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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January 2016 media appearances

Technology solutions to water crisis

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 29) -- Flint, Mich. is being inundated with bottled water. Meanwhile, tech companies have turned to alternatives. Sung-Jin Park, chief technology officer of EP Purification, a startup based at the Research Park at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said other companies need to take the same approach. If startups with budding technologies join forces, water contamination problems can be solved more quickly and cheaply.

Origami engineering

Nanowerk (Jan. 28) -- Origami, the ancient art of paper folding, may soon provide a foundation for antennas that can reconfigure themselves to operate at different frequencies, microfluidic devices whose properties can change in operation – and even heating and air-conditioning ductwork that adjusts to demand. The applications could result from reconfigurable and reprogrammable origami tubes developed by researchers at three institutions, including Illinois. Also: Phys.Org (Jan. 28), AZoNano (Jan. 28).

Leggett on science funding

Biotechin.Asia (Singapore, Jan. 28) -- Speaking at the Global Young Scientists Summit, Sir Anthony Leggett of Illinois, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2003 for his work in superfluidity, says young scientists must be given free rein to engage in pure curiosity. “Most major technological advances have their origins in science, which is purely or mainly curiosity-driven, so in funding research, it is a mistake to look too closely at the bottom line,” Leggett says.

Scoble: C-U as innovation hub

Medium (blog, Jan. 27) -- "...When I say Silicon Valley is being beaten, and is at risk of losing more companies to small towns, here’s why. In the past week I’ve visited two of those towns, Champaign, Illinois and Blacksburg, Virginia. You might not know, but YouTube, Tesla, PayPal, Mozilla started in Champaign at University of Illinois there." Blogger Robert Scoble talks about 10 companies and innovators he visited who are doing amazing work. Also: Smile Politely (blog, Jan. 27), News-Gazette (Jan. 31).

Nanotechnology technique for DIY production of flat optics

Phys.Org (Jan. 27) -- A research team, led by MechSE associate professor Kimani Toussaint, developed a simplified approach to fabricating flat, ultrathin optics. The new approach enables simple etching without the use of acids or hazardous chemical etching agents. Also: (Rockaway, N.J., Jan. 27), ScienceBlog (Jan. 27), Photonics Online (Jan. 27), Optics and Photonics News (Feb. 2), (Feb. 17).

Sweat sensors

Nature (Jan. 27) -- “Until now, sweat sensors have typically involved patches that are removed for subsequent chemical analysis by separate, nonwearable machines,” says John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois. Rogers is developing wearable electronics that detect sweat and measure other bodily functions. “The current device is wearable, it provides continuous data streams, and it measures multiple biomarkers simultaneously.” Also: Science (Jan. 27),  Los Angeles Times (Jan. 27), ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 28).

4D printing method

LiveScience (Jan. 25) -- A new method developed by MatSE alumna Jennifer Lewis and MatSE affiliate Ralph Nuzzo could lead to new applications for 4D printing including smart textiles, soft electronics, biomedical devices, and tissue engineering. Inspired by natural structures like plants, which respond and change their form over time according to environmental stimuli, the team has unveiled 4-D-printed hydrogel composite structures that change shape upon immersion in water. Also: PSFK (Jan. 26), Phys.Org (Jan. 25), R&D Magazine (Jan. 26), Gizmodo (Jan. 25).

State to support entrepreneurship

Crain's Chicago Business (Jan. 26) -- The state of Illinois is getting back in the venture-capital business for the first time in several years. Treasurer Michael Frerichs says he'll start investing more than $220 million of state treasury money with venture funds across the state. Some of that money ended up with Illinois Ventures, which led a $2.5 million initial investment in Diagnostic Photonics, a Chicago-based medical device company spun out of the U. of I. BioE/ECE professor Stephen Boppart co-founded Diagnostic Photonics, Inc., in 2008, and serves as chief medical officer, assisting in commercializing its optical imaging technology for intraoperative guidance during cancer surgery.

Computer vision research yields fashion search app

Chicago Inno (Jan. 25) -- Imagine if shopping was as simple as snapping a photo of a shirt you liked and hitting "search." A group of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers have essentially done just that. Their tech is called FashionMatch. It's a visual search engine that analyzes every detail of a garment, then combs through a massive database to find similar items of clothing based on color, proportions, and patterns, then direct a customer to where they can purchase an item of clothing.

College of Engineering is "state's tech powerhouse"

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 22) -- Illinois Institute of Technology has all but dropped the name IIT in favor of Illinois Tech, staking a claim to the hearts, minds and SEO of a technology-driven world. The shift has been gradual, but it's a bold name to claim in a state where the engineering school at the U. of I. is the stuff of legend. “I certainly think of us as the state’s tech powerhouse,” says Bill Bell, spokesman for the College of Engineering at Illinois, whose alumni include co-founders of YouTube, PayPal, Tesla, and Netscape.

Tuition freeze

Crain’s Chicago Business (Jan. 20) -- For the second year in a row, Illinois is poised to freeze tuition for new in-state undergraduates next academic year, a decision aimed at attracting students who have been leaving the state as costs have increased and the state's financial outlook is uncertain. Also: Chicago Tribune (Jan. 20), ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 21).

Related story: Chicago Tribune (Jan. 21) -- The University of Illinois board of trustees approved a tuition freeze for new in-state undergraduates Thursday, ensuring for the second straight year that base tuition rates will remain the same at all three campuses.

Hydrogen peroxide synthesis (Rockaway, N.J., Jan. 21) -- New research from ChemE assistant professor David Flahertyreveals the mechanism for the direct synthesis of H2O2 on palladium cluster catalysts, and paves the way to design improved catalysts to produce H2O2 to use in place of harmful chlorine, regardless of the scale of the production facility. Also: ScienceBlog (Jan. 20), Phys.Org (Jan. 20).

TechNexus launches UIUC outpost

ChicagoInno (Jan. 21) -- While there's been a lot of talk about how the city can strengthen the pipeline between the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, one of the best engineering schools in the country, and Chicago, TechNexus has decided to skip the pipeline and go right to the source. Today, the venture collaborative announced that it's setting up an outpost in Champaign, bringing its resources and network of 500 industry partners, accelerators, VC firms, and key influencers directly to UIUC's talent.

Malwarebytes raises $50 million

Morningstar (Jan. 21) -- Malwarebytes, the leading advanced malware prevention and remediation solution, today announced a $50 million Series B funding round from Fidelity Management and Research Company. Founded in 2008 by CS alumnus Marcin Kleczynski, Malwarebytes surpassed $100 million in annualized billings in 2015 and achieved its 31st consecutive cash flow positive quarter.

Alumnus startup Tovala

Chicago Inno (Jan. 19) -- Chicago food tech startup Maestro rebranded to Tovala, and just raised $500,000 to get their healthy food tech device on your kitchen counter. Company founder David Rabie connected with investors and his co-founder through a partnership with Illinois.Tovala is perhaps the most visible result to date of the partnership between the College of Engineering at Illinois and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Implantable, dissolvable, brain-monitoring sensor

Discover Magazine (Jan. 18) -- A new class of small, thin electronic sensors can monitor temperature and pressure within the skull – crucial health parameters after a brain injury or surgery – then melt away when they are no longer needed, eliminating the need for additional surgery to remove the monitors and reducing the risk of infection and hemorrhage. John Rogers, a professor of materials science, engineering and bioengineering at Illinois, designed the novel electronic sensors. Also: Nature (original journal article, Jan. 18), CNN (Jan. 18), New Scientist (Jan. 18), Medical Xpress (Jan. 18), Medical Daily (Jan. 18), HealthDay (Jan. 18), Medical News Today (Jan. 18), Doctors Lounge (Jan. 18), Fox Illinois TV55/27 (Jan. 18), ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 19), ScienceBlog (Jan. 19), NW Times (Jan. 19), The Atlantic (Jan. 19), The Guardian (London, Jan. 19), IEEE Spectrum (New York, Jan. 18), (Jan. 18), Tech Times (Jan. 18), Gizmodo (Jan. 18), CBS News (Jan. 19), Latin American Herald Tribune (Jan. 20), The Inquisitr (Jan. 19), Newsmax (Jan. 20), Gizmag (Jan. 19), ARS Technica (Jan. 19), LiveScience (Jan. 19), West California News (Jan. 19), health24 (Jan. 19), Med Device Online (Jan. 19), Headlines & Global News (Jan. 19), Laurel Leader Call (Jan. 20), Canada Journal (Jan. 20), Times of India (Jan. 20), IFL Science (Jan. 19), Yahoo! News (Jan. 20), Chicago Tonight WTTW (Jan. 21).

Alumnus Marcin Kleczynski

The Huffington Post (Jan. 18) -- For most entrepreneurs, the Internet and technology allow them to solve problems they come across. However, for some entrepreneurs like Illinois alumnus Marcin Kleczynski, the Internet and technology become the source of the problem one decides to take on.

Alumnus Shahid Khan

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 16) -- Rumors continue to swirl about the future of the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose owner Shahid Khan – a prominent Illinois alumnus worth nearly $6 billion – was asked last week about any interest in relocating his team to St. Louis. Khan made an unsuccessful bid to buy the St. Louis Rams in 2010.

Microscopic damage indicator

Phys.Org (Jan. 14) -- Damage developing in a material can be difficult to see until something breaks or fails. A new polymer damage indication system automatically highlights areas that are cracked, scratched or stressed, allowing engineers to address problem areas before they become more problematic. The early warning system development--particularly useful in applications like petroleum pipelines, air and space transport, and automobiles--was led by University of Illinois materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos and aerospace engineering professor Scott White, who have pioneered self-healing materials technology. Also: ScienceBlog (Jan. 13), Gizmag (Jan. 15), Gizmodo Australia (Jan. 18).

Desalination discovery

Science 360 Radio (National Science Foundation, Jan. 13) -- Audio explanation of new nanopore membrane that can greatly improve the reverse osmosis desalination process. Illinois professor Narayana Aluru led a team that found that tiny pores in thin sheets of the material molybdenum disulfide could be very good at removing salt from seawater to yield drinkable water.

Online learning program rankings

AOL News (from U.S. News & World Report; Jan. 12) -- Students considering online learning programs can use U.S. News' 2016 Best Online Programs rankings to research and compare their options. Among the greatest ranking changes in the education category was Illinois, rising to a tie at No. 7 from a tie at No. 47.

Transient electronics

BBC News (Jan. 12) -- Researchers are working on electronic circuit boards that can dissolve in water. "We discovered early in 2012 that silicon itself is water soluble," says materials science and engineering professor John Rogers of Illinois.


Tech Week Europe (London, Jan. 12) -- A Copenhagen computer engineering student has demonstrated a technique that could allow attackers to steal keypad login credentials by tracking a user’s hand movements using malicious code running on a smartwatch. The technique builds on earlier work by Romit Roy Choudhury, a professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois. Also: Naked Security (Jan. 11).

CS alumnus

Ozy (Mountain View, Calif., Jan. 11) -- Ted Cruz may be among the most outspoken presidential contenders, one not known for championing science or silence. But behind his booming political presence lies someone quieter: an überprivate data mastermind and megadonor named Robert Mercer, who earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois.

Flood researchers

WCIA-TV (Champaign, IL, Jan. 7) -- Researchers and students from the University of Illinois are checking out some of the heavier flooding in central Illinois. They're in Beardstown this week as part of the GEER (Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance) Association. The engineers are working with the Army Corps to document how last week's flood has impacted levees and drainage areas.

Faculty startup raises $3M for clinical trial

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 7) -- Diagnostic Photonics, which launched in 2011 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has raised $3.1 million to fund a clinical trial for its high-resolution imaging probes for cancer surgeons. Co-founded by BioE/ECE professor Stephen Boppart and ECE professor P. Scott Carney, Diagnostic Photonics is developing advanced imaging technology to assist physicians in the real-time evaluation of tissue microstructure.

Nanotube quantum properties

Nanowerk (Jan. 7) -- A group of scientists – John A. Rogers, Eric Seabron, Scott MacLaren and Xu Xie from Illinois; Slava V. Rotkin from Lehigh University; and William L. Wilson from Harvard University – is reporting on the discovery of an important method for measuring the properties of nanotube materials using a microwave probe. Also: Phys.Org (Jan. 7), ENC Magazine (Jan. 7), Nanotechnology Now (Jan. 7).

Engineering transfer students

Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Ill., Jan. 6) -- A new partnership established by McHenry County College is expected to create a direct path for qualified students to attend one of the top-ranked engineering schools in the country, the College of Engineering at Illinois.

Student startup competition

ChicagoInno (Jan. 6) -- There's a lot more than basketball happening in March for the students competing in South by Southwest's annual Student Startup Madness competition. This year, eight teams from the state of Illinois were selected for the first round of Student Startup Madness, including teams from the University of Illinois.

Wearable electronics

Gizmodo (Jan. 6) -- The digital tattoos of the future have for years remained just that. But now a company called MC10 has announced two new commercial wearable devices that will stick to your skin to monitor your health. MC10 is the brainchild of materials scientist John Rogers, who’s been working on the concept of truly wearable sensors with his Illinois research group for years. Also: Engadget (Jan. 6), BetaBoston (Jan. 6), MobileID World (Jan. 6), BusinessWire (Jan. 6), Boston Business Journal (Jan. 6), Digital Trends (Jan. 6), SlashGear (Jan. 6), Irish Times (Jan. 6), Virtual-Strategy Magazine (Jan. 6), Fortune (Jan. 6), (Jan. 6), Daily Mail (UK, Jan. 6), ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 7), IEEE Spectrum (New York, Jan. 13).

Related stories: New York Times (Jan. 7) -- L’Oreal has unveiled a new wearable at CES, that looks like “a temporary tattoo” in the shape of a heart. The My UV Patch is a “stretchable sensor” that can be “worn on the skin pretty much anywhere,” and is designed to work with a phone app showing the user how much UV exposure a person is receiving. Also: IT (Jan. 6), Cosmetics (Jan. 7), (Jan. 7).

VR's year

Chicago Inno (Jan. 5) -- It looks 2016 is shaping up to be the year virtual reality goes beyond the showroom floor and into, well, actual reality. It's been a long time coming, said former Oculus lead scientist and current CS professor Steve LaValle. He took a break from teaching back in 2012 to work on Oculus, and returned to UIUC in 2014 to head up a virtual reality course at the University.

Lipoprotein nanoplatelets

Phys.Org (Jan. 5) -- An interdisciplinary research team at Illinois has developed a new material composite derived from quantum dots. These lipoprotein nanoplatelets are rapidly taken up by cells and retain their fluorescence, making them particularly well-suited for imaging cells and understanding disease mechanisms. Also: ScienceBlog (Jan. 5), (Jan. 6), Scicasts (Jan. 6), Genetic Engineering & Biology (Jan. 6), Controlled Environments Magazine (Jan. 6), AzoNano (Jan. 6).

GAMES graduate

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 4) -- Courtney Leverenz, a senior at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, dreams of traveling to Mars and exploring space. In July, Leverenz found herself at Illinois for the GAMES (Girls Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering and Science) Engineering Camp. There, she learned more about the technical side of engineering.

Students design new cast

Medical Design Technology Magazine (Rockaway, N.J., Jan. 4) -- An interdisciplinary team of students at Illinois is challenging the idea of the traditional cast with a system that uses a lighter, open latticework version of a cast that is created with an extrusion-like process, allowing for a custom fit that covers less skin.

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