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With Congress in recess and Members back in their districts, University of Illinois campuses are seizing opportunities to meet with federal officials and host events. Last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) made a major grant announcement that brought exciting news for the Urbana campus.

Durbin Delivers Federal Research Speech at Urbana

Sen. Dick Durbin visited Urbana last week to deliver a policy speech on the importance of federal investment in innovation and biomedical research. Sen. Durbin has authored two bills—the American Cures Act and the American Innovation Act—which would boost research funding across various federal agencies and programs. The speech was held at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and was attended by more than 200 faculty members.

Vice Chancellor for Research Peter Schiffer kicked off the event and provided a warm welcome for the Senator. Sen. Durbin began his speech by describing how an Urbana physicist, Larry Smarr, was conducting NSF-supported research on black hole collisions that ultimately led to the development of NCSA Mosaic—the precursor to modern web browsers. "The story of the mosaic and the creation of web browsers is a powerful reminder that science builds on itself, often in unexpected ways…it's also a reminder that the federal government needs to lead." Sen. Durbin also referenced how researchers at Urbana recently developed a promising anti-cancer drug that causes cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells. "...that’s the hope and promise of innovation and discovery" he said.

Two Members of the Illinois General Assembly—Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) and Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign)—as well as Kayla Banks, Carle's Executive Director of the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine, were among those who attended.

To watch the speech in its entirety, click here.

RAIL Facility Grand Opening a Success

Urbana's Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) held a grand opening this past Wednesday for its Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL) facility, a state-of-the-art experimental research lab that is poised to lead improvements in North American railway infrastructure design and performance.

The event attracted nearly 70 participants, including government officials, industry professionals, and Urbana faculty and students. Dignitaries from government and industry attended and made remarks, including the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology for the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), Gregory Winfree, and Joseph Leader, Senior Vice President for the New York City Transit. Michael Franke, Amtrak's chief of State Government Contracts, also joined for the special occasion.

Dean Andreas Cangellaris provided welcoming remarks on behalf of the College of Engineering. 


While in Urbana, Assistant Secretary Winfree toured the Advanced Transportation Research and Engineering Laboratory (ATREL). He also met with faculty and students from the National University Rail (NURail) Center, an Urbana-led USDOT-RITA Tier I University Transportation Center (UTC).

Congrats to RailTEC's Executive Director, Chris Barkan, and RailTEC Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist, Riley Edwards, on putting together an outstanding program!


Steve Schlickman, Executive Director of UIC's Urban Transportation Center, spoke at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) as part of a strategic outreach series hosted by USDOT's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R). By walking the audience through case studies of four of the nation's oldest and largest rail transit systems, Steve's speech highlighted best practices and recommendations surrounding transit value capture.


NSF recently announced grant funding for three new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs), including one led by Urbana called the Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS). The overarching goal of the POETS ERC is to pack more power into less space for electrical systems within applications such as electric vehicles, airplanes, construction equipment, and handheld tools. The $18.5 million center is being led by Mechanical Science and Engineering Professor, Andrew Alleyne. Congrats, Professor Alleyne!


Thank you,

Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations