blog posts Six Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows Nov 25, 2020 4:30 pm5069 views CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2020 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Evolution, ecology and behavior professor Alison Bell; plant biology professor Carl Bernacchi; bioengineering professor Rohit Bhargava; materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun; chemistry professor Prashant Jain; and materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos are among the 489 scientists to be awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow this year. Today's catastrophic concerns shaped by past interactions between science, culture Nov 19, 2020 12:15 pm590 views A global pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes have made 2020 a year of catastrophes. David Sepkoski’s new book “Catastrophic Thinking” looks at how current-day concerns about threats to both the planet and the human race came to be. Sepkoski is a history professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, specializing in the history of science. Three Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 18, 2020 8:45 am3239 views Three faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2020 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes leading researchers in the sciences and social sciences from around the world. It is based on an analysis of journal article publication and citation data, an objective measure of a researcher’s influence, from 2009-2019. The highly cited Illinois researchers this year are: materials science and engineering professor Axel Hoffmann, crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen Long, and plant biology professor Donald Ort. Driver behavior influences traffic patterns as much as roadway design, study reports Nov 17, 2020 8:00 am782 views Urban planners may soon have a new way to measure traffic congestion. By capturing the different routes by which vehicles can travel between locations, researchers have developed a new computer algorithm that helps quantify regions of congestion in urban areas and suggests ways around them Study of non-COVID-19 deaths shows 2020 increase in several demographics Nov 17, 2020 8:00 am2619 views March through May saw a significant increase in deaths over previous years – and not just from COVID-19, says a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When deaths attributed to COVID-19 were removed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totals, the death rate in several demographics outpaced the same period in 2019, the study found. The timeframe represents the first three months of response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Copolymer helps remove pervasive PFAS toxins from environment Oct 29, 2020 9:00 am1482 views Researchers have demonstrated that they can attract, capture and destroy PFAS – a group of federally regulated substances found in everything from nonstick coatings to shampoo and nicknamed “the forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the natural environment. Cicada-inspired waterproof surfaces closer to reality, researchers report Oct 22, 2020 9:30 am2587 views A multidisciplinary group that studies the physical and chemical properties of insect wings has demonstrated the ability to reproduce the nanostructures that help cicada wings repel water and prevent bacteria from establishing on the surface. The new technique – which uses commercial nail polish – is economical and straightforward, and the researchers said it will help fabricate future high-tech waterproof materials. Multi-institutional team extracts more energy from sunlight with advanced solar panels Oct 6, 2020 8:00 am2194 views Researchers working to maximize solar panel efficiency said layering advanced materials atop traditional silicon is a promising path to eke more energy out of sunlight. A new study shows that by using a precisely controlled fabrication process, researchers can produce multilayered solar panels with the potential to be 1.5 times more efficient than traditional silicon panels. Gene expression altered by direction of forces acting on cell Sep 29, 2020 8:00 am964 views Tissues and cells in the human body are subjected to a constant push and pull – strained by other cells, blood pressure and fluid flow, to name a few. The type and direction of the force on a cell alters gene expression by stretching different regions of DNA, researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators in China found in a new study. How is campus adjusting HVAC systems during the coronavirus pandemic? Sep 28, 2020 12:15 pm963 views As temperatures drop and more people gather indoors, concerns about coronavirus particles floating in the air are on the rise. Officials at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have made adjustments to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to provide adequate ventilation, says Mohamed Attalla, the executive director of Facilities and Services. He spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the proactive measures taken to assure that campus HVAC systems are operating correctly and supplying fresh outdoor air to buildings. Most homemade masks are doing a great job, even when we sneeze, study finds Sep 17, 2020 9:30 am5974 views Studies indicate that homemade masks help combat the spread of viruses like COVID-19 when combined with frequent hand-washing and physical distancing. Many of these studies focus on the transfer of tiny aerosol particles; however, researchers say that speaking, coughing and sneezing generates larger droplets that carry virus particles. Because of this, mechanical engineer Taher Saif said the established knowledge may not be enough to determine how the effectiveness of some fabrics used in homemade masks. Study: Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test could bypass the lab Aug 31, 2020 2:00 pm7525 views In a new study, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign researchers have demonstrated a prototype of a rapid COVID-19 molecular test and a simple-to-use, portable instrument for reading the results with a smartphone in 30 minutes, which could enable point-of-care diagnosis without needing to send samples to a lab. U of I to lead two of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes Aug 26, 2020 8:00 am8815 views The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture are announcing an investment of more than $140 million to establish seven artificial intelligence institutes in the U.S. Two of the seven will be led by teams at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The USDA-NIFA will fund the AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability at the U. of I. Illinois computer science professor Vikram Adve will lead the AIFARMS Institute. The NSF will fund the AI Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing, also known as the Molecule Maker Lab Institute. Huimin Zhao, a U. of I. professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry, will lead this institute. New approach to explaining soft material flow may yield way to new materials, disaster prediction Aug 24, 2020 2:00 pm889 views How does toothpaste stay in its tube and not ooze out when we remove the cap? What causes seemingly solid ground to suddenly break free into a landslide? Defining exactly how soft materials flow and seize has eluded researchers for years, but a new study explains this complex motion using relatively simple experiments. The ability to define – and eventually predict – soft material flow will benefit people dealing with everything from spreadable cheese to avalanches. Machine learning peeks into nano-aquariums Aug 24, 2020 8:00 am633 views In the nanoworld, tiny particles such as proteins appear to dance as they transform and assemble to perform various tasks while suspended in a liquid. Recently developed methods have made it possible to watch and record these otherwise-elusive tiny motions, and researchers now take a step forward by developing a machine learning workflow to streamline the process. Exploding stars may have caused mass extinction on Earth, study shows Aug 18, 2020 12:00 pm5019 views Imagine reading by the light of an exploded star, brighter than a full moon – it might be fun to think about, but this scene is the prelude to a disaster when the radiation devastates life as we know it. Killer cosmic rays from nearby supernovae could be the culprit behind at least one mass extinction event, researchers said, and finding certain radioactive isotopes in Earth’s rock record could confirm this scenario. Illinois 'engineer guy' Hammack awarded Hoover Medal Aug 13, 2020 8:00 am2066 views Bill Hammack, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has been awarded the Hoover Medal. Electronic components join forces to take up 10 times less space on computer chips Aug 10, 2020 1:45 pm1556 views Electronic filters are part of the inner workings of our phones and other wireless devices. They eliminate or enhance specific input signals to achieve the desired output signals. They are essential, but take up space on the chips that researchers are on a constant quest to make smaller. A new study demonstrates the successful integration of the individual elements that make up electronic filters onto a single component, significantly reducing the amount of space taken up by the device. COVID-19 briefing: Homegrown models inform university's safety measures Aug 7, 2020 1:45 pm1552 views When classes resume Aug. 24, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will enlist a program that includes COVID-19 target, test and tell protocols and employs a saliva-based testing method. The program’s design relied heavily on a team of researchers’ predictions of how different variables might help mitigate the spread of the virus. Two of those researchers discussed their work in a recent online briefing. Training neural circuits early in development improves response, study finds Aug 6, 2020 1:30 pm1169 views When it comes to training neural circuits for tissue engineering or biomedical applications, a new study suggests a key parameter: Train them young. Electric cooker an easy, efficient way to sanitize N95 masks, study finds Aug 6, 2020 9:30 am145832 views Owners of electric multicookers may be able to add another use to its list of functions, a new study suggests: sanitization of N95 respirator masks. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign study found that 50 minutes of dry heat in an electric cooker, such as a rice cooker or Instant Pot, decontaminated N95 respirators inside and out while maintaining their filtration and fit. This could enable wearers to safely reuse limited supplies of the respirators, originally intended to be one-time-use items. Eight projects awarded funding for AI research to mitigate COVID-19 Jun 30, 2020 1:45 pm3235 views Eight University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign projects are among 26 to receive the first C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute awards for artificial intelligence techniques to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The institute will provide a total of $5.4 million over the next year to projects that examine the medical, social and economic impacts of the novel coronavirus and inspire researcher collaboration in advanced machine learning and other AI disciplines. Illinois professor proposes guide for developing common data science approaches Jun 25, 2020 9:00 am898 views University of Illinois information sciences professor Victoria Stodden proposes a way to develop recognized data science processes for research. Recovery from airline delays works best with future disruptions in mind Jun 22, 2020 9:30 am858 views Instead of responding to each flight delay as if it were an isolated event, airlines should consider the likelihood of potential disruptions ahead, researchers report in the journal Transportation Science. They developed a new approach that allows airlines to respond to flight delays and cancellations while also incorporating information about likely disruptions later the same day. Human activity on rivers outpaces, compounds effects of climate change Jun 19, 2020 10:00 am2494 views The livelihoods of millions of people living along the world’s biggest river systems are under threat by a range of stressors caused by the daily economic, societal and political activity of humans – in addition to the long-term effects of climate change, researchers report. Simulated sea slug gets addicted to drug Jun 16, 2020 8:15 am1557 views Scientists built a computer model of a simple brain network based on that of a sea slug, taught it how to get food, gave it an appetite and the ability to experience reward, added a dash of something called homeostatic plasticity and then exposed it to a very intoxicating drug. To no one’s surprise, the creature became addicted. The research is part of a long-term project to create a working model of the brain, starting with the simplest of circuits and gradually adding complexity, said Rhanor Gillette, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor emeritus of molecular and integrative physiology who led the research. Researchers mimic nature for fast, colorful 3D printing Jun 10, 2020 1:00 pm1564 views Brilliantly colored chameleons, butterflies, opals – and now some 3D-printed materials – reflect color by using nanoscale structures called photonic crystals. A new study that demonstrates how a modified 3D-printing process provides a versatile approach to producing multiple colors from a single ink is published in the journal Science Advances. Study: Integrating satellite and socioeconomic data to improve climate change policy May 28, 2020 12:15 pm744 views Bangladesh is on track to lose all of its forestland in the next 35-40 years, leading to a rise in CO2 emissions and subsequent climate change, researchers said. However, that is just one of the significant land-use changes that the country is experiencing. A new study uses satellite and census data to quantify and unravel how physical and economic factors drive land-use changes. Understanding this relationship can inform climate policy at the national scale in Bangladesh and beyond. Study: Multiscale crop modeling effort required to assess climate change adaptation May 14, 2020 12:00 pm1537 views Crop modeling is essential for understanding how to secure the food supply as the planet adapts to climate change. Many current crop models focus on simulating crop growth and yield at the field scale, but lack genetic and physiological data, which may hamper accurate production and environmental impact assessment at larger scales. Growing mountains or shifting ground: What is going on in Earth’s inner core? May 12, 2020 11:45 am10103 views Exhaustive seismic data from repeating earthquakes and new data-processing methods have yielded the best evidence yet that the Earth’s inner core is rotating – revealing a better understanding of the hotly debated processes that control the planet’s magnetic field. Making a homemade COVID mask? Study explains best fabric choices May 1, 2020 9:45 am35771 views Health authorities believe COVID-19 spreads by the transmission of respiratory droplets, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends homemade cloth face coverings for use in public spaces. Starting today, Illinois joins many other states in requiring people to wear masks while out. However, initial uncertainty regarding the masks’ effectiveness in reducing exhaled droplets leaves some people unsure or skeptical of their usefulness during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Mechanical science and engineering professor Taher Saif spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about a study that he and his graduate students, Onur Aydin and Bashar Emon, performed on the effectiveness of common household fabrics for use in homemade masks. Nanostimulators boost stem cells for muscle repair May 1, 2020 8:00 am1456 views In regenerative medicine, an ideal treatment for patients whose muscles are damaged from lack of oxygen would be to invigorate them with an injection of their own stem cells. In a new study published in the journal ACS Nano, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated that “nanostimulators” – nanoparticles seeded with a molecule the body naturally produces to prompt stem cells to heal wounds – can amp up stem cells’ regenerative powers in a targeted limb in mice. Thomas Huang, pioneer in image compression, has died Apr 28, 2020 12:30 pm2919 views Thomas Huang, a pioneering researcher in the field of image compression and an influential educator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, died Saturday. In his long career as a professor of electrical and computer engineering, Huang was ranked among the world’s most influential researchers and mentored more than 100 students. He was 83. Spinal cord gives bio-bots walking rhythm Apr 28, 2020 10:00 am811 views Miniature biological robots are making greater strides than ever, thanks to the spinal cord directing their steps. Illinois computer scientist, physicist elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences Apr 27, 2020 9:00 am1444 views University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign computer science professor Sarita V. Adve and physics professor Philip W. Phillips have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest honor societies in the nation. Inexpensive, portable detector identifies pathogens in minutes Apr 23, 2020 12:00 pm4193 views Most viral test kits rely on labor- and time-intensive laboratory preparation and analysis techniques; for example, tests for the novel coronavirus can take days to detect the virus from nasal swabs. Now, researchers have demonstrated an inexpensive yet sensitive smartphone-based testing device for viral and bacterial pathogens that takes about 30 minutes to complete. The roughly $50 smartphone accessory could reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during a pandemic such as COVID-19. Study reveals unique physical, chemical properties of cicada wings Apr 14, 2020 8:15 am1247 views Biological structures sometimes have unique features that engineers would like to copy. For example, many types of insect wings shed water, kill microbes, reflect light in unusual ways and are self-cleaning. While researchers have dissected the physical characteristics that likely contribute to such traits, a new study reveals that the chemical compounds that coat cicada wings also contribute to their ability to repel water and kill microbes. New study shows how oxygen transfer is altered in diseased lung tissue Apr 9, 2020 12:00 pm2171 views A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed tiny sensors that measure oxygen transport in bovine lung tissue. The study – which establishes a new framework for observing the elusive connection between lung membranes, oxygen flow and related disease – is published in the journal Nature Communications. Computational human cell reveals new insight on genetic information processing Mar 25, 2020 1:00 pm1590 views Researchers have developed the first computational model of a human cell and simulated its behavior for 15 minutes – the longest time achieved for a biological system of this complexity. In a new study, simulations reveal the effects of spatial organization within cells on some of the genetic processes that control the regulation and development of human traits and some human diseases. Crumpled graphene makes ultra-sensitive cancer DNA detector Mar 24, 2020 6:00 am2425 views Graphene-based biosensors could usher in an era of liquid biopsy, detecting DNA cancer markers circulating in a patient’s blood or serum. But current designs need a lot of DNA. In a new study, crumpling graphene makes it more than ten thousand times more sensitive to DNA by creating electrical “hot spots,” researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found. Physics professor, Nobel laureate Anthony Leggett donates papers to University Archives Mar 5, 2020 2:15 pm1922 views Anthony Leggett’s papers from more than 50 years of research and teaching will provide a window on his groundbreaking research in theoretical condensed matter physics. Alumnus Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO and chairman, dies at 84 Mar 2, 2020 1:45 pm5069 views John Francis “Jack” Welch Jr., 84, the former CEO and chairman of General Electric Co., has died. He was a chemical engineer who earned a Ph.D. in 1960 in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Breaking the temperature barrier in small-scale materials testing Feb 25, 2020 8:00 am1041 views Researchers have demonstrated a new method for testing microscopic aeronautical materials at ultra-high temperatures. By combining electron microscopy and laser heating, scientists can evaluate these materials much more quickly and inexpensively than with traditional testing. Let it snow: Researchers put cloud seeding to the test Feb 24, 2020 2:00 pm753 views Cloud seeding has become an increasingly popular practice in the western United States, where states grapple with growing demands for water. Measuring how much precipitation cloud seeding produces has been a longstanding challenge. Researchers have developed a way to use radar and other tools to more accurately measure the volume of snow produced through cloud seeding. New CRISPR base-editing technology slows ALS progression in mice Feb 21, 2020 10:15 am2471 views A new CRISPR gene-editing method can inactivate one of the genes responsible for an inherited form of ALS, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report in a new study. The novel treatment slowed disease progression, improved muscle function and extended lifespan in mice with an aggressive form of ALS. Two Illinois professors named Sloan Research Fellows Feb 12, 2020 9:00 am4416 views Two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign scientists are among 126 recipients of the 2020 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This honor is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early career researchers. Sottos elected to National Academy of Engineering Feb 7, 2020 1:00 pm2774 views Nancy Sottos, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She is one of 87 new members and 18 international members announced by the Academy on Feb. 6. Team creates game-based virtual archaeology field school Jan 29, 2020 8:00 am2334 views Before they can get started at their field site – a giant cave studded with stalactites, stalagmites and human artifacts – 15 undergraduate students must figure out how to use their virtual hands and tools. They also must learn to teleport. This is ANTH 399, a course designed to bring the archaeological field school experience to undergraduate students who never leave campus. Researchers expand microchip capability with new 3D inductor technology Jan 23, 2020 12:15 pm2163 views Smaller is better when it comes to microchips, researchers said, and by using 3D components on a standardized 2D microchip manufacturing platform, developers can use up to 100 times less chip space. A team of engineers has boosted the performance of its previously developed 3D inductor technology by adding as much as three orders of magnitudes more induction to meet the performance demands of modern electronic devices. New understanding of condensation could lead to better power plant condenser, de-icing materials Jan 23, 2020 8:15 am1113 views For decades, it’s been understood that water repellency is needed for surfaces to shed condensation buildup – like the droplets of water that form in power plant condensers to reduce pressure. New research shows that the necessity of water repellency is unclear and that the slipperiness between the droplets and solid surface appears to be more critical to the clearing of condensation. This development has implications for the costs associated with power generation and technologies like de-icing surfaces for power lines and aircraft.