foundation (Dec. 17) -- A National Science Foundation-funded push to make mobile devices used for medical technology and health records more secure includes experts in computer science, business, behavioral health, health policy and health care information technology from Illinois and five other universities. THaW researchers, led by Klara Nahrstedt at Illinois, conducted three studies of the mHealth apps in Google Play to determine how common apps handle medical data. They found a variety of vulnerabilities that a malicious party could exploit to gain access to sensitive data. Perhaps more significantly, they found that many apps send sensitive information over the Internet in ways that are fundamentally insecure. Also: Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Dec. 18).

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THaW researchers led by Klara Nahrstedt at UIUC conducted three studies of the mHealth apps in Google Play to determine how common apps handle . They found a variety of vulnerabilities that a malicious party could exploit to gain access to sensitive data. Perhaps more significantly, they found that many apps send sensitive information over the Internet in ways that are fundamentally insecure.

Read more at:
Personal safety app

Gulf News India (Dec. 16) -- Illinois student Shashank Yaduvanshi is part of a team that has developed a women's safety app "Pukar" which has now become a hit with women in India.

CS alumnus' startup

Fortune (Dec. 16) -- Bo Lu, an Illinois alumnus who graduated with a computer science degree, co-founded FutureAdvisor, an online investment platform that uses algorithms to direct users’ savings to diversified exchange-traded funds.

Robot jazz

Science Node (Dec. 16) -- Ben Grosser, a professor of new media in the School of Art and Design and an affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is designing a computer system that will communicate with humans through jazz improvisation and provide insight into artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction.

Topological materials

Physics (Dec. 14) -- Illinois physicist Taylor Hughes explains the creative rewards of working in the new and active field of topological materials.

College of Medicine

The Pantagraph (from the Associated Press; Bloomington, Ill., Dec. 11) -- Illinois has formed a committee to build the core curriculum of its new engineering-based medical school.

Baseball physics

Boston Herald (Opinion, Dec. 10) -- Alan Nathan, a retired physics professor at Illinois who specializes in baseball speed-and-light matters, explains reaction times.

Affirmative Action in admissions

Chicago Sun-Times (Opinion, Dec. 10) -- “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked during oral arguments of Fisher v. University of Texas, a case on affirmative action brought by a white student who says the university denied her admission because of her race. I posed Roberts’ question to Illinois physics professor Philip Phillips, an African American well regarded internationally for his work in a field that would leave most of us dizzy because of its complexities.

Bacterial decision-making

Phys.Org (Dec. 8) -- For bacteria that swim, determining whether to stay the course or head in a new direction is vital to survival. A new study offers atomic-level details of the molecular machinery that allows swimming bacteria to sense their environment and change direction when needed. The study, reported in the journal eLife, represents a major step in understanding the “bacterial brain,” said University of Illinois physics professor Klaus Schulten, who led the new research. Also: R&D Magazine (Dec. 8), ScienceBlog (Dec. 8), Bioscience Technology (Rockaway, New Jersey, Dec. 9), SciCasts (Dec. 9), Science 360 (NSF, Dec. 10).

Portable sensor for eye injuries

Phys.Org (Dec. 8) -- An engineer and an ophthalmologist are working together to develop a portable sensor that can quickly and inexpensively determine whether an eye injury is mild or severe. The device, called OcuCheck, works by measuring levels of vitamin C in the fluids that coat or leak from the eye. The sensor could speed efforts to determine the extent of eye injuries at accident sites, in rural areas lacking ophthalmology specialists or on the battlefield. Also:  R&D Magazine (Dec. 8), International Business Times (Australia, Dec. 9), ScienceBlog (Dec. 8), The Health Site (India, Dec. 9), (Dec. 9), (India, Dec. 9), Gizmag (Dec. 9), NDTV (India, Dec. 9), Controlled Environments Magazine (Dec. 9), The Hans Engineer (India, Dec. 10), The Asian Age (India, Dec. 10), IBN Live (India, Dec. 10), PC Tablet (India, Dec. 10), Chicago Inno (Dec. 10).

Material lets the light shine through

Nanowerk (Dec. 9) -- Light and electricity dance a complicated tango in devices like LEDs, solar cells and sensors. A new anti-reflection coating developed by engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, lets light through without hampering the flow of electricity, a step that could increase efficiency in such devices. Also: Phys.Org (Dec. 9), ScienceBlog (Dec. 8), R&D Magazine (Dec. 9), Science 360 (NSF, Dec. 10), New Electronics (UK, Dec. 10), (Dec. 10), Solid State Technology (Dec. 10), The Engineer (UK, Dec. 10), LEDinside (Dec. 11).

Novel "popping bubbles" cancer treatment

Phys.Org (Dec. 7) -- In an interdisciplinary university-industry collaboration led by BioE assistant professor Dipanjan Pan has discovered a novel method for repositioning an FDA-approved anti-cancer compound so it can specifically target liver cancer tumors. A “triple attack” technique combining chemotherapy, thermal ablation, and hyperthermia provided a highly targeted, yet minimally invasive approach. Also: Science Daily (Dec. 7), Nanowerk (Dec. 7), ScienceBlog (Dec. 7), The Engineer (UK, Dec. 8), News-Medical (Dec. 8), Engadget (Dec. 8), Gizmag (Dec. 8), Tech Times (Dec. 10), Gizmag (Dec. 10).


Chicagoan (Dec. 7) -- Four Urbana-Champaign startups--OceanComm, Agrible, IntelliWheels, and Quicket--are listed among the "10 Illinois Startups To Watch Based Outside Of Chicago."

Related story: Chicago Inno (Dec. 14) -- It's been a big year for Chicago Kickstarters in 2015. The 10 most funded projects raised almost $14 million combined, including three projects that raised over $1 million on their own. One of those is SNOOZ, a white noise machine launched by an Illinois alumnus.


Cosmos Magazine (Australia, Dec. 7) -- In the 1990s, researchers discovered the sense of magnetism in birds was linked to light perception – several species of birds can only detect magnetic fields in ultraviolet to green wavelengths. “Perhaps they see some kind of pattern superimposed on their normal vision, a certain shadow,” says Klaus Schulten, a biophysicist at Illinois.

Hydrogen peroxide

Chemical and Engineering News Magazine (Washington, D.C., Dec. 7) -- A study by Illinois chemical engineers Neil M. Wilson and David W. Flaherty reveals a mechanism for the direct reaction between hydrogen and oxygen on palladium nanoclusters.

Robotic Health Aides

New York Times (Dec. 4) -- MechSE professor Naira Hovakimyan recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the idea of designing small autonomous drones to perform simple household chores, like retrieving a bottle of medicine from another room. Dr. Hovakimyan acknowledged that the idea might seem off-putting to many, but she believes that drones will not only be safe, but will become an everyday fixture in elder care within a decade or two. Also: The Huffington Post (Opinion, Dec. 14), Australian Financial Review (Dec. 7), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 7).

Young entrepreneurs

Chicago Inno (Dec. 4) -- Chicago, get ready for Shark Tank, campus-style. On Monday evening, Chicago entrepreneurship nonprofit Future Founders is hosting the U.Pitch Elevator Pitch Competition and Showcase, a national pitch competition for top student startup founders. Competitors include Illinois students like David Kirby, for his startup ChairDrop, and Thomas Reese, for his app FlipWord.

Related stories: Chicago Tribune (Dec. 9) -- The Future Founders second annual U.Pitch College Elevator Pitch Competition was held in Chicago Monday. One finalist was Thomas Reese, an Illinois student and founder of FlipWord, a passive foreign language learning tool that replaces a few words on websites with those of a foreign language of the user’s choosing.

Chicago Inno (Dec. 14) -- Recently launched student startups (either current students or graduated in 2015) to watch in 2016 are Anansi, MakerGirls and Kofman Technologies.

CNBC (Dec. 22) -- For four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., about 77 percent of public and private not-for-profit institutions offer entrepreneurship courses. That's according to research from Illinois on behalf of the Kauffman Foundation, which tracks entrepreneurship.

DNA as data storage system

The New York Times (Dec. 3) -- In two recent experiments, a team of computer scientists at the University of Washington and Microsoft, and a separate group at the University of Illinois, have shown that DNA molecules can be the basis for an archival storage system potentially capable of storing all of the world’s digital information in roughly nine liters of solution -- about the amount of liquid in a case of wine. The Illinois scientists--including faculty researchers Jian Ma (BioE)Huimin Zhao (ChemE), and Olgica Milenkovic (ECE)--were able to encode parts of the Wikipedia pages of six universities, and then select and edit parts of the text written in DNA corresponding to three of the colleges. CS alumni Luis Ceze and Karin Strauss were researchers on this project. Also: Houston Chronicle (from NY Times, Dec. 3).

Alumna on Crain's 40 under 40 list

Crain's Chicago Business (Dec. 2) -- CS alumna Joanna Parke is one of Crain's Chicago Business's 40 under 40! Read all about the programmer-turned-project manager and hear her describe her hidden talent.

Dark matter

Physics (Dec. 2) -- Researchers at Illinois have proposed to look inside dark matter spikes induced by the gravitational pull of supermassive black holes. Such measurements could test so-called p-wave dark matter models. Also: Physical Review Letters (original abstract, Dec. 2).

Retaining tech talent in Illinois

Chicago Inno (Dec. 1) -- Lately, there's been a lot of talk about Chicago's tech community and its perceived flaws. But how bad is brain drain really? According to the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, more than two-thirds (68%) of startups founded in Illinois universities from 2009 to 2014 remain in the state today. The ISTC's study found that a total of 576 university startups were created during that time, and 78% are active today. Looking specifically at University of Illinois' engineering students, almost half of all graduates (47%) stay in state, with the next biggest recipient of talent being California at 10%. This migration isn't necessarily surprising given that Illinois' engineering program is ranked 4th in the world. College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris noted that companies from all over the world vie for these grads, and students often have their choice of many strong offers out of school.

Wearable electronics now

Nature (Dec. 1) -- Next-generation devices are designed to function alongside tissue, rather than be isolated from it like most pacemakers and other electronic devices already used in the body. But making this integration work is no easy feat, especially for materials scientists--including MatSE professor John Rogers--who must shrink circuits radically, make flexible and stretchable electronics that are imperceptible to tissue, and find innovative ways to create interfaces with the body. Also: Scientific American (Dec. 1), MobiHealth News (Dec. 2), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 3).

See a single photon

APS News (Dec.) -- According to Rebecca Holmes--a physics graduate student on Paul Kwiat's quantum optics team--her group’s research has already provided evidence that humans are capable of seeing a burst of several photons.

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