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 2015 media appearances

Nepal aid

USA Today College (April 30) -- Karan Usgaonkar, a sophomore studying computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, runs a non-governmental organization in Dubai called Rise for Nepal. It helps collect supplies needed by both the people of Nepal and the government from Dubai and Champaign-Urbana.

CS alumnus Marcin Kleczynski

Irish Times (April 30) -- Illinois alumnus Marcin Kleczynski is a Silicon Valley start-up veteran. The self-confessed internet security fanatic created his first piece of anti-virus software at 14, set up his first company – Malwarebytes – at 18, and had made his first million by 19. Last year he raised $30 million (€27 million) in venture capital funding for Malwarebytes. Today, he is opening the European, Middle Eastern and African (EMEA) headquarters of Malwarebytes in Cork, and he hasn’t even turned 26.

Using smartphone secrets

MIT Technology Review (April 28) -- Researchers are investigating whether recalling text messages, calls and Facebook likes could be a useful login strategy for cell phones. “Whenever there’s something you and your phone share and no one else knows, that’s a secret, and that can be used as a key,” says Romit Roy Choudhury, a professor at Illinois' Coordinated Science Lab and a co-author of a recent paper on the subject. 

Educational technology

Fortune (April 28) -- The beginnings of education technology have mirrored the advancement of tech itself. As computers got better and faster in the 1960s, colleges like the University of Illinois introduced computer terminals where students could access resources on a course and listen to pre-recorded lectures.

ILLIAC inspired HAL

Fusion (April 25) -- Illinois' ILLIAC inspired the Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic computer, more commonly known as HAL, in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 sci-fi thriller 2001: A Space Odyssey. Conceived at Illinois in the '50s and '60s, the room-sized behemoth was the most powerful number-crunching machine of its time.

State Farm research center

Bloomington Pantagraph (April 24) -- State Farm opened its Research and Development Center in Champaign in 2005 not only as a research resource but also as a place to develop and recruit future employees with skills the company needs. The center has succeeded “beyond our wildest dreams,” Greg Hayward, State Farm assistant vice president and actuary, said this week at a celebration of the center's 10-year partnership with the University of Illinois. Also: ASEE FirstBell (April 29).

Transistor encasing method

R&D Magazine (April 21) -- University of Illinois researchers, led by ECE professor Joseph Lyding, have developed a more effective method for closing gaps in atomically small wires  further opening the doors to a new transistor technology. Also: ScienceBlog (April 20), Phys.Org (Isle of Man, April 21), Nanowerk News (Honolulu, April 21), IConnect007 (April 21), Product Design & Development (May 11).

Super-fast MRI technique demonstrated with a song

CNET (San Francisco, Calif., April 21) -- Now, a new way of taking magnetic resonance imaging videos will allow researchers to study exactly how all the parts of the neck and face work together in perfect harmony to produce beautiful music. "The fact that we can produce all sorts of sounds and we can sing is just amazing to me," says Aaron Johnson, affiliate faculty member in the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at the Beckman Institute and assistant professor in speech and hearing science at Illinois. Also: Scicasts (Leicester, England, April 21), ABC News (April 22), Zee News (April 22), News-Medical (April 22), Medical Xpress (April 22), Daijiworld (India, April 22), Sierra Leone Times (April 22), Business Times (April 22), (April 22), The Washington Post (Video, April 22), Gizmodo (April 22), Engadget (April 22), Business Insider (April 29).

Colliding black hole simulations

Nature (London, April 20) -- Researchers now report that, for the first time, they have simulated the collision of two supermassive black holes using a full-blown treatment of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, allowing a 3D portrayal of these disks of magnetized matter. Stuart Shapiro of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently presented movies of the simulations at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, Maryland. Also: i09 (April 21), Huffington Post (April 22), Zee News (April 22), News-Medical (April 22), Business Standard (April 22), Medical Xpress (April 21).

$12 million dollar gift launches Lu Center

News-Gazette (April 17) -- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign today announced a $12 million commitment from alumnus Sidney Lu to build the Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation within the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE). Construction on the five-story addition to the Mechanical Engineering Building will begin in early 2017. Also: WCIA-TV (Champaign, April 17), The Chicago Tribune (from The Associated Press, April 18), The State (Columbia, SC, from AP), Daily Illini (April 18), Higher Ed Development Dialogs (April 20).

New DNA lab technique

R&D Magazine (April 17) -- By combining two highly innovative experimental techniques, scientists at Illinois have for the first time simultaneously observed the structure and the correlated function of specific proteins critical in the repair of DNA, providing definitive answers to some highly debated questions, and opening up new avenues of inquiry and exciting new possibilities for biological engineering. Also: ECN Magazine (April 17), ScienceBlog (April 17), Nanowerk (April 17), AZoNano (Warriewood, New South Wales, April 20), Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News (New York, April 20).

Asian carp management model

Phys.Org (April 16) -- Asian carp are migrating towards the Great Lakes and are threatening to invade this ecosystem, creating is an immediate need to control their population. The FluEgg model, developed by University of Illinois researchers in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey examines a range of multiple flow and water temperature scenarios to help determine the best methods to control the invasive species. Also: ScienceBlog (April 16), (Rockaway, N.J., April 22).

NPRE alumnus to command USS Annapolis

The Dolphin (April 16) -- Cmdr. Kurt Balagna relieved Cmdr. Chester Parks as commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) during a change of command ceremony held at Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE), April 2. Balagna, a native of Farmington, Ill., enlisted in the Navy in April 1992 as a Nuclear Electronics Technician. In 1997, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois and received his commission through the ROTC scholarship program.

Winning language app

Chicago Inno (April 15) -- Languallama -- an app that connects users who want to learn languages -- came out of the second annual Campus 1871, a weekend-long hackathon for students from 1871's college partners. Last weekend, 84 students from Illinois and other Chicago area schools attended the event, which also featured start up specific workshops with local tech leaders.

Dark matter maps

NPR (April 14) -- Scientists have released the first of several dark matter maps of the cosmos. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois processed the data that went into the map. Also: International Business Times (Australia, April 14), (April 14), BBC News (April 13), Gizmodo (April 14), Scientific American (blog, April 14), KPBS-89.5 FM (NPR; San Diego, Calif., April 14), Fermilab (April 13), Science360 (NSF, April 17).

Engineer Guy on soda can design

The Christian Science Monitor (April 14) -- How did today’s soda/beer can design become standard? A new video from Bill Hammack, a professor of chemical engineering at Illinois who has a YouTube channel called “engineerguy,” explains the science of how the modern soda can came to be. Also: Popular Mechanics (April 15), Technabob (April 16).

Computer science

Fox Business (April 13) -- Chicago, part of the region known as “Silicon Prairie,” has seen its internet companies, including Groupon, Gogo and GrubHub, grow from startup to IPO. There is a strong educational system in the region. Institutions such as Northwestern and Illinois have been producing top engineering talent. Illinois has “one of the best computer science programs in the country,” Tech Cocktail CEO Eric Olson says.

Self-healing buildings

The Huffington Post (April 9) -- Self-healing metals and polymers could prevent buildings from disintegrating. Last year, Illinois engineers tested a self-healing polymer that mimics biological healing, automatically filling in damaged areas within 20 minutes and restoring mechanical function within a few hours.

Material evolution

R&D Magazine (April 9) -- Just as a delicate balance of ingredients determines the tastiness of a cookie or cake, the specific ratio of metals in an alloy determines desirable qualities of the new metal, such as improved strength or lightness. In a study recently published in the journal Nature Communications, the team – including Yang Zhang of Illinois – focused on the structural evolution of the alloy Al1.3CoCrCuFeNi, from the high-temperature liquid to room temperature solid. Also: AZoNano (Warriewood, New South Wales, April 13).

Brain imaging

Medical Xpress (Isle of Man, April 9) -- Researchers at Illinois' Beckman Institute have utilized the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facilities available in Beckman's Biomedical Imaging Center to measure the moment-to-moment variability in brain activity, more specifically in the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal.

CS Alumnus leads Informatica to $5.3 billion buyout

New York Times (April 8) -- The enterprise software company Informatica has agreed to be taken private in a $5.3 billion deal — the largest buyout so far this year. Sohaib Abbasi, the Informatica chairman and chief executive, “has built a great company with a market-leading product portfolio, and today he and his board have delivered truly outstanding value to shareholders,” Jesse Cohn, the hedge fund’s head of equity activism in the United States. Abbasi is an Illinois computer science alumnus. In 2012, he was inducted into the College of Engineering Hall of Fame and served as the College's commencement ceremony.

Improving nanotube usefulness

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, April 7) -- The exceptional properties of carbon nanotubes have tantalized researchers for years because of the possibility they could be used to make smaller, faster and cheaper electronic devices. A big barrier to building useful electronics with carbon nanotubes has always been the fact that when they're arrayed into films, a certain portion of them will act more like metals than semiconductors – an unforgiving flaw that fouls the film. Now Illinois professor John Rogers and a team of researchers have shown how to strip out the metallic carbon nanotubes from arrays using a relatively simple, scalable procedure that does not require expensive equipment.


The New York Times (April 6) -- Last year there were some 40 intercollegiate hackathons. This year more than 150 are expected, according to Jon Gottfried, a founder of Major League Hacking. The company, often called the NCAA of college hackathons, provides guidelines and resources for student organizers and ranks colleges based on their students’ overall performance during fall and spring. Last fall, the top school was Illinois. Also: ASEE FirstBell (April 7).

Physics Standard Model

Bloomberg (April 2) -- The Standard Model of physics is what scientists consider their working picture of how fundamental particles behave and interact. But it “has some holes in it,” says Verena Martinez Outschoorn, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois. “We know that our worldview, our model, our understanding of particles and their interactions is kind of a subset of a bigger picture,” she says. “We have reason to believe there are other particles out there.”

Science article regards engineering as new medical frontier

Science magazine (April 2) -- Focus article for this special edition, co-written by BioE department head Rashid Bashir, notes that the inclusion of engineering ideas and approaches makes medicine a quantitative and systems-based discipline that facilitates precision diagnostics and therapeutics to improve health care delivery for all. One option, a new engineering-based medical education paradigm is represented by the establishment of a college of medicine at Illinois in partnership with Carle Foundation Hospital, focused from the beginning on the intersection of engineering and medicine.

Engineering-centric College of Medicine

Chicago Inno (April 1) -- As technology continues to drive the latest developments and discoveries in the field of medicine, physicians and medical professionals are starting to double as engineers, relying heavily on next-gen tech to operate. That's why Illinois is officially moving forward with the country's first college of medicine that's focused on the intersection of engineering and medicine, the university's first new college in 60 years. Also: National Insitutes of Health (Apirl 3).

Scientific writing

Slate (New York, April 1) -- As a group, scientists are not widely admired for their prose style. To no small extent, this derives from their insistence on the passive voice. Nevertheless, the style has its defenders: Two experts in scientific style recently took to Reddit to debate the convention, taking positions for and against the passive voice in scientific writing. Celia Elliott, a grant writing specialist in the Department of Physics at Illinois, took a stand on behalf of the passive voice, but to do so she first had to explain it.

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