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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September 2015 media appearances

Startup incubator

Chicago Tribune (Sept. 30) -- The city of Streator, 100 miles southwest of Chicago, has launched its own business startup incubator, led by Jason Marvel. "Illinois’ incubator helped us to define our mission," Marvel says. "If you don't have the natural support structure or services that a U. of I. has, you have to focus on the strengths of the community."

Alumnus' Edtech startup

Chicago Inno (Sept. 29) -- Along with a few fellow computer science and engineering students, CS alumnus Ravi Pilla set out to make a learning management system could connect students and professors in a simple, social and effective way.

Innovation history lesson

Chicago Inno (Sept. 29) -- Champaign-Urbana is embarking on a campaign called "You're welcome" to remind people of its spot in the innovation history books. Their aim is to showcase the high caliber of tech jobs, intellectual community, growing cultural diversity and low cost of living, in hopes of reminding recent grads and alums of the benefits of the college town.

Alums' Avant lands $325 million

Chicago Tribune (Sept. 29) - Chicago-based online lender Avant--founded by three U of I alumni--has raised a $325 million Series E funding round at a valuation over $1 billion, bringing its total equity financing to more than $650 million. Co-founder and CTO Paul Zhang earned his bachelors degree in computational bioengineering at Illinois.

Research Park

Ag Professional (Sept. 29) -- Illinois and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company, announced the grand opening of a facility located in the Research Park at Illinois.

Voice amplifier

The Journal-News (Hillsboro, Ill., Sept. 28) -- Illinois student Alexis Wernsing hopes to have a voice amplifier that will attach to her wheelchair and that she can operate herself. She is working with Illinois industrial design professor Deana McDonagh and Skot Wiedmann, a graduate of the School of Art and Design and a technician in electrical and computer engineering, who will design and build a voice amplifier called AmpliMy.

Magnetic alumnus

Chicago Tribune (Sept. 26) -- When Chris Polly was a doctoral degree student at the University of Illinois in 2001, he worked on the 17-ton electromagnet at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Fourteen years later, he’s the project manager on firing up that same electromagnet – this time at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and after the magnet had not been turned on for more than 10 years.

Pygmalion Festival

Chicago Inno (Sept. 23) -- This year the Pygmalion Festival, the 11-year-old music festival in Urbana-Champaign, has added a tech component to its programming. Adding a tech focus to Pygmalion was a natural fit, as Illinois has been a technology and innovation powerhouse over the years. The school has one of the best engineering programs in the world, and Illinois has produced tech visionaries like Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and YouTube co-founders Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. Also: Daily Illini (Sept. 22), WAND-TV (Sept. 24).

Entrepreneur rankings

St. Louis Business Journal (Sept. 25) -- Illinois and Washington University have been ranked by PitchBook as two of the top universities for venture capital-backed entrepreneurs. Also: Chicago Inno (Sept. 25), Crain's Chicago Business (Sept. 28).

Physics of baseball

USA Today (Sept. 23) -- A commonly held belief, reiterated from youth ball on up to the majors, is that the harder a pitch comes in, the harder it goes out. Alan Nathan, physics professor emeritus at Illinois, has studied baseball extensively and estimates that, when a hitter squares up a ball on the sweet spot, only about 15% of exit velocity is attributable to the pitch’s speed at contact - often 3-4 mph slower than as measured at release point - while the remaining 85% is generated by the hitter.

Wearable technology

Forbes (Sept. 23) -- By the end of 2015, investors are expected to commit more than $1 billion to wearable technology startup companies, according to a recent market research report. A company called VitalConnect has developed a low-profile plastic patch that can monitor vital signs, while researchers at Illinois have patented a stick on tattoo-like sensor, in which the electronics have been designed to bend, fold and stretch like normal skin.


Science News (Sept. 22) -- On the boundary between the quantum and everyday realms, things don’t always make a whole lot of sense. The bundles of particles that make up materials behave in ways both unexpected and unexplained. This is the weird world that Illinois theoretical physicist Shinsei Ryu hopes to bring into focus. Ryu is on the Science News list of "Bright Young Minds: Meet 10 scientists who are making their mark."

Energy research partnership

The Huffington Post (Sept. 22) -- The University of California, Berkeley, has partnered with global energy firm BP, along with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Illinois, to lead a $500 million energy research consortium focused on producing new and cleaner sources of energy.

Engineering diversity

Chicago Inno (Sept. 22) -- Over the last three years, freshman enrollment in engineering classes at Illinois has started to shift, especially in regards to women, Hispanic, and in-state students. There are 25 percent more women, 40 percent more Hispanic students, and 9 percent more in-state students enrolled.

Society simulation game

New Scientist (Sept. 21) -- Eco - which finished a successful funding run on Kickstarter earlier this month - is a video game about preventing disaster. The only way to succeed is to work together. The first of a new breed of game, Eco is a society simulator. The game drops you into an ecosystem, modeled with the help of a team at Illinois, in which thousands of individual plants and animals interact.

Student entrepreneurs

Chicago Inno (Sept. 21) -- This fall, Y Combinator, the storied San Francisco seed fund, is doing a six-campus college tour to search for new startups and talk entrepreneurship with current students. On October 1, they'll be stopping by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to hear startup pitches, and host a special talk featuring UIUC alum and Gigster co-founder Roger Dickey, as well as Kevin Hale, cofounder of Wufoo, and Kat Malanac, Y Combinator director of outreach.

3-D electronics

Chicago Tribune (Sept. 18) -- It might be the next big breakthrough in high-tech, 3-D fabrication, and it got its inspiration in part from a pop-up Christmas card. Researchers at Northwestern University and Illinois say they have developed a way to create complex 3-D structures from flat surfaces, which could revolutionize a host of areas such as semiconductor manufacturing, building construction and tissue regeneration. MatSE professor John Rogers served as the other corresponding author of the paper, “A mechanically driven form of Kirigami as a route to 3D mesostructures in micro/nanomembranes.” Also: Chicago Inno (Sept. 17).

Levchin's commercial cryptography

Bostino (Sept. 18) -- CS alumnus Max Levchin is perhaps best known as a co-founder and the former CTO of PayPal, as well as the founder of photo sharing/collaborative presentation platform, Slide. But he’s also had his hand in other notable ventures like Yelp, Yahoo! and Evernote. More recently, he has ventured from Silicon Valley to generate a buzz about the annual Levchin Prize for Real-World Cryptography.

Computer science education

WPIX-11 TV (New York, Sept. 17) -- New York City Mayor BIll de Blasio announced computer science will be offered in every public classroom. “I think this will give all students a very great base line knowledge of computer science,” says Illinois alumnus Nimit Maru, one of the founders of Full Stack Academy of Code. Co-founder David Yang also is an Illinois alumnus. 

Solar energy

Clean Technica (Sept. 17) -- The Energy Department’s new $102 million solar energy funding was announced Wednesday. Illinois was one of six awardees dividing a $7 million fund for projects designed to improve solar system performance and gain a better understanding of how solar modules degrade.

Beckman Institute beginnings

Nature (London, Sept. 16) -- Asking for $40 million is never easy, but Theodore Brown knew his pitch would be a particularly tough sell. As vice chancellor for research at Illinois in the early 1980s, Brown had been tasked with soliciting a major donation from wealthy chemist and entrepreneur Arnold Beckman, a graduate of the university.

Innovations list

Chicago Inno (Sept. 16) -- Three universities in the state of Illinois made the Reuter’s list of 100 top innovative schools worldwide: Northwestern University ranks 6th overall, the University of Illinois system ranks 21st.

Queing Theory

Tech Insider (Sept. 15) -- Most major stores offer a dozen or so checkout lanes, all of which call upon the cart-pushing shopper to make a snap judgment about which line will move fastest. This is comforting psychologically because we like to feel in control, but it actually ends up increasing the average wait time, says Bill Hammack, an engineer at Illinois.

OCT surgical probe

Science Daily (Chevy Chase, Md., Sept. 17) -- A new surgical tool that uses light to make sure surgeons removing cancerous tumors “got it all” was found to correlate well with traditional pathologists’ diagnoses in a clinical study, showing that the tool could soon enable reliable, real-time guidance for surgeons. The interdisciplinary research team led by ECE/BioE professor Stephen Boppart performed the study on 35 patients with breast cancers at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Also: ScienceBlog (Sept. 15), R&D Magazine (Sept. 16), Medical Xpress (Isle of Man, Sept. 17), Medgadget (El Granada, Calif., Sept. 21), Health News Review (Sept. 23).

UI Labs

Crain's Chicago Business (Sept. 14) -- The National Science Foundation is providing $3.1 million to the ambitious "Array of Things" project, led by researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and involving the U. of I., to outfit the city with 500 sensors to measure everything from air quality to traffic. UI Labs has hired a director to lead its City Digital project

Engineering challenges

The Huffington Post (Sept. 14) -- Illinois professors Ximing Cai and Paolo Gardoni write for The Huffington Post on the challenges engineers face when it comes to current infrastructure and extreme-weather events.

Smartwatch security

Motherboard (Sept. 11) -- They’re the latest rage in jewelry and gadgetry, but like all computer devices, smart watches are vulnerable to hackers, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Using a homegrown app on a Samsung Gear Live smart watch, the researchers were able to guess what a user was typing through data “leaks” produced by the motion sensors on smart watches. The project, called Motion Leaks, or MoLe, has privacy implications, as an app that is camouflaged as a pedometer, for example, could gather data from emails, search queries and other confidential documents. The work, funded by the National Science Foundation, is being presented this week at the MobiCom 2015 conference in Paris. Also: Consumer Affairs (Sept. 11), R&D Magazine (Sept. 11), Tech Radar (Sept. 11), E&T Magazine (Sept. 11), Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Sept. 10), ScienceBlog (Sept. 10), TechWorm (Sept. 11), Digit (Sept. 11), (Sept. 11), Science 360 (NSF, Sept. 14), (Sept. 14), Perth Now (Austrailia, Sept. 14), iProgrammer (Sept. 14), heise Security (in German, Sept. 15), KimKommando (Sept. 15), Naked Security (Sept. 15), Chicago Inno (Sept. 21), Daily Illini (Sept. 24).

Nanoparticle necessity

The Science Times (Sept. 10) -- Bill Hammack, a chemical engineering professor at Illinois, cautioned against the "technological sweetness" of nanoparticles, meaning scientists are so determined to discover their capabilities that they do not even ask whether it is necessary.

Rithmio startup

Built in Chicago (Sept. 9) -- Rithmio, a gesture-recognition company that’s caught the eyes of many of Chicago’s most influential tech figures, started up at Illinois.


PC Magazine (Sept. 9) -- Former Apple CEO John Sculley speaks about working with Cray Computer at Illinois.


Chicago Inno (Sept. 8) -- You want to sleep. SNOOZ wants to help. SNOOZ, a hardware startup co-founded by MechSE alumnus Eli Lazar (PhD 2011), aims to make ambient sound machines.In order to scale the product, the EnterpriseWorks-affiliated startup just launched a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of raising $100,000 to help us all sleep a little bit better; they reached their goal, nine days into the campaign. Also: Crain’s Chicago Business (Sept. 17).

Origami engineering

Gizmag (Sept. 7) -- From military shelters and solar arrays to batteries and drones, engineers continue to prove that origami can be the inspiration for more than just paper cranes. Designed by researchers from Illinois, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo, the zipper tube relies on an origami technique called Miura-ori folding. Also: The Daily Mail (London, Sept. 8), Motherboard (Sept. 7), Phys.Org (Sept. 7), The Engineer (UK, Sept. 8), (Sept. 8), E&T Magazine (Sept. 8), Tech Times (Sept. 8), Nanowerk (Sept. 8), Science 360 (NSF, Sept. 9), Discovery News (Sept. 9), Gizmodo (Sept. 14), CityLab (from The Atlantic, Washington, D.C., Sept. 15), Blastr (Sept. 15), RT (Sept. 15), Inhabitat (blog, Sept. 15), Sidney Morning Herald (Sept. 17), Brisbane Times (video, Sept. 17), Sourceable (Sept. 25).

Synthetic tumor environments

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (New York, Aug. 31) -- Chemistry professor Jeffrey Moore, graduate student Joshua Grolman and materials science and engineering professor Kristopher Kilian led a research team to create a new synthetic tissue environment for more realistic cell biology research. Also: Phys.Org (Aug. 28), (Aug. 29), Science 360 (NSF, Sept. 1), Medical News Today (Sept. 2).

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