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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November 2017 media appearances

Cancer stem cells destroyed by drug-filled nanoparticles

Medical News Today (Nov. 29) -- A team of scientists at Illinois has developed drug-carrying nanoparticles that can find and kill cancer stem cells, a tiny group of rare cells that can hide in tissue and cause cancer to return years after tumors have been treated. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of delivering cancer stem cell-targeted therapy with a nanoparticle,” says lead investigator Dipanjan Pan, a professor of bioengineering. 

In populations of microbes, bioengineers find a balance of opposing genomic forces

Science Codex (Nov. 28) -- Sergei Maslov, a professor of bioengineering and physics at the University of Illinois, sees a "universe in a grain of sand." His research seeks to explore that universe by focusing on the genomic diversity of its constituents: the millions of microbes that thrive and reproduce within it.

Robotic Surgery

London Telegraph (Nov. 28) -- A quiet robotic revolution is occurring within the health sector, and experts predict that we will see a substantial rise in robotic systems in hospitals across the United Kingdom within the next five to 10 years. A study conducted at Illinois found that around 144 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries were linked to complications leading from robotic surgery in the United States between 2005 and 2015.


Nature (Nov. 22) --  In the late 1950s, the Control Systems Laboratory at Illinois sought to mesh the digital with learning. PLATO, the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system, was an early demonstration of time-sharing and networking. Also: Wall Street Journal (Dec. 8), Wired (Dec. 27)

UI professor's Paper 2 Tree project aims to grow an academic forest

News-Gazette (Nov. 24) -- Mattia Gazzola, assistant professor in UI's Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, just launched Paper 2 Tree — a project for UI researchers to fund local tree planting and provide educational outreach once their papers get published.

Profile on Nick Holonyak

News-Gazette (Nov. 23) At 89  -- nine years removed from his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and four since he retired after a 50-year run at the UI -- Holonyak remains a man in demand.

NCSA Announces GECAT Funding of Two International Seed Projects

HPC Wire (Nov. 22) -- The Global Initiative to Enhance @scale and Distributed Computing and Analysis Technologies (GECAT) project, led by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)’s NSF-funded Blue Waters Project, which seeks to build connections across national borders as a way of improving a global cyberinfrastructure for scientific advancement, has announced the funding of two seed projects that connect researchers on different continents to high performance computing resources that would not otherwise be attainable.

Researchers Show Ultrafast Light Pulses Can Trigger Neurons to Fire

Futrism (Nov. 18) -- A host of mental health issues have been tied to light: From trouble related to our circadian rhythms to seasonally related mood disorders, light can have a profound impact on our health. In a new study at Illinois, researchers led by Stephen Boppart, a professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering, have put this long-held theory to the test using ultrafast light pulses that can trigger mouse neurons to fire, as well as altering the patterns in which they fire. Also: Photonics Online (Nov. 20)

University degrees combine computer science and ag, music

Associated Press (Nov. 20) -- The University of Illinois plans to offer new degrees that combine computer science with music or crop sciences. University officials say the new bachelor of science in computer and crop sciences will be the first degree of its kind in the U.S. Also: Herald & Review

Wired In: Keilin Jahnke

News-Gazette (Nov. 19) -- Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet KEILIN JAHNKE, a Ph.D. student in agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Illinois. She's a new mom and a founder of Akelos, which aims to help nonprofit organizations create community-specific solutions for water-distribution and -filtration needs. Akelos aims to support engineering project efforts around the world, consulting on assessing, designing, implementing and evaluating new or existing water projects.

Jet fuel from sugarcane? It's a flight of fancy

The Conversation (Nov. 20) --  Illinois scientists Deepak Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher, Stephen Long, a professor of crop sciences and plant biology, and Vijay Singh, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering, discuss how they are engineering sugarcane to produce bio-jet fuel. Also: Smithsonian Magazine (Nov. 21)

Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

R&D Magazine (Nov. 18) -- Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois.

Blue Waters featured among world's largest supercomputers

Popular Science (Nov. 14) --  “A supercomputer is a large machine designed to focus its power on a single problem,” says Bill Gropp, who runs the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois, home to a machine called Blue Waters. In other words, a large server farm might be powering your Gmail experience or streaming your Netflix, but its computing power is focused on many individual tasks, not a single, complex one.

Changes in Non-Extreme Precipitation May Have Not-So-Subtle Consequences

Weather Nation (Nov. 14) --  Nonextreme precipitation can have a strong effect on ecosystems, agriculture, infrastructure design and resource management, pointing to a need to examine precipitation in a more nuanced, multifaceted way. “This study shows that everyday precipitation events – not just the extremes that have been the focus of most studies – are changing,” says Praveen Kumar, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Illinois, and the principal investigator of the National Science Foundation’s Intensively Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory.

Engineering dean named new provost

News-Gazette (Nov. 15) -- College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris will be the next provost of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the first person to hold the job on a permanent basis in more than two years.

Next Grid: Illinois achieves second-highest rating for grid modernization

Daily Energy Insider (Nov. 13) -- Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Chairman Brien J. Sheahan recently announced that Illinois earned the second-highest rating among all states for its work toward a modernized electric grid. The ICC recently initiated an 18-month customer-focused study called NextGrid that will explore emerging technologies and customer demand for expanded choices as well as establish a roadmap for creating a modernized grid that uses clean energy and keeps costs low for customers. Professors from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are working with the ICC to lead the study.

The future of getting dressed: AI, VR and smart fabrics

CNN (Nov. 14) -- From artificial intelligence and gadgets to smart fabrics and virtual reality, technology is poised to breathe innovation into not only how we dress, but how we shop. “If algorithms do their job well, people will spend less time thinking about what to wear,” says Ranjitha Kumar, a professor of computer science at Illinois.

High-jumping beetle inspires agile robots

Nature (Nov. 13) --  A beetle that can launch itself spectacularly into the air after falling on its back could inspire a new generation of smart robots. “A lot of robots out there jump using their legs,” says Aimy Wissa, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois. “What’s unique about this is if something breaks, you can still jump without legs and get out of the situation.”

Next stop for UI-founded company: Space, thanks to NASA contract

News-Gazette (Nov. 12) --  A company founded by a University of Illinois physics professor has raised more than $1.5 million in venture funding this year, graduated from the UI Research Park's EnterpriseWorks incubator and this week announced it was selected for a project by NASA. At its new 12,000-square-foot facility on Kenyon Road near Interstate 74 in Champaign, Inprentus manufactures diffraction gratings, an advanced prism of sorts used in laboratories around the world.

Book on PLATO

News-Gazette (Nov. 10) -- After nearly 30 years of intermittent research on PLATO, Brian Dear has finished a book on the innovative system, titled "The Friendly Orange Glow." Also: Motherboard (Nov. 13)

Alumnus Phil Blizzard, inventor of pet-calming Thundershirts

Chicago Tribune (Nov. 9) -- Phil Blizzard's life has gone to the dogs. And while the saying goes necessity is the mother of invention, in Blizzard's case it was pet anxiety. Blizzard invented the ThunderShirt and founded ThunderWorks, which has grown since its start in 2009 to a multimillion-dollar business today. ThunderShirts are garments designed for dogs and cats, that apply pressure to their torsos in the hopes it produces a calming effect on them.

Robotic Surgery

Journal News￿(Nov. 9) --￿Federal regulators tightened oversight of the surgical robot industry after high-profile lawsuits were filed that were linked to older models of medical robots. ￿You can￿t afford for these devices to fail or be wrong or just to stop working,￿ says Ravishankar Iyer, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois.

Border Wall

New York Times (Nov. 8) -- Most experts consulted on the appropriate materials for a border wall with Mexico thought that precasting – making the concrete panels elsewhere and then shipping them to the border – was the most practical choice. “Rather than build from point A to point B, the wall route could be divided into segments, say 100 miles apart,” says Daniel Abrams, a professor of structural engineering at Illinois.

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