Li chosen as an Engineering at Illinois Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellow

ECE News


Story Highlights

  • Associate Professor Xiuling Li has been named to the first class of Engineering at Illinois Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows.
  • The fellows and their students will focus on bringing their work to the world by developing a technology and testing its commercial potential.
  • Three ECE ILLINOIS alumni - Sanjay Srivastava, John Thode, and Andrew Yang - are supporting the faculty fellows.

Associate Professor Xiuling Li has been named to the first class of Engineering at Illinois’ Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows.

Xiuling  Li
Xiuling Li

She’s one of four faculty members who will spend a year working with students out in the world, rather than in the classroom.

The group is expected to “fundamentally redefine the role of faculty in innovation,” said Professor Andreas C Cangellaris, dean of the College of Engineering.

The faculty fellows will work with students to conduct experiments, build prototypes, visit potential customers, study the market, conduct proof-of-concept research, and grow their entrepreneurial opportunities. And they’ll do all that with the advice and guidance of a group of veteran alumni mentors.

 With about a half dozen patents issued or filed on the subject, Li and her team will refine their nanotech “self-rolled-up membranes” to create electrical inductors, transformers, and other components. These components will be 10 to 100 times smaller and cheaper than current technology and could be used in healthcare, wearable computers, and security.

“Our first responsibility will always be to our students, preparing them for excellent careers. But, when you have an idea for a company, the old model requires you to put the pedal down and drive your company away from those students as far and as fast as you can,” said Professor Andrew Singer, a serial entrepreneur who is responsible for a host of innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives within Engineering at Illinois.

Andrew Singer
Andrew Singer

“That’s unacceptable. It slows the impact of our technology. Worse, it steals a vital experience from our students. We can build an environment where entrepreneurship is an integral part of professors’ and students’ lives. The Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows is one way we’re going to do it.”

Three ECE ILLINOIS alumni are supporting the Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows, which is the first of its kind in a U.S. engineering program. They are: Sanjay Srivastava (MS ’87), co-founder of Denali Software; John Thode(BSEE ’79), president of DigitalOptics Corporation; and Andrew Yang (MS ’86, PhD ’89), co-founder of Apache Design Software and Anagram.

The other three Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows include:

  • Jianjun Cheng, Materials Science and Engineering. Cheng and his team will explore the potential market for a new type of 3-D printing material known as a malleable polyurea thermoset. A polyurea thermoset is tough enough to build with but, unlike contemporary materials, can be reprocessed and reused. It would be the first thermoset on the market for extrusion deposition 3-D printing.
  • Mani Golparvar-Fard, Civil and Environmental Engineering. Golparvar-Fard’s team builds “flying superintendents.” These aerial robots transport recording equipment around construction sites. Using a first-of-its-kind, model-driven computer vision system, they can monitor construction progress and worker activities, alerting project managers to potential delays or other problems on the site.
  • John Rogers, Materials Science and Engineering. Rogers’ team will design and manufacture prototype near-field communications devices small and flexible enough to mount on a person’s fingernail, earlobe, or tooth. They imagine these tiny devices could be used to send unique passwords and authentication information to electronic devices—Apple Pay from your body, instead of your iPhone 6.

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