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 2017 media appearances

Emmanuel recruits at Illinois

Crain’s Chicago Business (Jan. 30) – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel went back to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with executives from about 20 Chicago tech companies today to pitch the school’s smart, young techies on what the city has to offer.

Immigration Ban

The Washington Post (Jan. 29) – President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to the U.S. from refugees, migrants and foreign nationals from seven countries was quickly condemned across the science community. Several researchers who had left the U.S. for work or visits home were prevented from returning. Erfan Mohammadi says his fiancee, Farnaz Kabiri, is stuck in Iran, where they are both citizens. Mohammadi is a Ph.D. student studying chemical engineering at Illinois; Kabiri is working on her master’s degree in physics there.  

Related story: DNAinfo Chicago (Feb. 6) – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday joined her counterparts in 15 other states and the District of Columbia in support of a federal lawsuit that has halted President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel ban. The U. of I. has over 300 enrolled students from the affected countries and has already admitted 20 students for the fall 2017 term from those countries, according to the amicus brief.

DIY music synthesizer

Synthtopia (Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 29) – The Hyve is a unique touch-based synthesizer that allows for multiple types of expressive control. Illinois researcher Skot Wiedmann created the Hyve to inspire interdisciplinary work between engineers and musicians, and allow people to explore music and music theory in a creative and fun way. Also: ScienceBlog (Jan. 27).

Hydrogen to metal

Yahoo! News (from Reuters; Jan. 26) – U.S. scientists have succeeded in squeezing hydrogen so intensely that it has turned into a metal, creating an entirely new material that might be used as a highly efficient electricity conductor at room temperatures. David Ceperley, a physics professor at Illinois who was not involved in the research, says the discovery, if confirmed, would end a decades-long quest to see how hydrogen can become a metal, adding to the understanding of the most common element in the universe.

Genetic mapping

Big Ten Network (Jan. 25) -- While scientists completed the mapping of the human genome some 14 years ago, developing an understanding of how each gene interacts with the other and how genes evolve is still in its infancy. That’s the takeaway from work done by University of Illinois computer science professor Jian Peng and a tool he has co-developed called Mashup. Also: ScienceBlog (Jan. 19), Genetic Literacy Project (Jan. 23).

Former CoE faculty member named RIT president

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y., Jan. 25) – David C. Munson Jr., whose selection as the next president of Rochester Institute of Technology was announced Wednesday, will give RIT a new leader with a broad vision of inclusion and combining technology and the arts. From 1979 to 2003, Munson was a faculty member at Illinois, where he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering. He was also a research professor in the Coordinated Science Laboratory and a faculty member in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Hyperloop team

Chicago Inno (Jan. 23) – Illinois mechanical engineering students have been working on Hyperloop projects since 2013, when Elon Musk first came out with a white paper detailing futuristic transportation in which pods speed through a tube system at up to 760 mph. Now they're about to see their work in action.

Space-X astronaut

WRIC-TV (Greenville, N.C., Jan. 22) – Could you soon be a part of space travel without becoming an astronaut? The Space-X Company is running a competition involving what is being called a hyperloop tube. Illinois has one of the teams selected.

UI Labs to offer MOOC on digital manufacturing

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 20) -- The Goose Island-based UI Labs will offer its first massive online open course (MOOC), “Digital Manufacturing and Design Technology,” which will offer about 40 hours of instruction via the online course platform Coursera. UI Labs CEO Caralynn Nowinski Collens “said the course is part of UI Labs’ strategy of addressing an evolving workforce as her organization strives to encourage innovation in manufacturing.” Also: ASEE FirstBell (Jan. 23).

Alumnus Glassenberg of Level EX

Crain’s Chicago Business (Jan. 19) – Illinois alumnus and medical app maker Sam Glassenberg, the founder and CEO of Level EX, thinks like a game developer – because he is one. After receiving a bachelor's degree in computer science at Illnois, and a graduate degree from Stanford, Glassenberg's first job was at LucasArts, where he helped create the video game "Jedi Starfighter," a tie-in to "Star Wars: Episode 2—Attack of the Clones."

Phishing scheme

Chicago Tribune (Jan. 19) – A phishing scheme targeting Gmail users is fooling even seasoned security experts. Nikita Borisov, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois, says the scam can be hard to spot.

Physics' Escape Room

WCIA-TV (Champaign, Ill., Jan. 18) -- A University of Illinois professor is working to make physics fun with a new escape room. It's called LabEscape. Paul Kwiat came up with the idea when he went to something similar overseas. He wanted to help make science accessible to people. Some of his students helped make the puzzles last spring. Then they moved into the Lincoln Square Mall last summer. Also: ScienceBlog (Jan. 17), News-Gazette (Jan.29).

UI researcher on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list

News-Gazette (Jan. 17) -- ChemBE researcher Lydia Kisley is featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for 2017. The segment of her work that landed her on the 2017 Forbes list involves looking at how different biomolecules fold and function.

Top college town ranking

Business Insider (New York, Jan. 14) – Boulder, Colorado is the top-ranked college town in the U.S., with Champaign-Urbana claiming the No. 2 spot, according to a new list from the American Institute for Economic Research.

Student startups

Chicago Inno (Jan. 12) – Cast21, an Illinois student startup, has raised $800,000 for its waterproof, breathable cast. Later this year, it will complete mechanical tests at Illinois and run two pilot patient tests at medical centers in central Illinois. Two student startups from the University of Illinois--Jifflo and Reltup--will compete in the annual SXSW Student Startup Madness competition, in which 64 student-founded digital media startups compete to pitch on the SXSW stage for funding.

Online degree program rankings

Chicago Inno (Jan. 10) – On Monday, U.S. News & World Report ranked the top online college degree programs for 2017. Several Illinois programs were ranked near the top of their lists; the U. of I. online engineering degree was ranked ninth.

Alumnus Chis Lattner

ZDNet (Jan. 10) – The mystery over where programming language aficionado Chris Lattner would head after ending his stint at Apple lasted mere hours, with Tesla announcing his recruitment as vice president of autopilot software. At Apple, Lattner was responsible for the creation and stewardship of the Swift programming language and the Clang compiler front-end that sits atop the LLVM compiler that Lattner co-created at Illinois. Also: TechCrunch (Jan. 10), Fortune (Jan. 10), Recode (Jan. 10), The Verge (Jan. 10), Financial Times (Jan. 10), CleanTechnica (Jan. 11), MacRumors (Jan. 10), Reuters (Jan. 10), BGR (Jan. 11), Seeking Alpha (Jan. 11), Gadgets 360 (Jan. 11).

Related story: Wired (Jan. 13) – Chris Lattner, who’s moving from Apple to Tesla, doesn’t enjoy the name recognition of a Tim Cook or a Jony Ive, but the Illinois alumnus is a rock star among software engineers. “Chris is really good at managing and running a large software project, with very high quality, attracting really good programmers and getting results,” says Vikram Adve, a computer science professor at Illinois.

GaN-on-Silicon transistors

Phys.Org (Jan. 9) -- A team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has advanced gallium nitride (GaN)-on-silicon transistor technology by optimizing the composition of the semiconductor layers that make up the device. Working with industry partners Veeco and IBM, the team created the high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) structure on a 200 mm silicon substrate with a process that will scale to larger industry-standard wafer sizes. Also: Science Daily (Jan. 9), ScienceBlog (Jan. 9), Daily ME (Jan. 9), Wireless Design Online (Jan. 9), AZoM (Jan. 10), CompoundSemiconductor Online (Jan. 11), Semiconductor Today (Jan. 10), R&D Magazine (Jan. 10), Compound Semiconductor (Jan. 10), Solid State Technology (Jan. 10), Azo Materials (Jan. 10), (Jan. 11), Nanotechnology Now (Jan. 10).

Efficient ethanol production

Iowa Farmer Today (Jan. 7) – New research at the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory on the Illinois campus could change ethanol production by lowering operating costs and simplifying the dry grind process, according to Vijay Singh, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory.

Student startup Amber Agriculture

Engadget (Jan. 7) – Engadget editors selected a startup by Illinois MBA student Lucas Frye and his team, called Amber Agriculture, as the best startup of the Consumer Electronics Show 2017. With Amber Agriculture’s array of sensors, farmers can more easily check the quality of their stored grain and get their wares to the companies that make our food at the right time. Also: Chicago Inno (Jan. 9).

Airport security

CNN (Jan. 6) -- In the wake of the shooting at shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, reporters noted research by Sheldon Jacobson, a professor of computer science at Illinois who noted: "As security has increased to protect airplanes in flight, landside areas of airports have become attractive targets. These kinds of deliberate, random killings prompt a visceral reaction that connects us all." Also: Circa News (Jan. 7; Update 3:46 p.m.).

Alumni startup Saphire Apps

Chicago Inno (Jan. 6) – Want to virtually express your feelings via the tears, smiles and backflips of Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman? An Illinois alumnus, Anish Dala, is part of a Chicago startup that developed an app to do just that.   As of Friday, the app had risen to No. 8 in the Apple App store’s entertainment category.

Hot hydrogen in the atmosphere (Jan. 5) – A study of data from NASA’s Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics mission indicated the presence of a significant population of hot hydrogen atoms at altitudes as low as 170 miles, much lower than previously expected. “This result suggests that current atmospheric models are missing some key physics that impacts many different studies, ranging from atmospheric escape to the thermal structure of the upper atmosphere,” says Lara Waldrop, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois and a co-author on the study. 

Electroninks startup

Austin Inno (Jan. 4) – Launched in 2013 out of Illinois, Electroninks Inc., makes particle-free, conductive inks that help make a platform for electronics, including wearables and e-textiles. Illinois startup Circuit Scribe also made the list of technologies featured at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

UI Labs

Crain’s Chicago Business (Jan. 4) – Gov. Bruce Rauner had much bigger ambitions for UI Labs than a federally funded research center on Goose Island. He wanted Illinois – and its top 10-ranked engineering and computer science programs – to set up shop in Chicago, according to an email among those released recently from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s private email account.

Topological insulator characteristics

Science Daily (Jan. 3) -- Using atomic quantum-simulation, an experimental technique involving finely tuned lasers and ultracold atoms about a billion times colder than room temperature to replicate the properties of a topological insulator, a team of researchers has directly observed for the first time the protected boundary state of the topological insulator trans-polyacetylene. Also: Phys.Org (Jan. 3), ScienceBlog (Jan. 3).

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