The Fall 2008 issue of Synergy showcases the real-world value of Beckman Institute research, with features on advances in imaging techniques for disease diagnosis (including video interviews), start-up companies that are capitalizing on our researchers' work, and a Beckman alumni who went from writing code for the Cube to a career on Wall Street.
Ben Schaeffer got his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and some valuable real-world experience at the Beckman Institute before leaving his Midwestern roots behind for the opportunity and bright lights of Wall Street and New York City. Schaeffer left a huge mark at Beckman as the primary author of the software code that powers the Cube, the immersive virtual reality environment operated by the Institute's Integrated Systems Laboratory (ISL).
Their motivations for trying to turn scientific discovery into a viable business enterprise are as different as their inventions. For Scott White, it was impatience with the standard business model. For Narendra Ahuja, it was partly a desire to follow his funding agencies' wishes, even if that meant going it alone. For Magnus Andersson it was the challenge.
Todd Coleman had gone from a science and engineering magnet high school in Dallas to earning bachelor's degrees in both computer engineering and electrical engineering at Michigan. What course his educational path would take him in graduate school at MIT he wasn't exactly sure going in, but it's a safe bet he didn't expect to be solving mysteries of the human brain.
In an experiment, researchers including Beckman faculty members Kathryn Bock and Neal J. Cohen examined which type of memory function contributes to syntactic persistence by comparing amnesiacs with a group of control volunteers.
Beckman Institute researcher Thomas Huang is developing software that can estimate a person's age by examining their face. Huang, co-chair of Beckman's Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction research initiative, said the software could be used in applications such as security control or preventing underage drinking or tobacco purchases.
Using ultrashort laser pulses to study water containing proteins has led one researcher to conclude scientists don't know as much about water behavior as they think they do." Water, as we know it, doesn't exist within our bodies," said Martin Gruebele, a Beckman faculty memeber and chemistry professor at Illinois. "Water in our bodies has different physical properties from ordinary bulk water because of the presence of proteins and other biomolecules."
The student team led by Beckman Institute researchers Thomas Huang and Mark Hasegawa-Johnson advanced to the Grand Finals of Star Challenge 2008, an international competition aimed at finding technological solutions to multimedia search problems.
By discovering the physical mechanism behind the rapid transport of water in carbon nanotubes, scientists at the University of Illinois including Beckman researcher Narayana R. Aluru have moved a step closer to ultra-efficient, next-generation nanofluidic devices for drug delivery, water purification and nano-manufacturing.
Sharon Tettegah and Harley Johnson have become part-time faculty members at the Beckman Institute after previously serving as affiliates.
The Fall 2008 Beckman Institute Graduate Student Seminar series begins on Wednesday, September 17. The seminar will feature three short talks from graduate students Yuxiao Hu, Robert Coridan, and Scott Schmucker.
Researchers at Illinois led by U. of I. psychology professor and Beckman faculty member Daniel Morrow found that when pairs of older adults filled out a written matrix listing medications and instructions by days and times to take them, they solved medication-related problems more efficiently and accurately, especially for the complex medication schedules increasingly common among older adults.
N.R. Aluru, a professor of mechanical sciences and engineering at the Beckman Institute, and Sony Joseph, who recently defended his doctoral thesis, have used computer simulations to explore a method by which water transport through smaller carbon nanotubes could be further enhanced.
Autonomic Materials Inc., a company which grew out of the work of Beckman Institute researchers, is turning discovery into commercial applications.