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Fall 2013

To Market, to Market From Sewage Ponds to Great Lakes Sediment The Classroom Unbound Alumni Share UIC Memories Auto Shop Goes to College Navy Pier Alumnus Honored through $400,000 Scholarship

Table of Contents 1 Message from the Dean

2 To Market, to Market: UIC Encourages the Process from Invention to Product 6 From Sewage Ponds to Great Lakes Sediment: Karl Rockne’s Passion for Water Quality

Alumni 10 Alumni Share UIC Memories

12 Auto Shop Goes to College

14 The Classroom Unbound


15 Navy Pier Alumnus Honored through $400,000 Scholarship

16 Around the College

On the Cover: Alan Feinerman, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering, with the first conceptual model of an extremely compact thermal insulator that he invented and is working to commercialize. This new insulation panel, although less than one half inch wide, will provide the same R-value as eight inches of today’s typical polyurethane foam.

Fall 2013

The College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago publishes UIC Engineering. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct questions about this issue to Joel Super ( Associate Director of Communications: Joel Super Publications Editor: Kirsten Gorton Photographer: Bart Harris Graphic Designer: Edward Lawler Copyright © 2013 Please direct address corrections or mailing requests to: Renata Szandra College of Engineering (MC 159) 851 South Morgan Street Chicago, Illinois 60607-7043 (312) 996-0520 or

Message from the Dean “Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to…” For many of you, that allusion will conjure up images of a television series featuring selfdestructing audio tape, tiny cameras, elaborate masks, ingenious gadgets, “computing machines,” and techno-marvels of all sorts. For others, the high-voltage Hollywood films inspired by the TV series may resonate more strongly. Of course, the technological wizardry in both productions, if actual inventions, would require engineers to produce them. Maybe that’s why I liked Mission Impossible from the start.

“…there are a lot of engineering faculty members and students at UIC today who’ve accepted the mission to help make the world a smarter, cleaner, safer, more equitable place.”

But let’s fast forward. As dean of UIC’s College of Engineering, I am very focused today on supporting faculty research and providing education for tomorrow’s engineers so that what today may sound like fabrications of a script-writer’s fantasy can, in fact, become marketable products. Or techniques. Or processes. I am happy to tell you that there are a lot of engineering faculty members and students at UIC today who’ve accepted the mission to help make the world a smarter, cleaner, safer, more equitable place. This issue of UIC Engineering highlights just a few of them. What does it mean, for instance, to people without clean water to have affordable access to it because someone invents a new desalination process? (p.4) Or for the world’s health—both the planet and the people on it—if we can reduce the carbon footprint of shipping fresh vegetables in refrigerated trucks? (p.5) How can we improve teaching and learning by empowering students through support of hands-on learning experiences (p.12) or by creating new digital learning strategies? (p.14) What new discoveries—in medicine, structural engineering, space exploration—can we make though data analysis in a large-scale virtual reality environment? (p.4) How can we restore our waterways to health? (p.6) When they contemplate the challenges we face as a society, it’s pretty clear that many people in our college look at the world through a unique lens. Not “Mission Impossible” but “Mission Possible.” I invite you to read their stories and be inspired by their inventiveness and commitment. Best regards,

Pete Nelson, PhD Dean of Engineering


To Market, to Market: UIC Encourages the Process from Invention to Product By Joel Super Universities are about generating

Even with the change in federal law, many

new knowledge. But what if the new

university-generated patents never

knowledge is an actual invention? What if a professor invents a revolutionary desalination process or devises a novel approach to insulation and wants to bring it to market?

result in the creation of a successful product. That’s just the nature of


Inventor’s Department

the beast, noted Mark Krivchenia,



That is a complicated and costly undertaking, and protecting the

hard for anyone to successfully

process is no small task.

commercialize a novel invention—



comes in. OTM personnel assist

and very few people, inside or outside the university, actually make money from their discoveries,” he said. When they do, though, it can be a lot of money.

faculty and students in evaluating an idea’s market potential, protecting it through patents, then marketing and

for the majority of the College property portfolio. “It’s really

and economic interests in the

Technology Management (OTM)

at OTM, who is responsible of Engineering’s intellectual

university’s intellectual property

At UIC, that’s where the Office of

senior technology manager

For instance, more than $60 million

How revenues from successful products are shared

has been realized from UIC’s patent on Prezista™, an HIV drug developed from of chemistry. Over the next five years,

campus; both report to the vice president

Challenges and rewards to commercialization

for research in the UI system.

But how can a publicly funded institution

and licensing royalties are expected to

be in the business of moving an invention

be reinvested through the Chancellor’s

from a concept to a product made and

Innovation Fund to support faculty pursuing

distibuted by a private company? It took

commercialization of their inventions.

licensing the intellectual property to startups and existing companies. A similar office exists at the Urbana-Champaign

These offices were created specifically to manage the intellectual property generated by research and educational activities at the university, guiding inventors through the significant challenges presented by commercializing a new technology. Because for anyone, turning an original idea into something you can sell requires many steps and a distinct skill set. If you’re an engineering professor, it’s unlikely those steps were covered in graduate school classes or the skill set cultivated in the research lab.

an act of Congress. The Bayh-Dole Act was adopted more than thirty years ago when lawmakers reasoned that the billions of dollars spent in government-sponsored research and development should—and could—promote economic development if small businesses and nonprofits, such as universities, could own inventions resulting from federally funded research programs. Previously, the federal government had held the rights to any patent derived from tax-supported research—but it had no track record of turning those patents into actual income-generating products.


a discovery by Arun Ghosh, a professor $10 million of funds derived from patent

UIC chancellor Paula Allen-Meares envisioned the fund as a strategic way to provide early stage monies for faculty projects that have a good chance to interest investors if the feasibility of the principle or concept can be demonstrated. This is called “proof of concept” (POC) funding. In the fall 2013 competition, four of the six projects receiving POC funding were proposed by engineering faculty.

Licenses and Options

Number of Start-Ups


U.S. Patent Applications Filed

U.S. Patents Issued

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

18 16 21 44 44

5 2 3 8 7

120 130 146 182 184

184 202 166 183 238

16 15 24 23 30







Number of UIC disclosures, patents, licenses/options, and start-ups

2012 Royalties earned: $17.1 million 2013 Royalties earned: $20.5 million

One step at a time

a crucial step: no matter how far the


Evaluating, protecting, marketing,

commercialization process may ultimately

OTM further explores commercialization

and licensing intellectual property

go, the university will first seek a provisional

through more detailed analysis,

is a multifaceted and time-intensive

patent early on to protect intellectual

which sometimes includes engaging

undertaking. Some inventions, like

property. At this stage, inventors may

consultants and industry experts to

a therapeutic drug or an early stage

also be advised about additional work

evaluate an invention’s market potential.

engineering discovery, can take more than

they must do before proceeding,

ten years to bring to market and require

such as building a scaled prototype or

tens of thousands of dollars in patent costs

performing some critical experiments to

to protect, although many engineering

demonstrate that the concept works.

discoveries can get to market in a shorter

In LICENSING, OTM negotiates an option or a license with firms to produce, distribute, and sell products that are based on UIC’s patent rights. The firm may be the

During SCREENING, OTM does patent

inventor’s own start-up company. Further

searches, conducts market analysis, and

patenting to secure foreign rights may be

identifies possible product licensees.

pursued at this point as well. Because it

DISCLOSURE occurs when a

Patents are applied for if data analysis

may cost $30,000 or more per country,

faculty member or student submits

indicates good commercialization potential.

foreign patent rights are usually only

documentation to OTM alerting them

Generally, obtaining a U.S. patent takes

pursued if significant foreign markets exist.

to a research discovery with some

between two and four years and costs

potential for commercialization. This is

between $20,000 and $30,000.

time frame. The graphic below summarizes the commercialization process trajectory.

Article continues on following page

Patenting U.S., PCT, Foreign


Disclosure to OTM




Negotiations Compliance



n an tributio Use Dis g earch in s s e n R e Lic mic ource Acade Open S

Return Assign or Release license to Inventor/ Release to Public


Sohail Murad, professor of chemical engineering, with Mark Krivchenia, senior technology manager for UIC’s Office of Technology Management

“On the whole, EVL faculty members haven’t tried to start companies,” said Leigh. “We enjoy being researchers and educators and prefer that business people deal with the legal and financial responsibilities as well as customer relations. CAVE2TM, for instance, requires a staff with expertise in display technology, computer graphics, cluster computing, optical tracking, high-speed networking, virtual reality, and scientific visualization. When you add that up, that’s a lot of staff. Mechdyne already has most of the expertise needed so we can move quickly to bring the product to market.”

Engineering Faculty Illustrate the Tech Transfer Stages

Nor is this the first EVL technology to be

Inventing a new approach to desalination

grant through the Chancellor’s Innovation

licensed: Mechdyne acquired rights to sell

Fund, which will pay for producing

the original CAVETM; FakeSpace Sytems,

Recently, Sohail Murad, professor and

the demonstration unit. Dr. Murad is

Inc., acquired ImmersaDesk™, a drafting-

department head, chemical engineering,

enthusiastic about the technology transfer

table-sized virtual reality environment; and

has successfully taken his invention past

process. “This is the first time for me

WMS Gaming acquired rights to EVL’s

the disclosure and screening stages. A

moving into the commercial stage with

Dynallax technology, a special computer

patent for his novel water-purification

a discovery. It is always fun to take your

screen that allows a viewer to see both 2D

process, which uses ion exchange

basic research to the next level,” he said.

and 3D (stereoscopic) computer graphics

resins in an electric field for desalination, is currently pending. He has taken the first step into the marketing phase, with venture capitalists interested in producing a device on a large scale if he can design and produce a demonstration unit on a small scale. “Reverse osmosis, the current process, can’t be made more efficient, and it is too expensive for developing countries to use,” he said, “but with this process we may be able to address the biggest societal problem of the future—access to potable water. We hope our prototype, about the size of a Keurig coffee machine, will be ready in the spring of 2014.” This invention would, he said, make the desalination process at least ten-times cheaper than current technologies. Based on the success of their initial findings, Dr. Murad and his colleagues obtained a proof-of-concept


Licensing a virtual reality environment CAVE2TM, an invention produced under the leadership of Jason Leigh, professor of computer science and director of UIC’s Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL), moved past the marketing stage and was licensed in January 2013 to the Mechdyne Corporation. The CAVE2TM system is a large-scale virtual reality environment that provides a near-seamless, 320 degree, panoramic 2D/3D environment, which facilitates information-rich analysis with leading-edge, immersive visuals and intuitive interactive tools. Mechdyne expects customers to include universities, scientific research organizations, energy companies, and manufacturing and design groups, who will pay between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for a full turnkey solution, depending on their needs.

without having to wear special glasses. Jason Leigh, professor of computer science and director of UIC’s Electronic Visualization Lab

Starting a new company

key insight of how to achieve it while doing

Whether you’re a professor or a

More than half of the energy consumed in

something totally unrelated—picking up a

student, you can feel free to invent

the U.S. is used to keep people or food

prescription at Walgreens.” Dr. Feinerman

just about whatever you can imagine

warm or cool. UIC electrical engineering

applied for Office of Naval Research

at UIC and be confident that your

professor Alan Feinerman worked

funding to get the research going, and a

intellectual property can be protected.

through the disclosure, patenting, and

subsequent Small Business Innovation

It will be a significant challenge to bring

marketing phases with OTM to start his

Research grant through the National

it to market, but there will be plenty of

own company, Thermal Conservation

Science Foundation provided $1 million

people cheering you on to success.

Technologies, Inc. (TCT) and secured the

in equivalent funding to conduct more

licensing rights to his invention for the

research. After some commercial interest

company. The goal is to commercialize an

was demonstrated, Dr. Feinerman took a

extremely compact and efficient thermal

six-month leave of absence from UIC to

insulation made of a stainless steel

act as principle investigator for his start-up company, TCT. Ahead, the company faces

To view the entire Office of Technology Management FY 2012 Annual Report, which includes a complete list of patents, see fy2012-otm-annual-report.pdf. :

the challenges of perfecting the stainless-

The potential to turn ideas into something tangible — at any number of levels — energizes people.

steel envelope portion of the panel and demonstrating that the panels can be manufactured cost-effectively. Then, they will need to find a manufacturer and the capital to produce them. The anticipated arrival at market is, at the earliest, 2015, said Prateek Gupta, PhD, Thermal Conservation Technologies president.

“envelope” with Kevlar filaments inside. This new insulation panel, although less than one half inch wide, will provide the same R-value as eight inches of today’s typical polyurethane foam. This superior performance will be achieved by sealing the Kevlar filaments (patents recently

Both Dr. Gupta and Dr. Feinerman agree that the commercialization journey is hugely challenging, but fun and exciting. “If we do this, we will have changed the world for the better—it will have a tremendous positive impact,” said Dr. Feinerman.

issued) inside a vacuum maintained by

Even though taking many of these

a hermetically welded stainless-steel foil

patented ideas through this step-by-

“skin” or “envelope” (patent pending). In

step process doesn’t always turn them

design, manufacture, and application,

into products, the simple fact that

it is a much “greener” insulation than

the university can retain ownership of

polyurethane foam, the most common

intellectual property helps create a dynamic

insulator, which takes up more space,

investigational environment across

is not recyclable, and produces ozone-

campus. The potential to turn ideas into

depleting agents during manufacture.

something tangible—at any number of

“I am an applied physicist by training, and I’d been thinking about the problem of supporting atmospheric pressure to create insulation without heat transfer for a while. As often happens to me, I got a

levels—energizes people. It can assist

Alan Feinerman, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering

in recruiting and retaining faculty, staff, and students; strengthen the university’s education and research programs; and help build connections between the university, industry, and public agencies.


From Sewage Ponds to Great Lakes Sediment: Karl Rockne’s Passion for Water Quality by Joel Super

Professor Karl Rockne at Chicago’s Bubbly Creek

Karl Rockne, professor of civil & materials engineering, started a career filled with fieldwork while he was an undergraduate. But his trip this past summer on Lake Ontario aboard the research vessel Lake Guardian was considerably less odiferous than the one his senior year performing wastewater treatment research in his native Minnesota. On that project, his small boat began to sink on a pond full of untreated sewage. He and his research colleague kept it afloat and got to shore, “but it was close,” he said. Rather than letting the smelly work deter him, though,

he went on to complete master’s and

graduate students, and undergraduates

chlorinated and brominated compounds

doctoral degrees in environmental

from the School of Public Health.

that act as precursors for generating

engineering and to make a career

Unlocking sedimentary secrets

investigating pollution sources and

The goal of the Lake Ontario “surveillance”

possible remediation strategies.

project, like those EPA studies of the other

dioxin, a known human carcinogen; they measure perflurocompounds (PFCs), or greenhouse gases with high global warming potential; and they document

Today, Dr. Rockne’s research interests

Great Lakes (along with selected inland

include ecohydrology, sustainable

lakes) is to create a record of the levels

environmental restoration, and applied

of pollutants—primarily organic ones—

environmental biotechnology. The

going backward in time. First, researchers

sustainable environmental restoration

collect sediment cores; then, using radio-

research that took him to Lake Ontario is

dating, they determine when each layer

part of a $2 million, five-year Environmental

in the core was deposited. The collected

Protection Agency (EPA) grant to

sediment is limited—and precious—

study sediment in all five of the Great

because there are three labs at UIC and

Lakes. He is a coprinciple investigator

one at the University of Saskatchewan

During the surveillance study, samples

on the project with UIC colleagues

involved in the study, each of which needs

were taken from eight to twelve sites

from the School of Public Health and

a portion of the sample for analysis.

on each lake over the course of five

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and an ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan. They are assisted by two Canadian postdoctoral researchers, several engineering

Research begins aboard the ship where a quantitative analysis is performed on a number of key chemical categories. They look at persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals, which include

pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), which raise concerns about antibiotic-resistant pathogens and endocrine disruption by natural and synthetic sex steroids. The research is part of a larger surveillance program to provide data on the presence and trends of PBTs in the Great Lakes.

to ten days per lake. Teams aboard ship took twelve-hour shifts, and the work was physically demanding. “I complain, but I like to do it,” Dr. Rockne says. “There’s precious little chance

(L-R) An Li, UIC professor of environmental & occupational health sciences, with Karl Rockne, professor of civil & materials engineering, aboard the Lake Guardian Photo courtesy of Margaret Corcoran


Yet the greatest challenge isn’t actually doing the forensics, he believes, it is finding the funding for the research. We’re a long way from the high-profile environmental disasters of the 1950s and 1960s, he noted, either of the air or water. But since the dangers of water pollution lie in chronic rather than acute exposure, both government officials and the public tend to have an “out of sight/out of mind” attitude, and money to fund water pollution research is correspondingly scarce. Yet, with one-fifth of the globe’s fresh water lying in the Great Lakes, Dr. Rockne is passionate about the need to address both “legacy pollution” and current threats. For instance, he noted that available data has proven that much of the mercury currently contaminating the lakes comes from industrial pollution emanating from China. Simply knowing the source can help us begin to address the problem.

When the damage is already done While he thinks source control ought to be our primary ecological strategy, Dr. Rockne is involved with remediation as well. He has consulted on projects as disparate as remediating pesticide-saturated soil and shrimp ponds in Guadeloupe and cleaning up Bubbly Creek, the infamous south branch of the Chicago River, formerly a sewer for the Chicago Stockyards and currently used for sewage (L–R), Prof. Rockne; a Lake Guardian crewmember; Todd Nettesheim, of the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office; Prof. An Li, and UIC doctoral student Kelly Granberg. Professors Li and Rockne prepare a sediment core for onboard laboratory analysis while Granberg collects a water sample for analysis.

overflow during intense rainstorms.

Photo courtesy of Professor An Li

capping. Rather than completely dredging

He has particular expertise in using a remediation technique known as sediment out contaminated sediment, which can be

of correcting things if the sample isn’t

The researcher’s contract with the EPA is

a very expensive undertaking, “capping”

done right the first time.” He expects

only to show historical contaminant levels,

involves covering it (sometimes after partial

to find the Lake Ontario data the most

but Dr. Rockne would also like to do some

dredging) to keep it from filtering up into

scientifically interesting because of the

environmental forensics, which could

the water and, eventually, into organisms.

comparatively greater number of industrial

determine the number and sources of the

Originally, the technique involved dumping

facilities clustered around its shores

contaminants. “Pollution is global. We need

clean sediment, sand, or gravel over

and because it is the easternmost lake,

to understand it so we can stop it at the

contaminated sediment, but that had

making it the resting place for pollutants

source rather than remediate a problem.

limited efficacy. “Active capping” has

born on the prevailing west winds.

The most important job in environmental

evolved to replace the original technique.

engineering is source control,” he said.

It includes either sequestering or binding a pollutant or destroying it through


biodegradation, then employing specially

not far from UIC’s campus, they designed

his favorite courses to teach, today Dr.

designed geotextiles, liners, and multiple

a combined active capping and wetland

Rockne is thoroughly a “sediment guy,”

layers to create a barrier between the

demonstration project in the turning basin

as the Great Lakes, Grand Calumet,

sediment and the water. Active capping is

where the creek meets the Chicago River

and Bubbly Creek research indicate.

often used in combination with dredging.

near Canal Origins Park. They performed

Despite the chronic lack of funding

characterizations of the contaminated

for research, he sees a positive trend.

sediments, prepared the conceptual

“People are beginning to see urban rivers

“Active capping is becoming one of the most accepted pollution remediation

as a resource as the water quality has

strategies today, and our UIC laboratory is among the leaders in this area of research,” Dr. Rockne said. One of his active capping projects involves the Grand Calumet River just across the Illinois border in Indiana. His lab used modeling to assess the effectiveness of using sand, activated carbon, clay, apatite, and other materials to create the best remediation solution for the site. They determined that the best

improved,” he said, noting that homes

“Partly because it has the potential to affect public policy, my capping work is the single most rewarding thing I’ve done”

strategy was to use shallow dredging followed by capping with a mixed sand/ organo-clay overlay (60 centimeters deep) to bind the organic pollutants and heavy metals in the sediment, thus preventing their release to the overlying water column. This plan has been implemented.

valued over $1 million are now being built just yards from Bubbly Creek. He is hoping the Army Corps of Engineers will move forward with the plan for the creek on which he consulted. Whether he’s wearing waders, in a skiff, or aboard a sea-going vessel, improving water quality is Dr. Rockne’s focus. “Partly because it has the potential to affect public

design of the cap, and ran simulations of contaminant transport through the cap using data from the creek itself. “The scale of the project was such that a full clean-up of the creek would require more money than was obtainable in a challenging

policy, my capping work is the single most rewarding thing I’ve done,” he said about his years of research. Being that his home base is Chicago, there’s plenty of waterway research and pollution remediation to keep his work rewarding far into the foreseeable future.

Dr. Rockne and his team also spent

budgetary environment,” Dr. Rockne said.

about four years working with Chicago’s

“USACE is now working with the city as

* See a video of Dr. Rockne performing

now-disbanded Department of the

the local sponsor, but it’s unclear now with

core sampling aboard the EPA

Environment and the Bubbly Creek Task

sequestration and other limitations whether

research vessel Lake Guardian at

Force writing a proposal that the U.S. Army

they will complete a full remediation.” :

Corps of Engineers (USACE) could use to remediate Bubbly Creek in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. For this site

The Lake Guardian is the only self-contained, nonpolluting research ship on the Great Lakes. Operated by the EPA’s Chicago-based Great Lakes National Program Office, the ship conducts monitoring programs that sample the water, aquatic life, sediments, and air in order to assess the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Photo courtesy of Professor An Li

Although as an undergraduate he was a “water guy,” focusing on fluid mechanics and hydraulics, which remain among


Alumni Share UIC Memories

“You’ll rarely ever find a sweeter setup of everything you need in one spot.” Christopher Urso (BS ’07; MS ’09)

We asked engineering alumni in a recent survey to share their impressions, memories, and the reasons they love UIC. Some mentioned their favorite Taylor Street restaurants, others noted the caliber of the staff and faculty, many lauded the quality of the education they received. There were three distinctions, though, that almost everyone couldn’t help but mention: UIC’s affordability, diversity, and unbeatable location. : 10

“UIC is a dynamic place with hardworking faculty, graduate students, and staff. I have seen UIC grow in so many aspects, and I hope to see that more can be accomplished.” Fahad Saeed (PhD ’10) “I love the fact that UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological, and cultural fabric of Chicago.” Brandon Hamilton (BS ’79) John Kiefer, professor and department head, chemical engineering, in UIC’s shock tube laboratory, circa 1986, with (L–R) doctoral students Irwin Irdam, Sukjinder Sidhu, and Sounderajan Kumaran

“There are other schools that may have more panache, but resume-to-resume, an engineer with a degree from UIC with distinguishing academic work compares favorably with an engineer with a degree from pretty much any place else, and that opens a lot of doors. UIC catalyzes success.” John Lynk (BS ’06)

“It was a great place to live, learn, teach, and experience things with many different kinds of people from all ages and backgrounds.” Jennifer Baquial (BS ’05)

“The diversity here makes anyone feel right at home. The campus is in the heart of downtown, in perfect proximity to the city’s business hub, with worldclass EVL labs and one of the finest recreation centers I’ve ever seen.” Suraj Subash (MS ’10)

“I loved the location of the campus—being close to downtown was wonderful. The engineering program was excellent and prepared me for a 20-year aerospace career.” Mark McDonald (BS ’83)

“Everytime you come back, it feels as though you’ve come home.” Ali Raja (MS ’01)

“It’s been 30 years since graduation, and I still am in touch with many of the people that I met at UIC.” Gerald Serviss (BS ’82)

“I love being connected to a college with a reputation for producing quality engineers.” Karen Daulton Lange (BS ’85) “UIC is a great start to your education. It lays the foundation for the material you will use in your career. And the initial support staff you get to help you through your career is phenomenal. I will always remember Chris Kuypers, associate director for the Academic Resource Center, for being prominent in my success.” Brandon Toepper (BS ’06)

“UIC has been my educational home for nearly the last decade. I’ve had an amazing experience with the professors as an undergraduate and graduate student. On top of that, the Summer Institute on Sustainable Energy (SISE) program the last two summers has been a perfect experience to add breadth to my engineering education. My advice to students: make friends outside of your department, explore the city, learn public transport, and eat at Fontano’s.” Jeffrey Kantarek (BS ’07; MS ’12) 11

(L–R) UIC Motorsports members Octavio Molina (’14) , Chris Graff (’14), and Michael McGrath (’15) in the team’s Engineering Research Facility shop

Auto Shop Goes to College On spring break in Colorado, Adam Miszta (BS ’14), former president of UIC Motorsports, hadn’t planned to interview race engineering expert Claude Rouelle, but Miszta isn’t the kind of guy to pass up an opportunity. And that’s just one characteristic that Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) members seem to share. “I’d met him at his suspension seminar in 2011 and just decided to make the most of it and asked him to give me his advice for SAE teams.” In essence, Rouelle, president of OptimumG in Denver, told Miszta to forget the A car and focus on making an A team. He and the UIC team have taken the advice to heart. “It’s a topic we bring up often, especially when we realize we’ve gone a little bit overboard talking about all the things we want for the car,” said Ann Tiempetpisal (BS ’14), the team’s newly elected vice president. Rouelle’s advice is reassuring to members, like Tiempetpisal, who’ve had no mechanical engineering experience prior to joining. An industrial engineering major, she

By Kirsten Gorton joined despite having little car knowledge and a lot of hesitation. “I started off very slowly but then picked up tasks and started learning a lot,” she said. “I tell people that if they volunteer, they can learn so much here—that they’re more capable than they think.” For Octavio Molina (BS ’14), a mechanical engineering major and primary key holder (or supervisor), SAE membership is no surprise. “I’ve been off-roading for a long time and working on vehicles professionally for ten years at Sears Auto, so I fell into the niche, I suppose.” But the mechanics is only what drew him to SAE—it isn’t the reason he stayed. “I’m definitely more team oriented now. I do what I see our team needs.” But whether a “gear head” or not, being a part of SAE takes motivation. “It’s a complete volunteer experience where what you put into it is what you get out of it,” said team project manager Eric Breitbach (BS ’13), who likens his responsibilities for communicating between the captain and team to his previous job as a kitchen expeditor, interfacing with

the chef and servers. This past year, he helped develop the presentation segment of the team’s weekly meetings, where members have ten minutes to present and sell their design ideas. “It’s important to create a motivating team environment because if you don’t fit together as a team, things start to get unorganized, and that’s when the motivation starts to drop,” he said. SAE members also need to be tenacious. “We work an entire year to build these cars for competition. It’s like constantly prepping for a final exam, except we put, like, two semesters of time into this,” said Miszta. The team starts a ten-month build cycle in the summer, beginning with planning, then designing, fundraising, acquiring parts, assembling, testing, fine-tuning, and finally competing by spring. These thousands of hours spent, whether in the shop discussing designs or at home working individually, are all on top of classes and jobs. “I honestly think if I put everything on a pie chart, SAE would definitely take up a very large piece,” Tiempetpisal said.

About UIC Motorsports History UIC’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers team was founded by eight students in 2007. Since its inception, the team has grown to more than thirty members, forty alumni, and has completed five vehicles.

Achievements ❚ Received two design awards during the College of Engineering’s EXPO ❚ Moved up forty-three places in one year at the annual Formula SAE Michigan Competition ❚ Produced the second most cost-effective car at the 2011 Formula SAE Michigan Competition ❚ Fastest growing engineering society at UIC with the largest membership


There’s no doubt about it: these students work hard—and they choose to. Luckily, it’s not all grueling; the team makes an effort to enjoy their community as well. “We hang out together as a group, whether it’s going to an off-road track or having a BBQ and watching a formula one race,” Miszta said. But the social aspect is just a perk. The real reward is the invaluable experience. For one, the society provides these students with an opportunity to operate in a professional environment. Miszta, for example, leads SAE public relations. “It’s not just about making phone calls,” he said. “We take the time to go visit our sponsors and thank them personally for their support.” They also exhibit at the Chicago Auto Show and Super Car Saturdays to promote the society. “SAE touches on so many aspects of running a real business: budgeting, marketing, project management, time management, and team building.”

It’s one reason being on the team works for any kind of major: everyone needs professional experience. And “SAE is a great transition between being a student and going out into the field,” Tiempetpisal noted. While on the surface, this SAE team builds cars, there’s a lot more going on—like building communication skills and self-confidence. Members all agree that the learning benefits are less about observation and theory, and more about interaction and application. And though Breitbach and Chris Graff (BS ‘14), the team’s new president, believe their recent internships resulted from employers who really valued the experience they’ve gained through SAE, nobody on the team does it just for the resume. “When everyone works together, and the car is complete, words can’t explain how good it feels,” said Graff. “Because it’s then that you realize you’ve gained real-life experience.” :

Ace Metal Crafts, AEM (Advanced Engine Management), AIM, Autobahn Country Club, Caterpillar, Chicago Auto Show, Chicago Waterjet, C-Ideas, College of Engineering, Continental, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, EMCO Gears, Engineering Council, Fox Valley, Freedman, Hirschmann, ITG Filters, Mastercut EDM, Mitutoyo, OptimumG, Plymouth Tubes, PotBelly, PPG, RCV Performance, SAE YP, Shaeffler, Silbrico, TapMagic, Tilton, TW Metals, UIC Machine Shop, Undergraduate Student Government, Waytek Wire, Wilwood, LAAD, SPD Exhaust, Champion Federal Mogul, Calspan TTC, Portage Auto, Midas, Northstar Motorsports Thanks to support from the College of Engineering’s Annual Fund, the team was able to use $15,000 to help purchase both a trailer to transport vehicles to competitions and a sensor package for Formula car data logging and diagnostics.

Upcoming Events February 8–17, 2014 Chicago Auto Show McCormick Place Chicago, Illinois May 14–17, 2014 Formula SAE Michigan Michigan International Speedway Brooklyn, Michigan June 4–7, 2014 Baja SAE Illinois Competition Caterpillar Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center Peoria, Illinois

13 13

The Classroom Unbound Faculty member Leilah Lyons – computer scientist, digital learning specialist, and voracious learner – aims to educate students in classrooms, museums, and even at the zoo. By Kirsten Gorton

Assistant professor of computer science Leilah Lyons and friends at Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago. Lyons and collaborators are developing an interactive climate-change exhibit be used in the zoo’s Great Bear Wilderness exhibit.

If you were to ask what her interests are,

In doing so, she’s found that a free-

students whose experiences in school

Leilah Lyons, PhD, would probably tell

choice setting like a museum is the

haven’t encouraged them to own their

you she’s fascinated by anything and

perfect place for testing human-computer

education and explore the world around

everything. “Nothing inspires me more

interaction (HCI) designs. “It’s sort of a

them. Lyons enjoys the challenge of

than getting introduced to a new field of

high-stakes crucible because people vote

helping students think through why

human endeavor,” she said. And perhaps

with their feet; if they don’t like it, they’ll

they’re sitting in her class. “It makes me

that’s what makes her so successful in

leave,” she said. Like the Brookfield Zoo

a more thoughtful instructor,” she said.

her teaching: her curiosity is contagious.

exhibit, Lyons uses all of her projects

Surprisingly, it’s not just her students that benefit. Professor Lyons, who teaches computer science and learning sciences

to target potentially uninteresting areas and contextualize information in an effective and engaging way.

To date, Lyons has advised more than nineteen students, from the undergraduate to doctoral level, and received the Graduate College Mentorship Award

at UIC, also serves as the director of digital

But through these exhibit designs,

in 2012. But more than her belief in

learning at the New York Hall of Science

Lyons’s highest hope is to give agency

mentorship, she believes giving students

and creates museum exhibits—many of

to kids at an early age in ways they may

opportunities to share what they know

which can be found around Chicago. One

not encounter in a formal setting. And

will help them want to learn more. That’s

of them, A Mile in My Paws, developed

the way to do that, she believes, is by

why she gives students leadership roles

by the Climate Literacy Zoo Education

making learning fun again. “While I think

on projects. “When a student helps other

Network, will be an interactive climate-

standardized assessment is valuable

students, it’s very confidence-building.

change exhibit featuring polar bears at

and has its place, I also think that it’s

It helps them feel like they belong.

Brookfield Zoo. Using her knowledge

important to make kids realize there’s a

That, I think, is the trick,” she said.

in computer science as a means to

larger world out there that’s interesting,

encourage collaborative learning, Lyons

that can be explored, and that they can

is making her way around major cities

even direct through their own efforts.”

motivating people to be learners.

goal that propels her wherever she goes: “I want to awaken people to the realm of

Her belief in an intellectually examined

possibility. When I see that someone has

life also informs her more traditional role

gotten interested in a topic they didn’t even

teaching undergraduates. Since starting at

know existed before, that’s cool. I really like that.” :

UIC in 2008, she has often encountered

14 14

When it comes down to it, Lyons has one


Navy Pier Alumnus Honored through $400,000 Scholarship

The late Donald R. Burnett (BS ’53) has

very grateful for the Access Illinois scholarship

been honored by having a $400,000

because it allows my family the peace of mind

Access Illinois scholarship in the College

to know I am going to a good school, studying

of Engineering at UIC named in his

what I want to learn, and living on campus

memory. This is, perhaps, the most

in a great dorm but without the huge burden

traditional of his naming honors, having

of large loans following me. It is opening the

previously had an island in Antarctica and

doors to the future for me so that someday, I

a bridge in California named for him.

hope I can give back some of what I’ve

Mr. Burnett attended the Navy Pier campus

been given.”

in Chicago before completing his degree

Mr. Burnett’s own engineering degree took

in mechanical engineering at the Urbana-

him to some interesting places. Following his

Champaign campus. The scholarship

graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy. As the

named for him—the Donald R. Burnett

military support unit commander of the 1957 wintering party at Wilkes Station during the International Geophysical Year, then Lieutenant Burnett provided support for a scientific project that included study of ice cores to learn about historical climate patterns. In recognition of his Antarctic service, Burnett Island was named for him by the Academy of Sciences. Following his naval service, he earned a

The Access Illinois Initiative matches donor gifts 1:1 to assist students in realizing their educational dreams.

Engineering Scholarship—will support engineering students on the Chicago campus. It is part of the Access Illinois Presidential Scholarship Initiative, a program that matches, dollar for dollar, private donations of at least $2,500 per year for four years.

master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1958. Subsequently, he took a job at Lockheed Martin, where he worked for thirty years. Burnett served on the Cupertino, California, city council from 1993 until 2001 and was mayor in 1995 and 1996. As a city councilman and bicycling enthusiast, he was instrumental in garnering support for construction of a bicycle and pedestrian steel suspension bridge over California’s Interstate 280. The bridge opened in 2009, as the Mary

Students selected for the scholarship are

Avenue Bicycle Footbridge, but following his

eligible to receive it for up to four years,

death in 2010 was rechristened in 2011 as

which means they can ultimately receive as

the Don Burnett Bicycle-Pedestrian Bridge.

much as $20,000 over the course of their academic career. Given the magnitude of the gift honoring Mr. Burnett, which is awarded to eight engineering students each year, $40,000 is being awarded annually when the matching dollars are included. One awardee, sophomore bioengineering major Tiana Wong, wants to concentrate on

“We’re proud that we can help honor Mr. Burnett’s memory through the scholarships awarded in his name, which will allow students to follow in his footsteps as successful engineers,” said Peter Nelson, dean of the college. “These scholarships will continue his legacy of service in an inspiring way.” :

Access Illinois: The Presidential Scholarship Initiative at UIC This university-wide initiative makes the most of private scholarship support through an innovative 1:1 matching gift program. The last opportunity to participate will be June 30, 2014. HOW THE MATCH WORKS Both current-use and endowed gifts can realize matching benefits. Matches are made on a 1:1 basis according to these criteria: ❚ Gifts must support undergraduate, need-based scholarships. ❚ To qualify for a match, current-use gifts must be at least $2,500 per year for a minimum of four consecutive years. This ensures continuity in student financial assistance for a major portion of a student’s academic career. ❚ The money donated goes directly to a qualifying student, as will the matched portion. A $2,500 gift that qualifies for a full match will be doubled, providing students with $5,000 each year, for a total scholarship of $20,000 over four years. ❚ Endowments may also qualify for the match program. Either establishing an endowment with a gift of at least $100,000 or adding to an existing endowment to bring it up to at least $100,000 can qualify for the match. The gift—matched 1:1 for ten years—is invested, and only the interest income on the principle is used to fund the scholarship. TWO WAYS TO GIVE Current-use Gifts Current-use gifts to Access Illinois have immediate impact—scholarships are awarded for the next academic year and can provide four years of support to an individual student. Endowments Endowments, or endowed funds, have long-term impact. The larger the endowment, the greater the interest income generated for scholarships and the larger the scope of benefit to students. Together, current-use gifts and endowments provide powerful, steady support to students. If you are interested in learning more about the Access Illinois Presidential Scholarship Initiative, contact Janet Kashuba, director of advancement, at or (312) 996-2168.

neural engineering, do research, and attend graduate school in bioengineering. “I am so

15 15

Around the College Bioengineering Receives $6.5 Million Pledge Marked changes are taking place within UIC’s Department of Bioengineering with a $6.5 million pledge from Richard and Loan Hill—the largest gift in the history of the college. Now named the Richard and Loan Hill Department of Bioengineering, it is the first named department at UIC. Richard Hill, a 1974 UIC bioengineering graduate, is an avid supporter of UIC, and has had a successful career in semiconductors. He and his wife hope that others will see UIC’s potential and invest as well, helping UIC to become

Computer as Smart as Preschooler

but dramatically worse than average

What do a computer and a preschooler

were Robert Sloan, professor and head of

through innovations in biotechnology.

have in common? Using the verbal portions

computer science at UIC, and professors

of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary

Gyorgy Turan, Department of Computer

Look for the full story in our spring issue

Scale of Intelligence Test, researchers

Science, and Stellan Ohlsson, Department

featuring the Department of Bioengineering.

at UIC have tested and found that the

of Psychology, along with computer

ConceptNet 4, an artificial intelligence (AI)

science undergraduate student Aaron

system developed at MIT, has the same IQ

Urasky. They presented their findings

as the average four-year-old child. Unlike

in July at the U.S. Artificial Intelligence

most children, however, the computer

Conference in Bellevue, Washington,

scored unevenly across different sections,

and hope their study will focus attention

with comparable vocabulary scores

on the unknowns in AI research.

a major player in the biotechnology sector, revitalize the region’s economy, and solve pressing medical problems

comprehension scores. Study coauthors

Statistics Show Growing Demand Over the last nine years, enrollment numbers have risen steadily in the college, continuing to demonstrate that student demand for a UIC engineering education remains strong. This year’s undergraduate enrollment is 2,524—up 62.8 percent since the fall of 2005. Graduate student numbers are at 433 students in doctoral programs, 592 in master’s programs, 59 in the master of engineering online program, and 57 in the master of energy engineering program, totaling 1,141 students. Loan and Richard Hill

Underrepresented minority enrollment is at 645, representing 25.6 percent of the class, and female enrollment is at 376, or 14.9 percent. Undergraduate Enrollment Trends




















Rachel Harsley, computer science doctoral student

UIC Crew Makes Parabolic Flight

Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition

Over the course of three days in June, a

bringing home a $3,000 prize.

(IGVC) in July in Rochester, Michigan,

team of UIC researchers flew aboard a

AI Lab Expands Real-Time Traffic Maps

Novespace & European Space Agency plane testing three years of research on

With a $2.9 million research contract from

a cooling system developed for hot-

the Illinois Department of Transportation

running microelectronics. With funding

and $368,000 grant-partnership with the

support from NASA, Alexander Yarin, UIC

University of Wisconsin, UIC’s Artificial

professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, along with postdoctoral fellow Suman Sinha Ray and graduate student Sumit Sinha Ray, have developed novel nanotextured surfaces that dramatically

Intelligence Lab is continuing its work in

Graduate Student Accomplishments ❚ As part of the Illinois Technology

of computer science, along with John Dillenburg, associate director. Their work

have recently been recognized as

will continue development of the Gateway

exceptional students with potential

Traveler Information System, expanding

to use technology in innovative ways.

traffic maps to cover all of Illinois and the

Doctoral candidates Rachel Harsley,

entire I-94 highway from Minneapolis to

Marco Maggioni, and Victor Mateevitsi

Detroit. In addition to traffic coverage,

were honored through the program.

the Gateway Traveler Information System

Engineers Conference on October 24, 2013. Hers was one of nearly fifty abstracts selected from more than 600 submissions. Ms. Jarvaid,

factor for space vehicles with elaborate electro-optical and infrared sensors that generate heat and can burn out. The team is now analyzing data collected during the high-gravity and zero-gravity portions of the flights to understand

Nelson, dean of the college and professor

three UIC engineering students

National Society of Women

increase cooling efficiency—an important

Intelligence Lab is directed by Peter

Foundation’s 50 for the Future,

❚ Maria Javaid presented at the

A.Yarin, PhD, (right) and post-doc S.S. Ray aboard the Novespace Airbus

real-time traffic information. The Artificial

interfaces with public transportation systems, analyzing reported incidents to inform the systems affected. The expanded system aims to improve traffic conditions, save millions of dollars in fuel, reduce delays, and decrease pollution.

a doctoral student, conducts

For more information, visit

research in haptics technology

for use in the dental care field.

Undergraduate Student Accomplishments

Traffic on I-290 in Chicago

❚ Victor Cueto (mechanical engineering) won the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National STAR Student Role Model Undergraduate Award.

how the cooling system works under

❚ The college’s Engineering Design

the conditions of zero-gravity space.

Team, drawing on expertise from mechanical, electrical, and computer science majors, won third place in the engineering design category at the


College of Engineering 851 South Morgan Street Chicago, Illinois 60607-7043

Upcoming Events Alumni!

Volunteer to mentor students during


Engineering Career Prep Day.

Join more than 100 recruiters

25th Annual Engineering Expo:

Friday, February 7, 2014 9 a.m.–Noon

seeking talented engineers at

Coming in April 2014

On the UIC campus in the Illinois Room of Student Center East Needed: College of Engineering alumni with more than five years of experience in their field.

the Engineering Career Fair. Tuesday, February 18, 2014 Noon–4 p.m. On the UIC campus in the Illinois Room of Student Center East Register online if your company would like

Register online if you are interested in

to interview talented engineering/computer

being an alumni mentor to UIC engineering

science students:

undergraduate students:

UIC Engineering 2013 Fall