November 2015 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.

Issue 75: November 2015

Beckman Researchers Awarded NIH BRAIN Initiative Grant
Researchers at the Beckman Institute were awarded more than $2 million dollars over three years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative in order to develop an innovative analytical platform.
Jonathan Sweedler, professor of chemistry, Martha Gillette, professor of cell and developmental biology, and Rohit Bhargava, professor of bioengineering, head up the project titled “BRAIN Initiative: Integrated Multimodal Analysis of Cell- and Circuit-Specific Activity using Mass Spectrometry Profiling and Correlated Raman Imaging.” The cross-disciplinary project allows researchers new methods to examine molecular and chemical structures of the brain with innovative imaging techniques: Sweedler and Gillette work in Beckman’s NeuroTech Group, while Bhargava is from the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

$4.3 Million Awarded for Center Focusing on Self-Healing Materials
The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has awarded $4.3 million to the University of Illinois to create the national Center of Excellence in Self-healing, Regeneration, and Structural Remodeling. Scott R. White, professor of aerospace engineering at Illinois, heads up the center, which builds upon research into autonomous materials conducted by the Autonomous Materials Systems Group at the Beckman Institute.

Varshney Receives Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange Paper Award
Lav Varshey, Beckman affiliate in the Image Formation and Processing Group, and his former student Hongyang Bai recently were recognized as prize winners of the NYC Media Lab - Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange (D4GX) Paper Award. In an effort to combat the rise in obesity rates, Varsheny and Bai used Big Data from the location-sharing social media app Foursquare to find that areas with lower obesity rates tended to have more opportunities for social interactions.
Llano Receives NSF Grant
Dan Llano, full-time faculty member in the NeuroTech Group and assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, has been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant with co-PIs from the University of Illinois-Chicago Department of Computer Science, Associate Professor Tanya Berger-Wolf and Professor Robert Kenyon, entitled “CRCNS: Community Dynamic Imaging of Corticothalamic Projections.”

Lam Receives Two Best Paper Awards for Brain Imaging Research
Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow Fan Lam won two best paper awards, at the 2015 IEEE International Symposium in Biomedical Engineering in New York and at the 2015 International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada.

Lam's IEEE paper describes a new way to improve diffusion imaging of the brain, while his ISMRM paper reports a brand-new imaging technique that enables ultrahigh resolution metabolic imaging using intrinsic NMR signals.

  • BRAIN Initiative: Integrated Multimodal Analysis of Cell-and Circuit-Specific Processes in Hippocampal Function (PI: Sweedler; NIH)
  • Evaluating subcortical degeneration with MR elastography and its relation to cognition and fitness in multiple sclerosis (PI: C. Johnson; NMSS)
  • Retrospectively Studying the Effects of Early Life Nutrient Intake on Cognitive Function and Brain Health in Preadolescent Children (PI: Khan; Abbott)
  • Longitudinally Dynamic Biomarkers of Healthy Brain Aging in the Illinois Elderly Adult Cohort (PI: Barbey; Abbott Nutrition)
  • Optimizing Assessment Tools for Determining Nutritional Enhancement of Learning & Memory (PI: Cohen, Abbott Nutrition)
  • Diet-Modified Neuron Physiology Assessments (PI: Gillette; Abbott Nutrition)
  • A Short-Term Longitudinal Study of Pre-Term Infant Neurodevelopment (PI: Gratton; Abbott Nutrition)
  • Impact of Select Nutrients on Eye and Brain Health (PI: Erdman; Abbott Nutrition)
  • Mouse Cognition and Hippocampal Neurogenesis Core Facility (PI: Rhodes; Abbott Nutrition)
  • Enhanced Morphological Measurement Capabilities for Selected CNLM Projects (PI: Sweedler; Abbott Nutrition)
  • Understanding the Effects of Nutritional Supplements on Function and Development of Human Neuronal Cells (PI: Wee; Abbott Nutrition)
  • Center of Excellence in Self-Healing, Regeneration, and Structural Remodeling (PI: White; AFOSR)

Welcome to the following new employees of the Beckman Institute:

  • Lydia Kisley, Postdoctoral Research Associate (D. Leckband and M. Gruebele)
  • Heather Lucas, Postdoctoral Research Associate (N. Cohen)
  • Mohammad Ali, Postdoctoral Research Associate (P. Braun)
  • Jill Mosley, Grants and Contracts Specialist (Business Office)
  • Yingxian Ma, Visiting Scholar (J. Moore)

Strategic Planning Town Hall with University of Illinois President Killeen
3 to 5pm Wednesday, November 18
Beckman Institute Auditorium
President Killeen will share the status of the planning effort and invite input on the direction of the University for the next five years.
Research Connections, Scholarly Commons, and OSTP Access Support
3 pm Thursday, Nov 19
4269 Beckman Institute
Come learn about the new tools and services that the University Library has developed to support digital scholarship and to provide sustained and broad access to research results.

Great American Smoke Out
10 am Thursday, Nov. 19
Beckman Institute Atrium
Representatives from the U of I Wellness Center will present information on behalf of the American Cancer Society.
UIUC-MGH Seminar Series

Marc Normandin, assistant professor, Harvard Medical School; assistant in physics, MGH
Noon Friday, Nov. 20, Room 1005 Beckman Institute
“Nanotechnology-based Approaches for Imaging and Therapy,” Charalambos (Bambos) Kaittanis, assistant professor, Harvard Medical School; assistant chemist, Department of Radiology, MGH
Noon Friday, Dec. 4, Room 1005 Beckman Institute
Chambana Science Café
“Living Foods: The Microbiology of Food and Drink” Dipti Nayak, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
5:30 pm Pizza M, Urbana
Director’s Seminar
“Dietary Reduction of Prostate Cancer: Ultrasound Monitoring of Tumor Growth in Preclinical Models,” John Erdman, professor emeritus, food science and human nutrition
Noon, Thursday, Dec. 3, Room 1005
Thursdays at 12:20 pm
December 10, Atrium
Flute and Harp Duo (Elisa Moles and Molly O’Roark)
Beckman Holiday Party
3:30 – 5 pm Monday, December 14, Atrium
11th Annual Coordinated Science Laboratory (CSL) Student Conference
February 18-19, 2016

The conference encourages all research ideas related but not limited to one of the topics listed at , with the main themes this year being Machine Learning and Decision and Control.

All interested candidates working in relevant fields are welcome to apply by submitting an abstract at The deadline is January 22, 2016.

U of I Celebrates 150 Years
In 2017, the University of Illinois will be celebrating its Sesquicentennial.  More information about upcoming events and the celebration can be found at

Thanks to all those who contributed to the Campus Charitable Fund Drive this year. With your help, we exceeded our goal. Thanks to Tary Finefield who coordinated the effort on behalf of the Beckman Institute.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always, our website will continue to post in a timely manner all the important happenings in the Institute involving our faculty, fellows, and graduate and undergraduate student researchers, their accomplishments, recognitions, and feature stories on our research programs.
Art Kramer
Director, Beckman Institute