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Image of Larry BirnbaumImage of Kris HammondInnovative news lab launched
A one-of-a-kind lab aimed at reinventing journalism for the digital age has been created at Northwestern. The Knight News Innovation Laboratory will bring together journalists and computer scientists to accelerate local media innovation by creating new digital tools, building partnerships with media organizations, and expanding the media innovation community. The McCormick School is collaborating on the venture with the Medill School of Journalism and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The lab—the first of its kind in the country—is funded by a four-year, $4.2 million grant from the Knight Foundation. Its mission is to improve the news and information people use to run their communities and their lives. It will partner with Chicago-area media organizations to test, deploy, and refine technologies that help them create and package content, engage audiences, and improve their capacity to produce local news and information.

The Knight Lab’s work will be carried out under the auspices of the Medill-McCormick Center for Innovation in Technology, Media, and Journalism, created in 2009. Kris Hammond (above, far left), professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Larry Birnbaum (above, center), associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, provide the McCormick leadership for the center, along with Owen Youngman and Rich Gordon from Medill.

Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School, says, “Northwestern is a university that embraces interdisciplinary work, and the McCormick School is a place where computer scientists and experts in areas such as journalism can collaborate to shape the future.” Read more:

McCormick rises in rankingsImage of Technological Institute

The McCormick School has improved its position in the rankings produced by US News & World Report magazine. McCormick was recognized as having the 13th best undergraduate engineering program in the country, and its graduate program ranking climbed to 20th. Rankings of graduate programs were particularly strong, with six departments ranked in the top 20 nationally. McCormick also fared well in the recent rankings by the National Research Council. Read more:

Image of stretchable catheterStretchable electronics simplify cardiac therapy

As an alternative to open-heart surgery, cardiologists now use catheters to eliminate damaged heart tissue in certain patients, such as those with arrhythmias. This procedure can also be protracted and painful, as many catheters with many different functions must be inserted into the patient.

Now an interdisciplinary team including researchers from the McCormick School has developed a single multifunctional catheter that makes a minimally invasive technique for heart surgery even better. This tool for cardiac ablation therapy has both diagnostic and treatment capabilities and combines all necessary medical devices into a standard balloon catheter: a device for eliminating damaged tissue using heat, temperature and pressure sensors, and an electrocardiogram sensor.

The stretchable electronics that make it possible were developed by Yonggang Huang, Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, and John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The use of one catheter to achieve all these functions will significantly improve clinical arrhythmia therapy by reducing the number of steps in the procedure, thereby saving time and reducing costs,” says Huang. Read more:

Image of Prem KumarNew switching device could help build ultrafast quantum Internet

Northwestern researchers have developed a new switching device that takes quantum communication to a new level. The device is a practical step toward creating a network that takes advantage of the mysterious and powerful world of quantum mechanics.

A demonstration of the first all-optical switch suitable for single-photon quantum communications was published by the journal Physical Review Letters. The switch could be used in achieving two goals of the information technology world: a quantum Internet, where encrypted information would be completely secure, and networking superfast quantum computers.

Prem Kumar, AT&T Professor of Information Technology and senior author of the paper, says, “My goal is to make quantum communication devices very practical. We work in fiber optics so that as quantum communication matures it can easily be integrated into the existing telecommunication infrastructure.”

The switch would enable a common transport mechanism, such as the ubiquitous fiber-optic infrastructure, to be shared among many users of quantum information. Such a system could route a quantum bit, such as a photon, to its final destination just as an e-mail is routed across the Internet today. Read more:

Tiny gems take big step in cancer battleImage of nanodiamonds

Resistance to chemotherapy drugs contributes to treatment failure in more than 90 percent of metastatic cancer cases. Overcoming this hurdle would significantly improve cancer survival rates. Dean Ho, associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, believes a tiny carbon particle called a nanodiamond (above) may offer an effective drug-delivery solution for hard-to-treat cancers.

In vivo studies of liver and breast cancer models conducted by Ho and a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and clinicians found that a normally lethal amount of a chemotherapy drug when bound to nanodiamonds significantly reduced the size of tumors in mice with no toxic effects on tissues and organs. Survival rates also increased.

This is the first work to demonstrate the significance and translational potential of nanodiamonds in the treatment of chemotherapy-resistant cancers. The results were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Read more:

Transportation secretary honored at symposiumImage of group at Lipinski symposium

Former US Secretary of Transportation and White House chief of staff Samuel K. Skinner received the David F. Schulz Award for Outstanding Public Service in Transportation and Infrastructure Policy from Northwestern last November. The honor was presented at the fourth annual William O. Lipinski Symposium on Transportation Policy.

The symposium, titled “Public Transit for Chicago: A Sustainable Ride to the Future,” brought together transportation leaders and policy makers from across the country to address the mass transit challenges and opportunities facing the region and nation. Northwestern’s Infrastructure Technology Institute sponsored the event, named for former Congressman William O. Lipinski of Chicago. Lipinski hosted the conference and presented Skinner with the Schulz Award, named for the late Dave Schulz, founding director of the institute.

In addition to Lipinski, participants at the symposium included University President Morton Schapiro; Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL); Richard L. Rodriguez, president of the Chicago Transit Authority; Michael J. Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives; and John Cullerton, president of the Illinois Senate.

McCormick launches new websites

China, McCormick has launched a Chinese version of its website. The site offers information on McCormick’s high rankings and distinguished reputation, its graduate and PhD programs, job placement data, and prominent Chinese faculty and alumni.

McCormick has also launched five web sites that focus on new research initiatives that emerged from the New Opportunities Workshops sponsored by the Dean’s Office for faculty members.

Engineering markets

This initiative explores how techniques from computer science, information theory, and economics can be combined to understand and improve the large-scale automated markets for the exchange of goods and services made possible by the Internet.

Healthcare engineering

This program draws on faculty from McCormick and the Feinberg School of Medicine to apply engineering methods and problem-solving skills to important problems in health care.

Humanitarian logistics

Humanitarian logistics is the coordination of people, organizations, and materials to deliver goods and services to people in need.

Multifunctional infrastructure materials

Northwestern researchers are exploring technologies for building sustainable infrastructure, from self-healing concrete and steel to CO2 absorbing cement and asphalt.

Systems and synthetic biology

Synthetic biology seeks to harness biology to meet pressing societal needs—from next-generation biofuels and renewable “green” chemicals to industrial feedstocks and programmable biological therapies.

Watch the latest McCormick events online

From IBM’s Ginni Rometty to composer Tod Machover to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, McCormick has had a year full of great speakers. You can view events such as the Dean’s Seminar Series online at video.mccormick

McCormick honors

Image of Samantha Dale StrasserSamantha Dale Strasser (’11) received a 2011 Churchill Scholarship, one of the most competitive scholarships for American undergraduates. This is the third consecutive year that Northwestern students have received the honor.

Image of Roshni Barot

Roshni Barot (’11) was named the Co-op Student of the Year by the Cooperative and Experiential Education Division of the American Society of Engineering Education. Barot, who was also named Northwestern’s Co-op Student of the Year, was employed at Baxter Healthcare Corporation.

Image of Malcolm MacIverMalcolm MacIver, associate professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering, received a 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, one of the highest science honors given by the US government. He was recognized for his interdisciplinary work on the biomechanical and neural basis of animal intelligence (see story on pages 28–31) as well as for innovative outreach efforts that include writing a blog for Discover magazine, participating in interactive art installations, and advising on Hollywood science-fiction projects such as The Avengers (2012), and Caprica, a drama on the Syfy channel. Eighty-five scientists received the award last year.

Image of Vinayak DravidImage of Chris Wolverton

Vinayak Dravid and Chris Wolverton, professors of materials science and engineering, have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society. Dravid (left) was honored for seminal contributions to the materials physics of functional materials through the use of state-of-the-art electron microscopy techniques. Wolverton was cited for innovative contributions to atomic- and multiscale computational materials physics, particularly in the area of phase stability of materials. 

Image of Chad Mirkin

Chad A. Mirkin was elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine in the United States. He is the first person at Northwestern and only the tenth in the world to be elected to all three branches of the National Academies. Mirkin is the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry and professor of medicine, chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering, and materials science and engineering, as well as director of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology.