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 2017 media appearances

This Illinois tech may revolutionize water desalination

Big Ten Network (Oct. 30) -- A recent paper, published by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers in the journal Electrochimica Acta, outlines a revolutionary desalinization model, based on modern battery technology, which could slash the energy consumption and related costs of treating low-salinity brackish water. And, the system removes more than just salt from the water.

NSF Supercomputing Grant

Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct. 26) -- A new $120 million grant that the National Science Foundation offered in July for its next supercomputer project is likely to have only a handful of applicants when the bids are opened in late November. Even the U. of I., the patriarch of academic supercomputing, has heard doubts about its ability to persist in the face of its state’s extensive budget problems. “I won’t say it hasn’t been a challenge,” says William D. Gropp, a professor of computer science and the director of the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications. “But we will be putting in a strong proposal.”

Wired In: Pinshane Huang

News-Gazette (Oct. 29) -- Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet PINSHANE HUANG, an assistant professor in materials science and engineering who's headquartered at the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois. She uses multimillion-dollar tools to understand particles and devices at the atomic scale.

Deep learning

HPC Wire (Oct. 25) -- Dr. William “Bill” Gropp, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Roy Campbell and Jian Peng from the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Volodymyr Kindratenko, also of NCSA, have been awarded over $2.7 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program to build a dedicated research instrument to expand deep learning research.

In Illinois, UI civil engineering professor is king of the roads

News-Gazette (Oct. 25) -- In Illinois, it could be said that all roads lead to Professor Marshall Thompson. There are few miles of roadway — interstates, highways, local roads — in this state that have been built without expertise from the civil engineer, who has paved his way to prominence, quite literally, in the road-construction industry.

Illinois Engineering graduate numbers

Chicago Tribune (Oct. 24) -- Chicago’s promotional committee members are eager to rattle off statistics involving the dense concentration of engineering programs in order to attract Amazon’s second headquarters. That includes how the U. of I. awarded more engineering undergraduate degrees in 2016 than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology combined. Also: Chicago Curbed (Oct. 23)

Dan Roth and NexLP

Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 23) -- Legal-software maker NexLP has come a long way since Techstars Chicago Demo Day three years ago. The company raised $3 million in a follow-up round. Dan Roth, who co-founded the company with CEO Jay Leib, is a computer science professor at Illinois who recently won a top artificial-intelligence honor, the John McCarthy Award.

Algorithms and Redistricting

San Francisco Chronicle (Oct. 23) --  For the first time, technology is catching up to the redistricting problem. Teams of mathematicians, political scientists and computing experts at Duke University and Illinois are building algorithms that can explore the enormous universe of possible districting maps.

Diesel Engines

Jalopnik (Oct. 24) -- Accidentally using diesel fuel in your car and running the engine results in some severe engine damage, says Chia-Fon Lee, a mechanical engineering professor and internal combustion expert at Illinois.


MedGadget (Oct. 23) -- Anyone who has been in an orthopedic cast knows their inconveniences. They are cumbersome, must be kept dry, which makes bathing difficult, and can cause the skin underneath to become itchy, smelly and irritated. Cast21, an Illinois startup, has designed a cast that solves those problems.

UChicago, UI Innovation Partnership

Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 19) The University of Chicago and the University of Illinois are deepening a partnership aimed at connecting entrepreneurs in Hyde Park with technologists in Urbana-Champaign. Also: Seattle Times (Oct. 20), DNA Info (Oct. 19), News Gazette (Oct. 20)

Discover Partners Institute

Chicago Sun-Times (Oct. 18) -- The State of Illinois and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announce plans for a world-class research hub, Discover Partners Institute, in Chicago's South Loop. Also: Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 18), Also: DNA Info (Oct. 19), News-Gazette (Oct. 19)

Wi-Fi Security

Fast Company (Oct. 19) -- Researchers at a Belgian university revealed that huge numbers of Wi-Fi-enabled devices are vulnerable to a newly discovered hack. “For most people, just making sure you patch your devices when you can is probably the right answer,” says Nikita Borisov, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois known for his role in finding security flaws in earlier Wi-Fi systems.

Mass Murder Study

CBS Chicago (Oct. 18) -- Research has revealed a surprising trend about mass murders in the U.S.: Contrary to what you might think, mass murders are not on the rise, says U. of I. computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson. Also: WTTW Chicago (Oct. 19)

Siebel Center for Design

Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 17) -- Tom Siebel thinks his alma mater, the U. of I., needs a bigger, better place for students from all over campus to hang out and do cool stuff. The Chicago native is giving the school $25 million to build such a place, the Siebel Center for Design. It’s among the biggest individual gifts so far in a $2.25 billion, five-year Illinois fundraising campaign. 

Baseball Physics

CNBC (Oct. 18) -- Dove Tail Bats, made by a former carpenter out of birch and maple, are becoming popular with Major League Baseball players. Not everyone agrees that the wood a bat maker uses creates a significantly different experience. “The differences among different players is far greater than the differences in the bats that they use in terms of their performance," says Alan M. Nathan, a professor emeritus of physics at Illinois. "More importantly than the type of wood probably is simply the way the bat feels in their hands, and the way the bat feels as you’re trying to swing it.”  Also: (Oct. 23), NBC Sports Chicago (Oct. 24), Reuters (Oct. 25)

LIGO/NCSA role in documenting cosmic collision

News-Gazette (Oct. 17) --￿A long time ago, in a galaxy 130 million light-years away from Earth, two neutron stars merged into a kilonova and set off a spectacular explosion that rippled through the universe. ￿Not only do we see a burst of gravity waves ￿ a wave of gravity traveling through space at the speed of light ￿ but we also see various forms of light emissions,￿ says Stuart Shapiro, a professor of physics and astronomy at Illinois. ￿We see infrared radiation, we see radio waves, gamma rays and X-rays, among other forms of light. And they coincided and they￿re all coming from the same source. This is remarkable.￿ Also: Mother Nature Network￿(Oct.17)

UI med school gets big bump for recruiting first class

News-Gazette (Oct. 16) -- The first class of students accepted to the Carle Illinois College of Medicine will get a big perk — about $200,000 worth of free tuition. The cutting-edge, engineering-based medical school won approval last week from a national organization that accredits medical schools, which means it can start recruiting its first class of 32 students for fall 2018. Also: U.S. News (Oct. 16) Chicago Tribune (Oct. 16), Springfield State Journal-Register (Oct. 17), Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 16)

Mantis Shrimp-inspired Camera Enables Glimpse into Hidden World (Oct. 13) --  By mimicking the eye of the mantis shrimp, Illinois researchers have developed an ultra-sensitive camera capable of sensing both color and polarization. The bioinspired imager can potentially improve early cancer detection and help provide a new understanding of underwater phenomena, the researchers said. Also: Laboratory Equipment (Oct. 13), The Engineer (Oct. 16), Photonics Online (Oct. 16)

Wired In: Ramakrishnan Narayanan

News-Gazette (Oct. 15) -- Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet Ramakrishnan Narayanan, 24, of Champaign, who just finished up as a graduate student in industrial and enterprise systems engineering at the University of Illinois and is fielding job offers. 

CS Department hires eight faculty members to meet an increasing number of freshmen

Daily Illini (Oct. 11) -- The Department of Computer Science welcomed eight new faculty members this fall under the pressure of an increasing number of freshmen.

Wired In: Girish Krishnan

News-Gazette (Oct. 8) -- Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet Girish Krishnan, a professor in the University of Illinois Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering. He is an expert and practitioner of soft robotics — exactly what it sounds like, robots not made of metal.

Marking the 55th anniversary of the LED discovery

The Hindu (Oct. 9) -- On October 9, 1962, Nick Holonyak, Jr. demonstrated the first practical visible light-emitting diode (LED). Holonyak predicted that LEDs would replace incandescent lamps, changing the world of lighting forever. It’s taking longer than he expected, but the process is definitely ongoing. Find out more about Holonyak’s invention.


BBC News (Oct. 9) -- Last week, two senior officials in the Crimean government were reportedly fired because they had started using a lot of official machines to mine bitcoin. Matthew Caesar, a professor of computer science at Illinois, says mining was also starting to cause problems for companies that offered cloud-based computing services. 

Electric aircraft

Chicago Business Journal (Oct. 5) -- Seattle-based startup Zunum is creating a Tesla for the skies with its battery-powered jet. The idea caught the attention of Boeing and JetBlue, who both invested in the startup.  Zunum co-founder Kiruba Haran is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois, and the startup has partnered with a U. of I.-led center researching battery density.

UI leading $25 million effort to build 'smart' link for military

News-Gazette (Oct. 6) -- First came the internet.Then the "internet of things," connecting devices from coffee makers to washing machines with the internet and each other. Now the University of Illinois is leading a five-year, $25 million initiative to develop an "internet of battlefield things." The idea is to have humans and technology work together in a seamless network, giving soldiers a competitive edge, and keeping troops and civilians out of harm's way, officials said. Also: Chicago Tribune (Oct. 6), Photonics (Oct. 26)

Next Grid energy study

Midwest Energy News (Oct. 4) -- An extensive, statewide study of the future of the power grid kicked off last week when hundreds of company representatives, regulators, academics and other industry insiders convened in Chicago to mark the start of NextGrid, an 18-month consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois’ energy landscape and economy. In August, the Illinois Commerce Commission selected the electrical and computer engineering department at Illinois as the lead facilitator of NextGrid. Also: Quincy Herald-Whig (Oct. 9), Seattle Times (Oct. 15)

Google Artificial Intelligence Conference

Business Insider (Oct. 4) -- Several of the speakers invited to a recent conference on artificial intelligence organized by Google highlighted the issue of bias in algorithms. Karrie Karahalios, a professor of computer science at Illinois, presented research highlighting how tricky it can be to spot bias in even the most commonplace algorithms.  

24 Hours With ... Jaguars Owner (and ISE Alumnus) Shad Khan

Sports Illustrated (Oct. 4) -- Sports Illustrated followed Illinois alumnus  Shahid Khan in London for the NFL’s first international game of the season, as the Jacksonville Jaguars owner moved from a serene morning of yoga on his yacht, through some nail-biting moments with Fulham, his soccer team, to the center of the Trump-sparked anthem-protest storm at the Jaguar-Ravens football game. 

Census Algorithms

Pacific Standard (Oct. 4) -- In a paper released in September, data scientists from Illinois proposed using an algorithm to analyze census blocks and create congressional districts based on specific parameters. Led by computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson, they built on decades of research to make their algorithm more accessible and equitable. In 2016, another team from Illinois developed an algorithm that could generate every possible district map and evaluate the level of partisanship. 

Algorithms Supercharged Gerrymandering

Motherboard (October 3) -- The Supreme Court will decide whether federal courts have the ability to throw out district maps for being too partisan, which requires the justices to be able to articulate just what constitutes partisan gerrymandering in the first place. In September, however, a team of data scientists at Illinois published a paper to little fanfare that offered a novel solution to America’s gerrymandering woes: Let an algorithm draw the maps.

Tiny Aquariums Offer Better Control over Self-Assembly Process of Engineered Materials

AZO Nano  (October 3) -- Seeing is believing when it comes to nanoparticle self-assembly. A team of University of Illinois engineers is observing the interactions of colloidal gold nanoparticles inside tiny aquariumlike sample containers to gain more control over the self-assembly process of engineered materials.

Are we about to see a black hole?

NPR (Sept. 21) -- A lot of science's history is just one story after another of people figuring out how to do something that, just a few years before, was thought to be impossible, such as taking pictures of black holes. The impossible was heavy on my mind last Wednesday as I found out just how close we were to seeing — as in taking actual pictures — of black holes. Charles Gammie, a computational astrophysicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, uses supercomputers to simulate the behavior of fluids in space (i.e gases or plasmas). 

How vulnerable are societies to collapse

Discover (Sept. 28) -- Our nation-states are vast, and we are overly reliant on large-scale infrastructure like the U.S. electric grid. “We’d go back to the Stone Age if the electricity system went out,” says David Nicol, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois. 

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