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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October 2016 media appearances

Jacobson on air travel

Daily Herald (Chicago, Oct. 31) -- As authorities investigate why a GE engine failed and led to fire aboard an American Airlines jet Friday, records show federal authorities had asked the manufacturer to fix problems with that type of engine previously. Human error is the single-largest factor in airplane problems, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign aviation security expert and professor Sheldon Howard Jacobson said. "Mechanical is second-most frequent. Weather is third. Sabotage and terrorism is fourth. Given the volume of flights per day, and small number of reports of problems, one can see why air travel is as safe as it is," Jacobson said.

Squeezing more out of computer chips

The New York Times (Oct. 30) – Better algorithms and new kinds of hardware circuits could help scientists continue to make computers that can do more and at a lower cost. Earlier this month, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, Rice University and Illinois published research demonstrating how a programming technique for an Intel microprocessor chip uses significantly less power to accomplish the same work.

CS alumna heads L.A.'s latest $1-billion tech company

Los Angeles Times (Oct. 28) -- BlackLine Inc. Chief Executive and Illinois alumna Therese Tucker (BS 1984, Computer Science/Math) rang the opening bell at Nasdaq on Friday before the Woodland Hills company debuted on the stock exchange. The Woodland Hills technology company Tucker founded and continues to run listed on Nasdaq as part of a $146-million initial public offering. BlackLine Inc. shares soared 39% to $23.70 in their debut from an issue price of $17, valuing the accounting software company at more than $1.1 billion.

Illinois startup: Veriflow recognized

Broadway World (New York, Oct. 25) – Veriflow was announced as the Barclays Innovation Challenge Winner. Veriflow beat out more than 100 global technology companies for the honor during Barclays’ fourth annual Open Innovation Challenge held in Palo Alto, Calif. The company was created by a team of computer science professors and PhD students at Illinois.

Student startup: Cast21

The Week (Oct. 23) – A pretzel-like sleeve designed by three Illinois students could make the experience of wearing a cast significantly more comfortable – and much less gross. Also: Memphis Daily News (Oct. 10), Engadget (Oct. 13), Inverse (Oct. 13), TG Daily (blog, Oct. 13), ZME Science (Oct. 14), Memphis Business Journal (Oct. 19), (Poland, Oct. 21), Big Ten Network (Oct. 23), ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 25).

Thermal conductivity

Phys.Org (Oct. 21) – Researchers have found an unexpected way to control the thermal conductivity of two-dimensional materials, which will allow electronics designers to dissipate heat in electronic devices that use these materials.

DDOS cyberattacks

Fox News Illinois (Oct. 21) -- A massive cyber-attack impacted millions after popular websites like Twitter and Netflix were at a standstill. The outages are a result of DDOS, or ‘Denial of Service’ attack, on a large-scale domain manager. University of Illinois networking specialist, Brighten Godfrey, said the attack traces back to system called DYN. "To reach this scale to impact millions of users to in this visible of a way, is rare,” Godfrey said. “So this is a very big event."

Alumnus Max Levchin

Quartz (Oct. 20) -- The PayPal mafia is one of Silicon Valley’s most iconic founding teams. Its members went on to create an array of billion dollar companies—including Tesla, LinkedIn, and Palantir—and their collective success has never quite been replicated. A lot has been written about the dynamics of the Paypal founders in order to understand their special formula. Among the most picked over revelations is how its members were ruthless in hiring friends with similar backgrounds. Mafia member and Illinois computer science alumnus Max Levchin once recounted how he chose not to hire a job applicant after he said he played hoops (the PayPal founders prefer chess), something that he has stood by in subsequent interviews.

Nuclear Power in Illinois

Decatur Herald and Review (Oct. 18) – A state senator from Chicago plans to use the General Assembly’s upcoming fall veto session to continue pushing legislation that Exelon Corp. says is essential to the future of its financially struggling Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants. Sen. Donne Trotter, a Democrat from the southeast side of Chicago, made the statement Tuesday in Chicago during a forum on Illinois’ nuclear energy industry hosted by the Illinois AFL-CIO and the Department of Nuclear, Radiological, and Plasma Engineering at the University of Illinois. Also: Quad City Times (Oct. 18), Peoria Public Radio (Oct. 18), WREX-TV (Rockford, Ill., Oct. 18), WNIJ/WNIU (Quad Cities, Oct. 19), Clinton Daily Journal (Oct. 18).

Election Anayltics proves accuracy

USA Today (Oct. 18) -- How many times have you opened Facebook or Twitter, saw a post about a presidential candidate leading the polls and had whiplash because 12 other polls say something different? Election Analytics, run by computer science students at Illinois predicts election winners through combining multiple polls. According to the project’s website, the forecasts work by combining current polling data and results from the last presidential election to construct voter turnout models. By some measures, the Illinois website’s ability to predict elections accurately actually equals or beats that of other forecasting experts, like Nate Silver’s Also: WILL AM (Oct. 19), Chicago Inno (Oct. 10), Daily Illini (Oct. 10), News-Gazette (Oct. 18), ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 20).

Related story: Fox News (Champaign, Oct. 28) -- Analytics say Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is holding a commanding lead in the Electoral College over Republican nominee Donald Trump. A University of Illinois professor who developed a non-partisan website to crunch poll numbers, said it is 329 electoral votes to 208, in favor of Clinton.

AARP opens Tech Nest in Research Park

Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 18) -- The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is collaborating with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the new Tech Nest in Research Park. Tech Nest will “allow the organization to collaborate with students on technology-based research and solutions” for issues faced by those over 50. Students working in the Tech Nest will develop prototypes in “artificial intelligence, mobile apps, information security, biometrics, and software engineering” under guidance from an AARP mentor, and the students will be compensated for their work. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 19).

Alumnus Shahid Khan

Forbes (Oct. 18) – Pakistani-born billionaire and Illinois alumnus Shahid Khan recounts in a video interview his arrival in the U.S. at age 16 and discovering the meaning of success.

Dark Energy Survey (Oct. 17) – Astronomers at the University of Michigan and their colleagues on the Dark Energy Survey have discovered a new dwarf planet that’s more than 90 times farther from the sun than Earth is, making it the second-most-distant minor planet in the known solar system. The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 26 institutions in seven countries. Its data are processed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois.

Highest-paid engineering jobs

The Washington Post (Oct. 17) – Engineering and technology are among the most challenging fields of study in college, but all of that hard work apparently is paying off, as many of the top-earning entry-level jobs are tied to related majors, according to a Glassdoor study released Monday.

Engineering "redshirt" program

News-Gazette (Oct. 16) -- A new engineering "redshirt" program at the UI will help students who show academic promise but may be unprepared for the rigors of college because they had fewer opportunities in high school. It borrows a strategy from athletic redshirt programs that give students an extra year of eligibility before they begin playing an intercollegiate sport. Illinois is a part of a six-university consortium awarded a five-year, $5 million dollar grant by the National Science Foundation to implement a bridge year for incoming freshmen from disadvantaged backgrounds. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 18).

New Siebel Center for Design

Chronicle of Philanthropy (Oct. 10) -- Technology entrepreneur and Illinois alumnus Thomas Siebel and his wife, Stacey, gave $25 million through their foundation to establish the Siebel Center for Design, a campuswide hub for programs in product, process and user-interface design. Also: The Daily Progress (from The Associated Press, Oct. 5), The Pantagraph (from AP; Bloomington, Ill., Oct. 5) News-Gazette (Oct. 9), Chicago Tribune (Oct. 4), Inside Philanthropy (Oct. 11), ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 11).

Computer Science and the Presidential Race

Chicago Inno (Oct. 10) Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, according to a predictive forecasting model by a team of computer science students at Illinois. Election Analytics, a student-run Science, Technology, Engineering and Math lab that uses polling data and sophisticated algorithms to predict presidential races, has Clinton’s chances of winning at 100 percent.

Physics Van

New York Magazine (Oct. 11) – When you don’t have any images to draw from, the brain is forced to use other materials to construct its dream world, creating sleeping scenarios rich in sensory information that would otherwise be confined to waking life. On the Physics Van website hosted by Illinois, one user summed it up this way: “Our dreams are based on our memories. So a person who has never experienced ‘seeing’ will not dream using sight.” 

Baseball physics - size matters

Quartz (Oct. 11) -- It seems intuitive: baseball players with larger bodies should be able to hit a baseball harder. But do the physics and physiology agree that increased size yields better performance? In 2009, Alan Nathan, a retired physicist formerly at Illinois and long-time baseball enthusiast, authored a paper in which he calculated that if you assume a baseball player starts out with about 50 percent of their weight as muscle, every 10 percent of muscle mass he gains will translate into a roughly 3.6 percent to 3.9 percent increase in bat speed.

MatSE's Leal recognized for bold ideas

News-Gazette (Oct. 8) -- Cecilia Leal, a Portugal-born materials science and engineering professor at Illinois, was one of 48 winners of the 2016 National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award, which recognizes "bold ideas from some of the nation's most promising early-career scientists." Also: WAND-TV (Oct. 4), ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 11).

Nobel Prize for Physics

Scientific American (Oct. 10) – Last Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize for physics; half went to David J. Thouless at the University of Washington, Seattle, and half to F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University. The second half of the Nobel prize, awarded for “topological phase transitions,” also unites topology and physics, but “topology enters in a somewhat different way,” says Eduardo Fradkin, a physicist at Illinois.

Coursera CS master's offered

U.S. News & World Report (Oct. 6) – Coursera, a major MOOC provider, currently offers two MOOC-based options in conjunction with Illinois: an iMBA, which can be completed in 23 to 36 months, and a Master of Computer Science in data science, which can take as little as a year. Also: Inside Higher Education (Oct. 7).

Ceperley computes materials properties

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Oct. 5) – Illinois physics professor David Ceperley is using high-performance computing resources to improve insight into a broad range of materials exhibiting unique properties.

Sound on film pioneer

Peoria Public Radio (WCBU-FM; Oct. 5) – The evolution of the technology behind sound movies was more complicated than “The Jazz Singer” would suggest ... complicated enough to include an Illinois professor among its many inventors. Wednesday was the anniversary of Joseph Tykociner’s birth. 

When YouTube was young

Vator (Oct. 5) --" was created on February 15, 2005 by UI alumni Steve Chen, Jawed Karim, along with Chad Hurley who were all early employees of PayPal.The first YouTube video, uploaded on April 23, 2005, was called Me at the zoo, an 18 second long video with Karim, at the San Diego Zoo, talking about elephants. It has been viewed 33.7 million times.

Alumnus Glassenberg's startup Level EX

Chicago Inno (Oct. 5) – Illinois alumnus Sam Glassenberg’s new startup Level EX creates realistic, virtual surgery mobile apps for physicians to practice skills in minimally invasive surgical procedures. Glassenberg grew up in Chicago amidst a family of doctors, but he chose his passion for video games over medicine, studying computer science at Illinois.

Alumnus Andreessen explains how AI will change the world

Vox (Oct. 5) -- Recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling computers to understand the world and respond intelligently to it. Google is already embracing these technologies for Android, but they’re poised to have bigger implications, touching everything from drones to medical diagnosis.At least that’s the view of Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist at the firm Andreessen Horowitz. And he should know. He made his fortune as co-founder of Netscape two decades ago, and more recently his firm has invested in successful companies like Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Slack, and Lyft.

Git Programming

Nature (Oct. 3) – Many programmers use Git on their own computers. For scientist coders, the tool works like a laboratory notebook for scientific computing, says Katy Huff, a nuclear engineer at Illinois. Just like a lab notebook, it keeps a lasting record of events. But its syntax and workflow are notoriously confusing. “I’m comfortable saying that the interface is unnecessarily non-intuitive,” Huff says.

Nanoparticle drug delivery

Phys.Org (Oct. 3) -- For the first time, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that the success of delivery of drugs from nanoparticles can be quantified inside a cell. "We can precisely tell how much drug has been released from the carrier at a given time point," stated Dipanjan Pan, assistant professor of Bioengineering at Illinois. "The result is significant and may help eventually to increase the efficacy of the therapy and help us better understand what drives the cellular entry of nanoparticles and drug release. Also: Science Daily (Oct. 3), ScienceBlog (Sept. 26), Controlled Environments Magazine (Oct. 4).

Electronic skin sensing

Chemical and Engineering News (Oct. 3) – Artificial limbs don’t offer the sense of touch that connects us with loved ones or allows us to enjoy the silky feel of a fabric. Researchers working on stretchy, large-area electronics hope to mimic at least some of the critical sensing features of real skin – and add new ones, such as displays that “blush” to communicate emotion. Former Illinois materials scientist John Rogers is interested in electronic skin for medical applications that require smaller, tattoolike patches instead of large swaths to wrap prosthetics or robotics.

John Bardeen & Nobel Prize

FiveThirtyEight (New York, Oct. 3) – Who is the typical winner of a Nobel Prize in physics? He’s a white guy who wears glasses. He’s balding. He graduated high school at age 15, and his favorite sport is golf. He is, in fact, John Bardeen. When he won his awards, Bardeen was working at Illinois as a professor of electrical engineering and physics. The Nobel Prize for physics is announced today.

Alumnus Mages featured

TechCrunch (Oct. 2) – Alumnus Ken Mages, a Chicago-based inventor and co-founder of Secure One, was featured on the Technotopia podcast. Mages has been working in computers since his college days at Illinois, where he started a business doing what would later be called desktop publishing. 

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