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McCormick in the Media


New York Falls Short in Homeland Security Funding

Sanjay MehrotraNew budget allocation models developed by Sanjay Mehrotra, professor of industrial engineering and management sciences, suggest that New York City appears underfunded for protection against terrorist threats. The study also shows Chicago as underfunded, while Los Angeles appears overfunded.

Mehrotra and his team analyzed budgets for five fiscal years (2005-09) for 10 major US urban areas under a variety of terrorist-attack scenarios. The researchers found the funding received by New York in 2009 was around 30 percent of the total money allocated by the Department of Homeland Security to the 10 areas. According to the Northwestern models, the funding should have ranged between 33 and 49 percent. This would translate to a net increase of anywhere between $15 million and $92 million above the actual level of funding New York received in 2009.

Oil, Mazes, and Cancer

Bartosz Grzybowski, the Kenneth Burgess Professor of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Systems Engineering, was interviewed on the BBC radio program Material World regarding his research that shows how droplets of oil can make their way through complex mazes. Gryzbowski created a system in which the droplets were powered by a combination of acid/base chemistry and surface-tension effects. When subject to a pH gradient within a maze, the droplets moved toward regions of low pH and found the shortest possible path through the maze. The technique could have implications in cancer therapy, as cancers are more acidic than the rest of the body. Researchers might design drugs to follow the pH gradient to cancer cells.Published in January in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research has been featured in Science, Nature, and Popular Science, among other publications.

Rating and Ranking Soccer Players

Luis AmaralLuis Amaral, professor of chemical and biological engineering, combined his love of soccer with his research team's computational skills to measure and rank the success of soccer players based on an objective measure of performance instead of subjective opinion. The results were published in PLoS ONE, a journal published by the Public Library of Science. Amaral and his team were able to objectively rank the performances of all the players in the 2008 European Cup tournament. Their results closely matched the consensus of sports reporters who covered the matches as well as the team of experts, coaches, and managers that chose players for the Òbest ofÓ tournament teams.

To find a quantitative way to rank players, graduate student Josh Waitzman, a coauthor of the paper, first wrote software to pull play-by-play statistical information from the 2008 European Cup website. This type of extensive statistical information is usually only gathered for important matches, Amaral says. Then Amaral and Jordi Duch, the paperÕs first author and a faculty member at Universitat Rovira I Virgili in Spain, used the data to quantify the performance of players by generalizing methods from social network analysis. They mapped out the flow of the soccer ball between players in the network and shooting infor-mation and analyzed the players

"We looked at the way in which the ball can travel and finish on a shot," says Amaral, who also is a member of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems and an Early Career Scientist with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "The more ways a ball can travel and finish on a shot, the better that team is. And, the more times the ball goes through a given player to finish in a shot, the better that player performed."

This research has been featured in several national media outlets, including MSNBC, the Washington Post, Scientific American, and Forbes.