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 2015 media appearances

Combined molecular study

Science 360 (NSF, Aug. 31) -- Picture of the Day: Physics professors Taekjip Ha and Yann Chemla combined their expertise in single-molecule biophysics - fluorescence microscopy and optical traps, respectively - to study binding and unbinding of individual DNA segments to a larger strand.

Celebrating High School Innovators

Chicago Sun-Times (from The Associated Press; Aug. 29) -- Illinois is looking for high school students who are putting innovative ideas into action. The university is inviting students who live in the state and in grades nine to 12 to apply for the university’s “Celebrating High School Innovators” award.

Einstein's "entanglement" disproved

Popular Science (Aug. 29) -- Researchers from the Netherlands may have proved Einstein wrong regarding the concept of "entanglement" in quantum physics. “... there’s a 96 percent chance that they won the race (to disprove Einstein),” says Paul Kwiat, an experimental quantum physicist who works with photons at Illinois.

Building genomic platform to study E. coli

Chicago Inno (Aug. 27) -- E. coli breakouts occur every so often, and usually from everyday sources such as eating bad produce or undercooked meat. Illinois bioengineering professor Sergei Maslov believes the key to curing these outbreaks is at the gene-level.

Drone construction monitors

Mashable (Aug. 27) -- The workers building a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California are being monitored by aerial drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress. "We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high," says Mani Golparvar-Fard, a professor of civil engineering at Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues. Also: MIT Technology Review (Aug. 26), Popular Mechanics (Aug. 26), Construction Global (Aug. 26), Tech Times (Aug. 26), CNBC (Aug. 27), International Business Times (Aug. 27), Time (Aug. 27), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 28), Engadget (Aug. 29).

Blue Waters used to understand earthquakes

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Aug. 26) -- Earthquakes occur on a massive scale and often originate deep below the surface of the Earth, making them notoriously difficult to predict. The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) and its lead scientist, Thomas Jordan, use massive computing power at Illinois' Blue Waters supercomputer to improve our understanding of earthquakes. In doing so, SCEC is helping to provide long-term earthquake forecasts and more accurate hazard assessments.

New optical diagnostic method

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Aug. 26) -- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago researchers Hassaan Majeed, Mikhail Kandel, Kevin Han, Zelun Luo, Virgilia Macias, Krishnarao Tangella, Andre Balla, and Gabriel Popescu have develoed a new quantitative method for diagnosing breast cancer using spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM).

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago researchers Hassaan Majeed, Mikhail Kandel, Kevin Han, Zelun Luo, Virgilia Macias, Krishnarao Tangella, Andre Balla, and Gabriel Popescu report on a quantitative method for diagnosing using spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM).

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Hyperloop competition

Gizmodo (Aug. 26) -- The Hyperloop – a conceptual high-speed transportation system put forward by entrepreneur Elon Musk – is not real, but that won't keep it from being taught in colleges nationwide. Musk announced he would build a test track and host a design comptetion for the Hyperloop’s pods. Schools like Illinois are putting together teams to compete in the contest. Also: Business Insider (Aug. 26).

Determining molecular structure

Phys.Org (Aug. 25) -- Researchers, led by a team from the Beckman Institute at Illinois, combined the power of two computational programs to determine the atomic structure of the abiological molecule cyanostar. This breakthrough will allow researchers to investigate the structure of more abiological molecules, which are relatively unknown. Also: Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., Aug. 25).

Security in the cloud

Chicago Inno (Aug. 24) -- The US Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a $2 million grant to the Assured Cloud Computing University Center of Excellence, headed by CS professor Roy Campbell, to advance security in cloud computing. This is on top of a $4 million grant that the same center received from the Air Force in 2011. The aim is to ensure that mission-critical cloud computing remains secure and can complete tasks efficiently.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem

Inc. (New York, Aug. 21) -- There's a reason why more entrepreneurs are calling the Windy City home. Currently, Chicago hosts as many as 104 private companies on the Inc. 5000 (last year, it counted 95), landing second place on the list of Top Cities for Fast-Growing Companies. New tech talent comes from the U. of I., which graduates hundreds of engineers and computer scientists each year, and ranks as having the sixth-best engineering program nationwide.

Alumna on gender stereotyping

The Guardian (Aug. 21) -- A key investor in companies at the forefront of financial innovation, CS alumna Eileen Burbidge is concerned that gender stereotyping is a real problem – but despite a recent controversy over diversity in Silicon Valley, she does not feel being a woman in her industry has held her back.

Simulating real weather

The Weather Network (Aug. 20) -- There's movie special effects and then there's this: a new supercomputer visualization from Illinois that's so real, it actually blurs the line between simulation and reality.

Asteroid apocalypse?

Chicago Inno (Aug. 20) -- We've all seen the apocalypse movies: when an asteroid is about to hit, someone will come by with a laser at the last minute to explode the giant hunk of space rock about to destroy us all. Right? Well, not exactly, says Illinois aerospace professor Bruce Conway, who has been studying how to divert an asteroid that is heading toward our planet (something that will "100 percent" happen at "some time" he says).

Student winner

Racer Magazine (Irvine, Calif., Aug. 20) -- Infiniti has announced that an engineering student from Illinois is one of five global winners of the 2015 Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. For one year, Infiniti will provide 22-year-old Alex Allmandinger with the opportunity to work in Formula 1 with the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team.

Alumnus Levchin

Built-In Chicago (Aug. 19) -- There’s something refreshingly Midwestern about e-commerce giant PayPal. It might be that PayPal co-founder Max Levchin is an alumnus of Illinois. Or it could be their $800 million acquisition of Chicago darling Braintree (a few years before PayPal split from eBay just last month). Throw in today’s announcement that PayPal has acquired Modest, the reclusive brainchild of former Obama campaigners Harper Reed and Dylan Richard, and it’s not hard to see why.

Railroad Innovatin Center

The News-Gazette (Aug. 19) -- A ceremony marked the official opening of the railroad-focused Research and Innovation Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Esablished through grants and support from USDOT's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, the Federal Railroad Administration, railroads, and rail industry suppliers, the 3,500-square foot laboratory in northwest Champaign, is unique among academic research facilities in the U.S. "This laboratory is an important new tool to develop a fundamental understanding of how track components and track systems respond to heavy axle loads, high-speed trains, and rail transit vehicles” said RailTEC Executive Director Christopher Barkan. Also: WCIA-TV (Aug. 19), RT&S (Aug. 21).

Two alumni named to Tech Review's "35 Innovators Under 35"

Technology Review (Aug. 18) -- Two Engineering at Illinois alumni, Canan Dagdeviren (PhD, 2014, MatSE) and Melonee Wise (BS, 2004, Engineering Physics,  MS, 2006, PhD, 2007, MechSE) have been named to MIT Technology Review's annual list of "35 Innovators Under 35."

Student app ready for prime time

Chicago Inno (Aug. 17) -- PorterKey, a new iOS keyboard built by two Illinois engineering students--senior Faris Toqan and 2013 graduate Robert Pieta--wants to give you dining and movie suggestions right from your messaging screen, and based on the texts you've already sent.

Preventing electronic overheating

WFMY-TV (Greensboro, N.C., Aug. 18) -- Engineers at Illinois are working on ways to keep electronics from overheating. “What we need is people to sit down at the table and say, yes, I know you'd like your Fruit Ninja to load quickly, but based on the current thermal limit, we'll project it to be over the next several seconds. We're going to actually limit your processor speed so it doesn't actually generate as much processing power and hence as much heat,” says Illinois engineering professor Andrew Alleyne.

Rogue supernovas

Ars Technica (Boston, Aug. 17) -- Rogue supernovas that explode all alone in deep space present an astronomical mystery. Where did they come from? How did they get there? The likely answer: a binary black hole slingshot, according to a new study by Ryan Foley, a professor of astronomy and physics at Illinois. Also: The Daily Galaxy (Aug. 14), R&D Magazine (Aug. 14), Zee News (Austrailia, Aug. 15), IBC World News (Aug. 16), Softpedia (Aug. 15), (Aug. 27).

Illinois #4 in ARWU engineering rankings

Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, August 18) -- Engineering at Illinois was ranked No. 4 worldwide in 2015 in the "Academic Ranking of World Universities in Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences." Starting from 2003, ARWU has been presenting the world Top 500 universities annually based on transparent methodology and third-party data. It has been recognized as the precursor--and most trustworthy--of global university rankings. Also: Chicago Inno (Aug. 18), WMAQ-5 TV (NBC; Chicago, Aug. 23).

Engineering students at ThinkChicago

Chicago Inno (Aug. 14) -- Two Illinois students participating in last month’s ThinkChicago program spoke about what the city could do to make them decide to start their tech careers in Chicago.

Related story: Chicago Tribune (Aug. 26) -- Illinois student Shandale Prince Watkins says he drew inspiration from his daily life and came up with a business idea. Watkins, 18, says he developed a code using Arduino, an open-source platform, to save and verify fingerprints into memory, enabling students to open their lockers with a single touch. He says he has developed a full-fledged hardware research-development company in Chicago, Unequel Innovations, which he plans to build on during his time at Illinois.

Retrovirus model

Science 360 (NSF, Aug. 13) -- Using molecular modeling and large-scale molecular dynamic simulation, Beckman Institute researchers have constructed an atomic model of an immature retrovirus. The researchers from the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group at the Beckman Institute published their work in the journal Structure. Also: Photonics Online (Aug. 11), Phys.Org (Aug. 12), (Aug. 12), Sci-News (Aug. 13).

Supercomputing simulation

Slate Magazine (Aug. 11) -- The video you’re about to watch – depicting Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications tornado simulation – is gloriously beautiful. But more importantly, it’s telling the story of science.

Online education

Forbes (Aug. 11) -- Online education companies can’t succeed without giving “graduates” credentials to show potential employers. And for this tech problem, there are tech solutions. Virtual badges, like those offered by Mozilla Open Badges and Credly, link to websites that show course content and how it was earned. Traditional schools like Michigan State and the University of Illinois are experimenting with these.

Illinois leads $18.5 million power optimization center

WAND-TV (Decatur, IL, Aug. 10) -- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will lead an $18.5 million Engineering Research Center to pack more power into less space for electrical systems. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems, or P.O.E.T.S., center will study the electrical challenges surrounding mobile electronics and vehicle design. MechSE professor Alleyne will lead P.O.E.T.S. Also: National Science Foundation (Aug. 10), ENC Magazine (Aug. 10), Science Times (Aug. 10), R&D Magazine (Aug. 10), Arkansas Business (Aug. 11), Fort Smith City Wire (Aug. 11), Arkansas Business Online (Aug. 10), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 11), Chicago Inno (Aug. 11), North Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Aug. 11), Daily Illini (Aug. 27).

Flexible electronics

Yahoo! News (from CNET; Aug. 10) -- How about the scientists at Illinois, who are experimenting with crazy-thin, pliable electronic sheets of silicone (10 nanometers thick, about one-one hundredth the width of a cotton fiber!) that safely bend around organs inside the body, or could one day balloon inside veins, carrying smart sensors that transfer all sorts of internal data? Amazing, right?

Tech startup Gigster

Chicago Inno (Aug. 9) -- Illinois alumnus Roger Dickey explains how his experience at Zynga and Illinois led to his current startup.

Light from quantum dots

Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., Aug. 7) -- Researchers from Illinois have developed a new method to extract more efficient and polarized light from quantum dots (QDs) over a large-scale area. Their method, which combines QD and photonic crystal technology, could lead to brighter and more efficient mobile phone, tablet and computer displays, as well as enhanced LED lighting. Also: Laser Focus World (Aug. 7), Nanowerk (Aug. 7), Product Design & Development (Aug. 7), Observer Chronicle (Aug. 7), ScienceBlog (Aug. 7), Phys.Org (Aug. 7), Nanotechnology Now (Aug. 9), Silicon India News (Aug. 10).

Illinois is "powerhouse" for producing female founders

Chicago Tribune (Aug. 6) -- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago are among the top 25, according to a report by CrunchBase on female founders. Analysts studied more than 3,600 female founders whose companies had raised money since 2009. Also: TechCrunch (Aug. 5).

Earthquake frequencies

Science (Aug. 6) -- Earthquake shaking is caused by a mixture of seismic waves moving through the ground at different frequencies. High-frequency waves tend to cause the most problems for short buildings, whereas low-frequency waves are more damaging for taller buildings. Kathmandu’s basin of soft sediments helped amplify low-frequency waves, as seen in its destructive effect on taller buildings, says Youssef Hashash, an earthquake engineer at Illinois, and the lead author of a report published last week that documented the quake’s damage to infrastructure.

Robotic "whiskers" sensor array

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Aug. 4) -- Many mammals, including seals and rats, rely on their whiskers to sense their way through dark environments. Inspired by these animals, scientists working at Illinois and Illinois’ Advanced Digital Sciences Centre in Singapore have developed a robotic “whisker” tactile sensor array designed to produce tomographic images by measuring fluid flow. Also: Popular Science (Aug. 4), Headlines & Global News (Aug. 4), Gizmag (Aug. 5), Red Orbit (Aug. 5), Chicago Inno (Aug. 6), R&D 100 (Aug. 7), Cosmos Magazine (Australia, Aug. 17), Asian Scientist Magazine (Aug. 20).

Siebel Energy Institute

New York Times (blog, Aug. 4) -- Several Engineering at Illinois research groups were among 24 worldwide engineering and computer science teams whose proposals were included in the inaugural grants the Siebel Energy Institute. Funded with $10 million from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, the Institute will leverage its fund to attract an additional $100 million to $200 million in research funding over the next five years. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of only eight research institutions chosen to be part of the worldwide consortium. Also: Campus Technology (July 31), KFMB-TV (CBS, San Diego, CA, Aug. 4), MarketWatch (Aug. 4), PC World (Aug. 4), Forbes (Aug. 5), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 5), IT Business Edge (Aug. 5).

Safety service

Chicago Tribune (Aug. 3) -- A long-standing safety escort service for Illinois students and faculty has been upgraded for better access and convenience, thanks to Michael Hao, a 20-year-old Lake Zurich, Illinois, native and a junior majoring in computer engineering at Illinois.

Cognitive computing

Science 360 (NSF, Aug. 3) -- Computer scientist Larry Smarr, former director of NCSA at Illinois, discusses the research that is ushering in the age of cognitive computing on Science 360 Radio.

CEE alumnus leads biofuel company

Biofuels Digest (Aug. 2) -- Daniel Hayes, CEO of Celignis Analytical, talks about his company and its role in the advanced bioeconomy, as well as the year he spent at Illinois during his undergraduate studies. 

Solar farm

The Belleville News-Democrat (from The Associated Press; Belleville, Ill., Aug.1) -- A long-awaited solar farm is under construction at Illinois and a campus official says it should be producing power by Christmas. Also: The News-Gazette (Aug. 1), (Aug. 2), The Republic (Columbus, IN, from the AP, Aug. 1).

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