Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will be elevated from a program to full Sea Grant College Program status.
The announcement was made Oct. 3 by D. James Baker, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, in the final day of the Great Lakes Commission's three-day conference on "Sustainable Development and the Great Lakes Region." The designation will significantly enhance research efforts and multidisciplinary collaboration, officials said.
The UI at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., both will be recognized as Sea Grant colleges by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in accordance with the National Sea Grant College Program Act. The institutions' joint program will be the nation's 27th Sea Grant College.
The designation recognizes sustained excellence in research, education and public service involving Great Lakes resources. Sea Grant college status is the highest honor a Sea Grant program can attain and indicates an elevated and long-term commitment from the National Sea Grant College Program and from the two institutions.
UI officials said the college designation also will help researchers in current and future efforts to obtain federal grants that are awarded biannually. Research and extension activities of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program already involve issues of water quality, sustainable coastal development, biological resources and aquaculture.
A team of UI researchers has received a $775,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a nationwide $22.5 million initiative to probe how learning works in humans, animals and artificial systems.
Twenty-eight grants were awarded to 20 institutions in the first stage of a three-part NSF program in knowledge and distributed intelligence. The initial grants are for interdisciplinary research in learning and intelligent systems, which covers a broad range of studies designed to promote rapid advances in how humans learn and create.
The UI team will pursue an integrated view of concept learning in humans and machines. The project will involve psychological experiments and artificial-intelligence computational modeling, said Brian H. Ross, professor of psychology. Researchers will investigate and integrate a variety of concept-learning issues that typically had been studied individually, and they will draw upon the resources of different fields.
"People have the ability to conceptualize and file their life's experiences into categories that can be recalled and applied when they are confronted with a new experience," Ross said. "As a psychologist, I am interested in how people can do this. Likewise, in artificial-intelligence systems, it is important to incorporate a way to make use of previous experiences in solving new challenges in new situations."
Working with Ross will be psychology professors Gregory Murphy and Karl Rosengren and computer scientists Gerald DeJong and Leonard Pitt. The five scientists are affiliates of the UI Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, where much of the research will be conducted.
The National Science Foundation announced Oct. 7 that it will support the development of three regional earthquake research centers. The sites selected the UI, the University of California at Berkeley and the State University of New York at Buffalo will complement each other rather than duplicate efforts.
The UI will house the new Mid-America Earthquake Center. Funding from the NSF is currently set at $2 million annually for five years. The center will raise an equal amount in matching funds.
The Mid-America Earthquake Center will be the first coordinated effort of its kind to focus directly on earthquake engineering problems of the central and eastern United States, said Daniel Abrams, a UI professor of civil engineering and director of the new center. "The primary objective of the center will be to reduce potential earthquake losses through mitigation. Improved methods of seismic evaluation and retrofit for existing construction will result in less structural damage, provide enhanced safety to public critical facilities and alleviate costly interruptions to businesses and transportation networks."
The center's research will concentrate on problems associated with the low-frequency, but high-consequence, seismic events that are possible in Mid-America.
Dennis D. Swanson, the creator of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," is making a substantial contribution to the young broadcasters of tomorrow and to his alma mater, the UI at Urbana-Champaign.
Swanson, who as president and general manager of WLS-TV in Chicago in 1984 launched what was to become the most successful daytime talk show in TV history, has announced he will fund the purchase of state-of-the-art broadcast equipment for students and faculty members in the UI College of Communications.
Now president and general manager of WNBC in New York City, the top-rated late news station in the city, Swanson, an alumnus of the UI journalism program, and his wife, Katharine, also a UI graduate, will give $300,000 to establish the Dennis D. and Katharine W. Swanson Center. The gift will buy broadcasting equipment for the center, housed in the new Richmond Journalism Teaching Studio. Funds for the Richmond studio, which will be located on the corner of Main Street and Goodwin Avenue in Urbana, were provided by Jack and Marjorie Richmond. Construction on the studio should be completed by fall 1998.
Swanson announced his gift Oct. 12 at the Illinois Broadcasters Association Fall Convention in Peoria, where he received the IBA Hall of Fame Award.