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 2016 media appearances

DNA data storage

Nature (Aug. 31) – DNA could store all the world’s data. At Illinois, computer scientist Olgica Milenkovic and her colleagues have developed a random-access approach that also enables them to rewrite DNA’s encoded data. Their method stores data as long strings of DNA that have address sequences at both ends.

College of Medicine dean announced

Chicago Tribune (from The Associated Press, Aug. 30) – The U. of I. says it has hired a doctor who holds 16 patents and whose background includes research and clinical roles to leads its new engineering-based medical school. King Li is expected to be appointed as dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine by trustees Sept. 8. He would begin work Oct. 1 and would be paid $650,000 a year. Also: WCIA-TV (Aug. 30), Daily Illini (Aug. 30), Belleville News-Democrat (from AP, Aug. 30), News-Gazette (Aug. 31).

Related story: News-Gazette (Aug. 31) -- What will there be in the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine for the community? Think of it as the critical bridge connecting clinical care and research, and expect to see a boost in research that could lead to exciting developments in medical care down the road, according to Carle executives.

Startup Rithmio

WGN-plus (Aug. 30) -- "Arguably The Most Important Sports Startup In The Country," Rithmio is creating motion connected software that allows the world to create wearable technology for workouts, but they’re not stopping there. On August 30, Scott Kitun gave everyone a preview at Technori with Rithmio Founder and CEO Adam Tilton.

Jump collaboration

Peoria Journal-Star (Peoria, Ill., Aug. 30) – A host of officials in academia, industry, government and the health care sector gathered Tuesday at the Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center in Peoria, where OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois College of Medicine have partnered in areas of health care education, research and innovation. U. of I. President Tim Killeen says the school is “doubling down” on its commitment to enlarge student experiences with a pledge to forge new partnerships, and he brought a contingent of faculty to Peoria to explore strategic alliances with lawmakers and representatives of industry giants such as Caterpillar Inc. 

Bridge collapse

Gizmodo (Aug. 27) – In May 2013, a bridge spanning the Skagit River along Interstate 5 in Washington state catastrophically collapsed after an oversized trailer clipped one of the bridge’s cross beams. A new analysis by engineers at Illinois confirms the many factors that contributed to the collapse and offers recommendations for how to prevent similar failures in the future.

"Skylight" explained

The New York Times (Aug. 26) – A “skylight” made from two mirrors? “You’re looking at what should be a cloud, but you’re seeing people walking along a sidewalk,” says Mats Selen, a physics professor at Illinois, who agreed to explain how the ”skylight” works.

Forcing gene expression (Aug. 25) – How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by Illinois researchers and collaborators in China has demonstrated that external mechanical force can directly regulate gene expression. The study also identified the pathway that conveys the force from the outside of the cell into the nucleus.

Illinois team takes second in NIH DEBUT competition

Bioscience (Aug. 24) -- A team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took second place in the National Institutes of Health Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams Challenge (DEBUT). The Illinois team was one of six teams of undergraduate engineering students who won the with devices aimed at improving health and targeting underserved communities. The second place, $15,000 award for their development of a disposable, low-cost chip that detects biomarkers of sepsis. Also: National Institutes of Health (Aug. 23), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 25).

46% of incoming CS majors in College of Engineering are women

ChicagoInno (Aug. 25) -- Computer science classes at Illinois are going to look a little different this fall than they have in the past. Nearly half--46 percent--of the 190 incoming freshman computer science students in the College of Engineering are women. That’s well above the 18 percent of women majoring in CS nationwide, and huge leap for UIUC over recent years: Last year 24 percent of the incoming CS class were women. In 2012 it was only 6 percent. Also: Chicago Business Journal (Aug. 30).

NSF's $110 million cyberinfrastructure grant

TechCrunch (Aug. 24) – It’s in the country’s best interest to stay at the forefront of advanced computing techniques, and the National Science Foundation has just put $110 million down to make sure that happens. The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, funded by the NSF grant, is a “virtual organization” established in 2011 and composed of members from many universities and research organizations, including the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois. It organizes and improves resources like supercomputers that need to be shared by research efforts all over the country. Also: MeriTalk (blog, Aug. 23), Smile Politely (Aug. 23), HPC Wire (blog, Aug. 24), Kansas City InfoZine (24), WCIA-TV (Aug. 24), Daily Illini (Aug. 29) Chicago Tribune (Aug. 30).

Alunmnus Roger Dickey in Forbes

Forbes (Aug. 23) -- Two years ago Roger Dickey, 33, started San Francisco-based Gigster, a platform where companies hire freelance software developers. Its selling point: a heavily screened pool of top developers eager to moonlight on a project basis for non-tech clients. I’ve been coding since I was seven years old. I studied engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I founded a company when I was 23 and created a video game called Mafia Wars, which I sold to Zynga. The game did $1 billion in revenue after I sold it.

Baseball physics

USA Today (Aug. 23) – Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz hit a home run on Monday night with a broken bat. You’re wondering how the heck that works, so here’s an answer from professor Alan M. Nathan at Illinois.

Record number of women in College's freshmen class

News-Gazette (Aug. 22) -- Women will make up about 25 percent of the freshmen class at the University of Illinois College of Engineering this year, a new high. Kevin Pitts, associate dean of undergraduate programs said the college estimates that a quarter of its roughly 1,500 freshmen are female. "That's up significantly from where we've been in the past. It's a record freshmen class. There's been a real effort over many years to kind of change the mindset" of young women — and others — that science and engineering "isn't just for boys," he said. Also: National Science Foundation (press release, Aug. 23), ASEE FirstBell (Aug. 23), WCIA-TV (Champaign, Ill., Aug. 23), Fox Illinois 55/27 (Aug. 23).

Illini Hyperloop pod unveiled

WAND-TV (Decatur, Ill., Aug. 21) -- The Illini Hyperloop team showed off their finished hyperloop pod to a Quad Day crowd on the Illinois campus. "This team came together a year ago and it's amazing to me what they have been able to accomplish. there are many things that they did not talk about in this design that are worthy of patents and they are working on patenting some of that material" said Andreas Cangellaris, Dean of the College of Engineering. The group will be using the pod to compete in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in January. 

Label-free molecule detection

Nanowerk (Aug. 19) – For the first time ever, researchers at Illinois’ Micro and Nanotechnology Lab, led by Logan Liu, have reported the development of a revolutionary method of label-free molecule detection that can easily answer what substances, and how much of each, are in a liquid.

CME Group coming to Research Park

Bloomberg Markets (Aug. 19) -- The world’s largest exchange operator is going to college. To ramp up its recruiting efforts, CME Group Inc. will on Sept. 9 open an office at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Research Park, a technology epicenter that already hosts 101 finance, technology and agriculture companies. Students tapped to work on projects ranging from cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to cloud computing. Also: Crain’s Chicago Business (Aug. 19), Gulf Times (Qatar, Aug. 22).


Science 2.0 (Aug. 19) – Superconductivity with a high critical temperature continues to present a theoretical mystery. While this phenomenon is experimentally well established, no scientist has managed to explain its mechanism. In the late 1990s, the British physicist Anthony Leggett of Illinois proposed a scenario based on the Coulomb energy. Today, researchers at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, in collaboration with Leggett and his group, committed to test this scenario. Their findings challenge Leggett’s conjecture, opening new avenues for the explanation of high critical temperature superconductivity.

DARPA funds electric grid safeguard development

Daily Herald (from The Associated Press; Arlington Heights, Ill., Aug. 17) – The U. of I. has received an $18.7 million federal grant to develop a way to test the U.S.’ response to and recovery from any attack on the country’s electric grid. Tim Yardley, the associate director for technology at the Information Trust Institute at Illinois, says the aim of the project is to take a “generational step forward” in proving that the tools being built to deal with such an attack are reliable. Also: Belleville News-Democrat (from AP, Aug. 17), State Journal-Register (from AP, Aug. 17), Terre Haute Tribune-Star (from AP, Aug. 17), CBS Chicago (Aug. 17), News-Gazette (Aug. 18), The Pantagraph (from the AP, Aug. 18), Herald & Review (from AP, Decatur, Ill., Aug. 19).

Google Cloud in class

EdSurge (Aug. 17) -- Indranil Gupta, associate professor in computer science at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, teaches a graduate class on advanced distributed systems where students created research and entrepreneurial cloud-based projects using Google Cloud. Gupta suspects research results would be the same had his classes used Amazon or Microsoft, but most students prefer Amazon for its ease. Having launched earliest in 2006, Amazon has “matured for a while,” Gupta says. “Public clouds are here to stay a while, and all engineers and many non-engineers are rushing to learn how to use them.”

Physics of running (and sliding)

Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo., Aug. 16) – Olympic sprinter Shaunae Miller’s dive across the finish line was reminiscent of a baseball player sliding head first into a base. Conventional baseball wisdom mostly holds that sliding head first into first base is slower than running through the bag, but Alan Nathan, a physics professor at Illinois and one of the foremost researchers in the field, has said that sliding into first base can be just as fast as running – if done with perfect timing and technique.

Alumnus Jeremy Stoppelman

MSN Money (Aug. 15) – Illinois alumnus and Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman makes the list of America’s Top CEOs. Stoppelman became vice president of engineering at PayPal before co-founding Yelp. Stoppelman is known for his management style: Instead of an office, he sits at a desk among his employees.

The Engineer Guy: coffee maker

Food and Wine (Aug. 15) – Your cheap coffee maker is actually an engineering marvel, according to a video by Illinois professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Bill Hammack, or EngineerGuy on YouTube.

Related article: Illinois Alumni News (Aug. 17) -- Bill Hammack’s unlikely YouTube career falls into three distinct periods. Each is linked to a shirt. In his first set of video segments—when he started down the road to online fame—Hammack, MS ’86 LAS, PHD ’88 LAS, favored a blue shirt of a vibrant hue, offset by a brown sweater vest. It was a period of wild fun, though that wackiness always remained true to the basic principles of engineering as it is embedded in everyday life. In his second period—which we’ll deem his “classic” phase—Hammack sported highly photogenic red. In his third, and current, period of videos—which draw online audiences of six and seven figures—he wears light blue. In all three, he and his shirts inhabit a persona known as “Engineer Guy.”

Optical skin sensor

Medgadget (Aug. 15) – A team headed by the prolific John A. Rogers of Illinois has unveiled an optical skin sensor that has no battery or wires to power it. Instead, the flexible and stretchable device harvests energy delivered from a nearby smartphone or tablet using magnetic inductive coupling.

Computing & Data Revolution

Inside HPC (Portland, Ore., Aug. 12) – In this video from The Digital Future conference in Berlin, Ed Seidel, director of Illinois’ NCSA, presents “The Impact of the Computing and Data Revolution on Science on Society.”

Water problems

Fresno Bee (California, Aug. 11) – A former Fresno water plant operator used a private email server and cell phone to hide complaints of discolored or tainted water from his bosses, city officials said Thursday. Experts Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech and Vernon Snoeyink of Illinois are investigating the city’s water problems. Also: Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif., Aug. 18).

Election Analytics

WCIA-TV (Aug. 11) -- A group of researchers at the University of Illinois are focusing on numbers to predict who's going to be our next president. They call it Election Analytics. The website is put together and updated every day by students and a professor at the University of Illinois. Computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson, who organized it, says they're the most accurate predictors in the country. Also: Science Blog (Aug. 8), News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, IL, Aug. 17), INFORMS e-news (Aug. 18), Fox TV 55/27 (Champaign/Springfield, Aug. 19).

Related Story: News-Gazette (Sept. 13) -- Every Tuesday between now and Nov. 8, we’ll provide an updated snapshot of the race for president, as broken down by the numbers crunchers at ELECTION ANALYTICS, a nonpartisan website developed by UI Professor Sheldon Jacobson and his students that analyzes state polling data.

Related story: SIAM news (article by Sheldon Jacobson, Sept. 14) -- In the Age of Analytics, numerous websites exist to interpret and analyze the stream of data that floods the airwaves and newswires. Seemingly contradictory data challenges even the most seasoned analysts and pundits. Many of these websites also employ political spin and engender subtle or not-so-subtle political biases that, in some cases, color the interpretation of data to the left or right. Undergraduate computer science students at Illinois manage Election Analytics, a nonpartisan, easy-to-use website for anyone seeking an unbiased interpretation of polling data. Launched in 2008, the site fills voids in the national election forecasting landscape. 

Quantum communication

Campus Technology (Irvine, Calif., Aug. 10) – A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, Illinois and Boston University have won a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a quantum communication system for secure transmissions over fiber optic cables.

Compressed solid hydrogen

Science News (Washington, D.C., Aug. 10) – Scientists originally expected that the transition to compressed solid hydrogen would be a simple flip to metallic behavior. Not so, says theoretical physicist David Ceperley of Illinois. “Nature has a lot more possibilities.”

Dissolvable electronics

BBC News (Aug. 9) – Researchers at Illinois are working on electronic circuit boards capable of dissolving in water. Once in a landfill site, the boards could break down within three to six months, according to Illinois professor John Rogers.

Alumnus on working with robotics

Boston Globe (Aug. 8) – Illinois alumnus Navid Aghasadeghi, a Boston-based robotics software engineer with a PhD in electrical and computer engineering, says the mix of engineering skills he uses in working with robots is part of what makes his job at Rethink Robotics so rewarding.

Student startups

Chicago Inno (Aug. 8) – Illinois students are using technology to provide therapy to Alzheimer’s patients, create portable shelters that protect against the Zika virus and manufacture wearable devices that can assist with physical therapy.

Tech history

Forbes (Aug. 7) – Netscape Communications Corp. went public on Aug. 9, 1995. Netscape was co-founded by Marc Andreessen, who had earlier co-developed the Mosaic web browser at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois. The success of the offering inspired numerous startups, benefiting from the 1989 invention of the Web by Tim Berners-Lee and the hype about “the new economy” and “disruptive innovations.”

Related story: The Baltimore Sun (Aug. 8) – Netscape Communications, the audacious Silicon Valley startup founded by Illinois alumnus Marc Andreessen that introduced the World Wide Web to millions of Americans, is gradually being forgotten. As memories of Netscape and its contributions fade, key moments of the Web’s formative days are at risk of being diminished and obscured.

Engineering student wins on "Jeopardy!"

Chicago Tribune (Aug. 5) -- After seven shirts, six wins, two days of filming and at least one utterance of “Oh my god, I’m an idiot,” a 24-year-old Illinois Ph.D. student walked away with $137,088 in "Jeopardy" winnings in episodes that aired into last week. Pranjal Vachaspati is a third-year doctoral student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying computational phylogenetics — which he said entails building software for biologists. Also: (Aug. 5), Smile Politely (blog, Aug. 3).


History (Aug. 4) – In a world where there are more than 1 billion websites, it can be hard to believe there was a time with just one. In 1993, a team at Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications released Mosaic, the first web browser to become popular with the general public. The next few years saw the launch of such websites as Yahoo (1994), Amazon (1995), eBay (1995) and Google (1998).

Illinois emeritus faculty member on Manhattan Project

The Denver Post (Aug. 4) – Seventy-one years ago, New York City native and doctor of physics H. William Koch was an assistant professor at Illinois when two atom bombs were dropped on cities in Japan, putting an end to World War II. Koch was one of many scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, the top-secret program that developed those bombs.

Wearable electronics

Newsweek (Aug. 4) – An electronic sticker has been developed by researchers that monitors a wearer’s health using power transmitted from their smartphone or tablet. The “optoelectronics system” is described in the latest issue of the journal Science Advances, and is the latest in a series of skin-patch electronics developed by researchers at Illinois.

Paralympian & Intelliwheels

Chicago Inno (Aug. 4) – Over the past few years, Illinois alumnus and paralympian Josh George has channeled his energy and drive into the fast-paced startup world, working as a product manager with Intelliwheels, a wheelchair tech startup based out of Illinois’ Research Park.

Computer security

Miami Herald (from The Associated Press; Aug. 3) – What happens when you drop nearly 300 USB drives on a college campus? People not only pick them up, but they also plug them into their computers and open the files on them. As part of his study, Google researcher Elie Bursztein dropped 297 USB drives in parking lots, hallways, outdoor areas and other places on the U. of I. campus.

Indian women on Coursera

Times of India (Aug. 2) – India is now the largest market for Coursera outside the U.S. Coursera is about to launch its masters in computer science-data science from Illinois in August.


Money Magazine (Aug. 1) – Money Magazine named Illinois one of the Top 15 best public colleges in the U.S.

Related story: Yahoo! Finance (Aug. 11) – College Choice, a leading authority in college and university rankings and resources, has published its 2016 rankings for the Best Counseling Psychology Programs, and Illinois tops the list.

CS alumnus startup sold to LinkedIn

VentureBeat (July 26) -- LinkedIn has acquired PointDrive, a provider of sales presentation tools, as part of efforts to empower more salespeople across its professional social network. Founded in 2013 by David Pessis (BS 2002, Computer Science) and Bill Burnett, PointDrive is a sales-oriented application aimed at helping salespeople share content with customers. It takes any file, link, or video and packages it up so you can pass it along to sales prospects, with the intention of creating an engaging presentation and, ultimately, sealing the deal.

MatSE alumna applies her engineering chops to TV writing

IEEE Spectrum (Aug.) -- Illinois alumna Beth Keser (PhD 1997, Materials Science and Engineering) is turning her problem-solving skills toward creating a new TV show. Her transition to TV scriptwriting is the subject of a profile feature in IEEE Spectrum.

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