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CPSC In the News
Center for Digital Agriculture at Illinois receives $20M to develop new AIF

The National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes announced a $20 million award to the Center for Digital Agriculture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop a new Artificial Intelligence for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management, and Sustainability (AIFARMS) institute. AIFARMS will be one of the flagship projects within the Center for Digital Agriculture, founded in 2018 at Illinois and co-directed by Vikram Adve and CPSC professor Matthew Hudson. The White House-backed program, a joint effort between the National Science Foundation and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, supports AI research designed to impact and improve society. Read more about it here.

Illinois study tracks evolution of SARS-CoV-2 virus mutations

University of Illinois researchers and students show the virus is honing the tactics that may make it more successful and more stable.

A group of graduate students in a spring-semester Bioinformatics and Systems Biology class at Illinois tracked the mutation rate in the virus’s proteome – the collection of proteins encoded by genetic material – through time, starting with the first SARS-CoV-2 genome published in January and ending more than 15,300 genomes later in May.

The team found some regions still actively spinning off new mutations, indicating continuing adaptation to the host environment. But the mutation rate in other regions showed signs of slowing, coalescing around single versions of key proteins.

“That is bad news. The virus is changing and changing, but it is keeping the things that are most useful or interesting for itself,” says Gustavo Caetano-Anolles, professor of bioinformatics in the Department of Crop Sciences at Illinois and senior author on the study.

Read more here.

Lessons in green schoolyards benefit kindergarteners, especially girls

Amid one of the strangest back-to-school seasons in modern history, many teachers, parents, and caregivers are struggling to enrich their students’ experiences beyond screen-based learning. A new study from University of Illinois researchers suggests daily outdoor lessons in green spaces could boost self-regulation in young children, setting them up for greater academic and social-emotional success.

“Self-regulation is a foundational element for learning in school, and kindergarten is a critical time for its development. If a child has good self-regulation, they're able to regulate their emotions, physical movements, and attention which in turn helps them to stay on task, inhibit impulses, and learn without disrupting peers,” says Andrea Faber Taylor.

Read more here.

$4.5 million award from ARPA-E to develop commercial carbon credit tools

UIUC has been awarded $4.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) through its “Systems for Monitoring and Analytics for Renewable Transportation Fuels from Agricultural Resources and Management” (SMARTFARM) program. The funding will be used to calculate farm-scale carbon credits, allowing individual farmers to understand the value of their land and practices towards carbon trading markets. CPSC Professor DK Lee was on the winning project team.

Read more here.

Advanced biofuels show real promise for replacing some fossil fuels

A new study led by Colorado State University, and including Illinois crop sciences professor Stephen Long, predicted significant climate benefits stemming from the use of advanced biofuel technologies. Accounting for all of the carbon flows in biofuel systems and comparing them to those in grasslands and forests, the team found that there are clear strategies for biofuels to have a net carbon benefit.

Read more here.

Genomes published for major agricultural weeds

Representing some of the most troublesome agricultural weeds, waterhemp, smooth pigweed, and Palmer amaranth impact crop production systems across the U.S. and elsewhere with ripple effects felt by economies worldwide. In a landmark study, scientists have published the most comprehensive genome information to date for all three species, marking a new era of scientific discovery toward potential solutions.   

“These genome assemblies will greatly foster further research on these difficult weed species, including better understanding the ways in which they evade damage from herbicides,” says Pat Tranel, professor and associate head of the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and co-author on the Genome Biology and Evolution study.

Read more here.

NSF Grant Awarded to CPSC Writing Program

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to a CPSC program focused on writing in STEM titled, "Advancing Adaptation of Writing Pedagogies for Undergraduate STEM Education Through Transdisciplinary Action Research". The funding will be used Writing Across Engineering & Science seeks to support STEM faculty as they incorporate best practices from writing studies into their teaching. This grant will be used to study how effective the program is and how to increase efficacy, including consideration of how it affects STEM faculty’s awareness of best practices, analyze course materials, and do classroom observations to see how it affects teaching. They will also begin looking at how these changes affect students’ engagement with writing in their STEM classes and what changes occur in students’ writing.

The project team consists of Julie Zilles as PI, with co-investigators Lance Cooper (Physics), John Popovics (CEE), and John Gallagher and Paul Prior (English). Celia Elliott (Physics) and Jenny Amos (BioE) also play important roles in the project.

Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation Seminar Series

The Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications is hosting a seminar series during the fall semester with a variety of speakers from across campus and Industry.

Speakers include Dr. Matt Hudson presenting "Applications of AI and Parallel Computing for Crop Improvement".

The seminars will be held on Mondays from 11am-12pm via Zoom starting September 14th with a keynote speaker from IBM, followed by presentations in the proceeding weeks, ending the week of November 16th. Presentations will be 45 minutes long with a 15-minute Q&A. Topics for the presentations focus on AI research. Links: Zoom meeting; speakers and abstracts.

63rd Agronomy Day a Success!

Thank you to everyone who joined us in our 63rd Agronomy Day! It was a huge success. If you missed any of the videos, they can still be found on the Agronomy Day tour page for a limited time.  We can't wait for you to join us next year!

Extra! Extra!
New Gallup poll indicating that agriculture is now cool (or at least,

A new Gallup poll indicates that agriculture is now cool (or at least, the most favorably viewed industry). Farming and agriculture was already among the top-rated industries before 2020, but according to the new poll, it has now moved to No. 1 with a 69% positive rating -- an 11-percentage-point increase.

Read more here.


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