April 2009 Beckman Bulletin

Image of a push pin on left, with the words Beckman Bulletin to the right

The Beckman Bulletin is a monthly digest from the director of the Beckman Institute. The Bulletin is sent to all faculty and staff. Each issue will highlight the latest happenings from around the Institute.

Communication from Tamer Başar, Interim Director
Issue 7: April 2009

Last Thursday we kicked off the Beckman Institute’s 20th Anniversary year with a two-hour program in the auditorium and reception. The program provided insights and reflections on the history of the Beckman Institute from those who were responsible for its creation and growth. The program was followed by a well-attended reception in the atrium. I thought the event was very successful and I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this celebration possible. Special thanks go to Sue Johnson who was instrumental in the successful planning of the event from its early stages in early Fall throughout its execution Thursday. I also want to recognize Mike Smith who orchestrated the efforts the last couple of weeks to bring the institute grounds to pristine condition which made it look like a building only one-year old.  The 20th Anniversary Planning Committee will now move full steam ahead with finalizing the preparations for the 20th Anniversary Symposium which will be held October 5-7, 2009. More information will be available in the coming months.

The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has made possible new funding opportunities for the scientific community. Of the $2.5 billion total, the NSF will receive $3 billion; DOE will receive $1.6 billion for green projects; and NIH will receive a one-time appropriation of $10.4 billion. This is an incredible opportunity that I know many of you are hoping to take advantage of with new and updated grant proposals. This flurry of activity is certainly exciting and I want to thank all of you who are submitting proposals for your hard work and dedication to meeting the agency and OSPRA deadlines.  I also want to acknowledge and recognize the heroic efforts of our business office who are working around the clock to make sure that various deadlines are met.

Hank Kaczmarski, Director of the Beckman Institute’s Illinois Simulator Laboratory, was recently named as a winner of the Chancellor’s 2009 Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) award, and received his award in a ceremony held at Beckman on April 1st. The award is given annually to recognize the important contributions made by academic professionals on our campus. Kaczmarski joined the Beckman Institute in 1989 and has overseen many developments as Director of ISL. This is the third time in a row a Beckman Academic Professional is being honored this way. Two previous winners were Tracey Wszalek (2008) and Van Anderson (2007).

We have recently completed a position paper on “Healthy Bodies, Brains, Minds, and Communities” which I also shared with Provost Katehi and Vice-Chancellor for Research Iyer.  I would like to thank all of you who provided material, input, and many useful suggestions that made this possible, and particularly to Art Kramer for all his efforts in putting together the document.  Without all the extensive input we would not have been able to create such a strong paper that effectively shows how this initiative will organize, focus, and enhance diverse activities in aging, neural systems, cognition and emotion, and bioimaging to name a few. The information contained in the paper will soon be made broadly available via our web site.

The M&ENS Review took place on April 5-7, 2009.  The External Review Committee was very pleased with the presentations and the high level of scientific activity carried out within the individual research groups as well as across groups within the theme.  I particularly want to thank those members of M&ENS who made presentations; they were very well prepared, and were also rich in science and engineering, driven by innovative cutting-edge research.  The students and post-docs who participated in discussions with the review team over breakfast and during lab visits also contributed to the success of the review.

Zhi-Pei Liang was named as a co-chair of the Integrative Imaging (IntIm) research theme, joining the other co-chair, Stephen Boppart. Liang is a member of the Bioimaging Science and Technology (BST) group and is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. As announced earlier, IntIm became our fourth research theme in early 2009, encompassing both the BST group and the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory.

Congratulations to our investigators listed below who have received new grant funding:

  • Test of ERK & PP2A Activation in Leucocyte Samples (PI: I. Weiler; Sponsor: Norvartis Pharmaceutical)
  • Data Communication Part-task Simulation-Pilot Performance (PI: J. McCarley; Sponsor: FAA)
  • Network for Computational Nanotechnology (PI: U. Ravaioli; Sponsor: NSF)
  • Collaborative Research Landmark-based Robust Speech Recognition using Prosody-guided Models of Speech (PI: J. Cole; Sponsor: NSF)

Please welcome the following new people to the Beckman Institute:

  • Jagdish Rai, Postdoctoral Research Associate (G. Timp)
  • Silvia Savazzi, Visiting Scholar (D. Beck)
  • Olgica Milenkovic, Affiliate Faculty (Computational Multiscale Nanosystems/M&ENS)
  • Annie Tremblay, Affiliate Faculty (Cognitive Science/BioIntel)
  • Raheem Syed, Visiting Research Programmer (Computational Multiscale Nanosystems/M&ENS)

We also had several new postdocs and visiting scholars join Beckman over the last month.

On Saturday, April 4, the Senior Odyssey program developed by Beckman researcher Liz Stine-Morrow held its tournament in the Beckman Institute auditorium. Senior Odyssey is a research and aging intervention program that is funded by the National Institute on Aging. Three teams competed at the tournament, working on three team problem-solving challenges, with the Buzzing Buzzy Beez taking first place. Congratulations to the participants and to Stine-Morrow and her group for this expanding research line and beneficial intervention program.

Several of our faculty have been announced as recipients of various faculty awards in the annual competition in the College of Engineering.  Peter Wang, Paul Braun, and Bill King have received Xerox Awards, and Rohit Bhargava has received the Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence.  Congratulations to all.

This is what I have for this month’s bulletin.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always, our website www.beckman.illinois.edu will continue to post in a timely manner all the important happenings in the Institute involving our faculty, fellows, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate student researchers, and research support staff, their accomplishments, recognitions, and featured stories on our research programs.

Tamer Başar
Interim Director
April 22, 2009