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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September 2017 media appearances

Professor heads to Texas to see how buildings stand up to hurricane winds

News-Gazette (Sept. 29) -- A University of Illinois civil engineering professor left Thursday for Texas to assess damage from Hurricane Harvey, in hopes of someday improving building safety in hurricane zones. Professor Frank Lombardo is joining colleagues from Auburn University and the University of Maryland in Rockport, Texas, near Corpus Christi, which sustained the highest wind speeds in the hurricane — gusts up to 140 miles per hour.

Railroad bridge safety

Newswise (Sept. 26) -- Evaluating the structural integrity of aging timber railroad bridges in Florida and the United States is imperative, especially in the aftermath of destruction from hurricanes Irma and Harvey this year. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Florida Atlantic University have received a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine $100,000 “IDEA” award for railroad safety for a two-year project. 

Team develops gene circuit design strategy to advance synthetic biology

Phys.org (Sept. 26) -- Over the last 17 years, scientists and engineers have developed synthetic gene circuits that can program the functionality, performance, and behavior of living cells. To date, most circuits are constructed through a trial-and-error manner, which relies heavily on a designer's intuition and is often inefficient, said University of Illinois Bioengineering Associate Professor Ting Lu. He and his graduate students, Chen Liao and Andrew Blanchard, recently addressed the challenge by constructing an integrated modeling framework for quantitatively describing and predicting gene circuit behaviors. Also: Gears of Bix (Sept. 28)

Energy Study

Illinois Public Media (Sept. 28) --  Illinois will be at the forefront of helping to develop the next generation of energy. It’s called NextGrid, and the 18-month study begins Sept. 29 .Electrical and computer engineering professor George Gross is a lead facilitator and appeared on Illinois Public Media.

Machine Learning

Co.-Design (Sept. 27) -- Closing the gap between researchers and designers is the goal of Google’s People + AI Research initiative. At PAIR’s first conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this week, researchers from Google, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and the U. of I. presented their ideas on machine learning systems that have human needs at their core. 

Solar-Powered Car

NPR (Sept. 27) Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are testing a high-tech car on the world stage. Engineering students at the state’s flagship university have built Argo, a solar powered car. The car is now in Australia and will compete in the annual Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in a few weeks. It’s an annual competition where solar cars travel 18-hundred miles across the Australian outback. 

Self-righting robots

Mashable (Sept. 25) -- When a robot falls over, it usually can't get up — at least not without difficulty. To address the trouble of downed robots, scientists are taking a cue from the natural world, examining how click beetles right themselves after taking a tumble. Researchers at The University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign found that the insects often topple over, but have a natural self-righting mechanism that robots could emulate. Also: The New Indian Express (Sept. 26), Digital Trends (Sept. 28)

Wired In: Matt Caesar

News-Gazette (Sept. 24) -- Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech entrepreneur. This week, meet MATTHEW CAESAR, co-founder and chief science officer of Veriflow and an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois.

Computer Science alumnus Max Levchin weighs in on American citizenship

U.S. News & World Report (Sept. 17) -- On Citizenship Day, alunmus Max Levchin, the founder of PayPal, provides an opinion piece reflecting on his decision to seek asylum from the Soviet Union in 1991 and enroll at Illinois and how the path gave him an opportunity to become an entrepreneur. 

Wired In: Deming Chen

News-Gazette (Sept. 17) -- University of Illinois engineering professor Deming Chen talks about the sound detecting device he developed that could help to improve security on college campuses and other places.

Sugarcane-Based Biofuel Could Create Cheaper, More Environmentally-Friendly Jet Fuel

Futurism (Sept. 14) -- Researchers have engineered a lipid-producing sugarcane that can be used to produce renewable jet fuel. “Oil-to-jet is one of the direct and efficient routes to convert bio-based feedstocks to jet fuel,” says Vijay Singh, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering and the director of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory at Illinois. 

Alumnus Divey Gulati from ShipBob talks Amazon in Chicago
University of Illinois Introduces Robot for Plant Breeders, Scientists
Spectroscopic "science camera"
Congressional redistricting

Innovators Magazine (Sept. 12) -- In the US ‘congressional redistricting’ is often viewed as something politicians tinker with to gain advantage. It happens every 10 years in response to census changes and is carried out by each state legislature. To offer an alternative to human decision making, and its shaky claims to impartiality, a team from the University of Illinois is using algorithms to offer a more robust system. Also: Phys.org (Sept. 11)

Power Grid

Midwest Energy News (Sept. 13) -- The state of Illinois is gearing up for the launch of NextGrid, an 18-month consumer-focused study of critical issues facing the state’s electric utility industry in the future. The Illinois Commerce Commission, a regulatory body, is managing the process, and it was announced in August that the power and energy system area of the electrical and computer engineering department at Illinois will be the lead facilitator.

Predicting Sepsis

UPI (Sept. 8) --￿Researchers at Illinois at found that biomarkers in the blood are as effective at predicting sepsis as long-term patient monitoring.￿

Alumni Feiger, Tebbe named Who's Who in Chicago Business

Crain's Chicago Business (Sept. 6) -- Engineering at Illinois alumni Mitchell Feiger (BS, General Engineering, 1980) and Mark Tebbe (BS, Computer Science, 1983) were named to Crain's Chicago Business' List of Who's Who in Chicago Business.

Engineering at Illinois building upgrades

News-Gazette (Sept. 5) -- Two buildings on the engineering campus will get major renovations totaling almost $75 million — including a pedestrian "smart bridge" connecting two civil engineering laboratories — under projects moving ahead at the University of Illinois.

Pitchers catch a bad break at elevation, lose movement on their curveball
Microsoft joins top universities to advance blockchain-based solutions and infrastructure

Newswise (Aug. 31) -- Microsoft & IC3 announced joining the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3), which includes faculty members at Cornell University, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and the Technion, along with leading finance and technology companies.

Keeping hackers at bay
Seeing Emergent Physics Behind Evolution

Quanta (Aug. 31) -- Q&A with Nigel Goldenfeld, a professor physics, who applies the physics of condensed matter to understand why evolution was blazingly fast for the earliest life — and then slowed down.

Supercomputing and gerrymandering

Dallas Morning News (Aug. 31) --  Among the new approaches to preventing gerrymandering is a supercomputer algorithm, created at Illinois, that can compare a district to millions of hypothetical alternatives to determine whether the original map is a statistical outlier.

When It Comes to Evolution, Microbes Have to Pick and Choose

Scientific American (Aug. 31) -- To survive hostile environments, an organism often has to acquire new traits. But the rules of evolution appear to restrict how many such characteristics it can optimize at once. In a new study, researchers, led by Seppe Kuehn, a biological physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, say they found that some bacteria make a genetic trade-off: the microbes involved were able to develop only one of two new traits and selected the one that best helped them thrive in a given setting.

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