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Matt's Favorites: No More Szyzgy, Bill Nye Coming, And Much More

So here we are at another work week's end. Hope you're all dug out and warm by now. And hey, looky there! Accuweather says it's supposed to get up into the 30s the next week and the 40s the week after that! And by the end of February, the average daily high hits 40! Hey, sounds great -- with all this snow there'll be massive flooding! Okay, enough with the Eeyore act, on to the tech news...

* One of the weirdest names in Michigan biotech is gone. Syzygy Biotech in Grand Rapids has changed his name to Empirical Bioscience LLC. The company says the name change better reflects its industry emphasis. Fair enough, but I bet the old name was just a distraction. The company's new website is The company markets reagents used by research centers, universities and diagnostic labs nationwide. The products are used in gene sequencing, translational research, agricultural applications, clinical diagnostics and education. Said Empirical Bioscience board chairman Craig Pippel: "The word empirical means making decisions based on valid observations, and we observe where our customers are headed and anticipate their needs. Our top notch staff of experts in polymerase chain reactions know how to formulate master mixes that reduce steps for experimenters and increase gel resolutions in gels to product publication quality images." Labs nationwide are using Empirical Bioscience reagents to perform PCR research that can involve mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects and bacteria. In one instance, a researcher is using a TAq mixture to detect the presence of Asian carp DNA in the waters of the Great Lakes to track the northward migration of the fish before they are caught. (The word syzygy, meanwhile, has several meanings, including "straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies in a gravitational system," often loosely used to describe interesting configurations of planets in general. In biology, it means the pairing of chromosomes in meiosis, and in poetry, it can mean a combination of metric units.)

* LLamasoft, The Ann Arbor supply chain design software developer, will host a summer conference with a pretty cool speaker lineup June 23-27 in Ann Arbor. The three-day event with two days of pre-conference training, called SummerCon, is expected to draw an international audience of more than 300 attendees gathering to learn and network among the best and brightest in supply chain design. Featured keynote speakers include Bill Nye, better known as "The Science Guy" on TV; Lora Cecere, founder of Supply Chain Insights LLC and the author of popular enterprise software blog Supply Chain Shamanl and Rebecca Costa, a "sociobiologist" whose book, "The Watchman's Rattle," offers an evolutionary explanation for modern problems like government gridlock, terrorism and obesity. More at

* One of the coolest events on my calendar is this weekend way up in Houghton, which happens to be farther from Detroit than Washington, D.C. is, at Michigan Technological University. It's Winter Carnival, where Tech's 7,000 students celebrate winter and snow -- and you might as well, when you live on America's snowiest college campus, which gets upwards of 150 inches of the white stuff a winter (and where they've already gotten 144 inches so far this year). There are huge, involved snow sculptures (pictures of the winners are here), outdoor activities of all kinds, plays, music, hockey, and the usual collegiate folderol. Should you happen to be within mushing distance of the western U.P., go. The schedule's at

* Congratulations to Oakland University for recent high rankings in the American Society for Engineering Education in categories related to women faculty in engineering and the number of undergraduate computer science degrees awarded to students. The ASEE's latest "By the Numbers" survey ranked Oakland fourth out of 246 schools in the nation for the percentage of women tenured or tenure-track faculty in engineering with 29.6 percent in fall 2012. Oakland also was listed 42nd out of 171 schools for the number of undergraduate computer science degrees awarded within an engineering program. Tied with Princeton University, OU awarded 52 such degrees during the 2011-2012 academic year. The survey showed that in fall 2012 the national percentage of women tenured/tenure-track faculty in engineering was about 14 percent. In 2001, it was just 8.9 percent. Laila Guessous, Ph.D., associate professor in OU's Department of Mechanical Engineering, recalls a distinct lack of diversity in engineering classes during her undergraduate years: "I didn't have a single female engineering professor for any of my classes and was often the lone female engineering student in my class. I believe that as women represent a higher percentage of engineering faculty, it will help make the School of Engineering and Computer Science more welcoming to women engineering students who, unfortunately, continue to be underrepresented in engineering programs across the country -- especially in mechanical engineering." Oakland University's School of Engineering and Computer Science offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in four departments: Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

Picometrix LLC, a subsidiary of Ann Arbor's Advanced Photonix Inc., (NYSE MKT: API), announced today that it has been chosen by an unnamed Chinese provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions to supply the CR-100D for their 100G optical transport network equipment. Initial orders total close to $500,000 with potential revenue of over $2 million for the next fiscal year. The CR-100D is part of a fiber optic system.

 * The Lansing Economic Area Partnership, the economic development agency for the Lansing area, is funding three mid-Michigan business incubators $5,000 each through its New Economy Division. LEAP asked area incubators for proposals in November. Winners were the Allen Marketplace, an ag-based incubator on the east side of Lansing; Incubake, a food product incubator in Delhi Township; and the MARC (Meridian Area Resource Center), a small business incubator in Meridian Township. The grants are ongoing and new grants will be available each fiscal year. A small group of business leaders have formed the RIN Steering Committee and will continue to develop the RIN with in depth incubation leadership participation. More at

*Humantech, the ergonomics company, has scheduled three different course offerings for Ann Arbor. Applied Industrial Ergonomics is a two-day seminar that focuses on practical approaches to improving problem jobs, increasing productivity, and reducing injuries in an industrial environment. It will be offered in Ann Arbor April 8-9, June 17-18 Sept. 23-24 and Nov. 4-5. The Advanced Ergonomic Design Workshop, a one-day seminar, takes participants beyond identifying and assessing ergonomic risk, and leads them into designing out the risk to begin with. It will be offered in Nashville, Tenn. May 20 and in Ann Arbor June 19 and Nov. 6. And Managing an Ergonomics Process, a one-day seminar, will give attendees the ability to recognize, plan, and integrate the strategic elements of ergonomics into their current business processes. This workshop is not an introductory course and is intended for those who have previously attended the Applied Industrial Ergonomics seminar. It will be offered in Ann Arbor Sept. 25. Complete course agendas and online registration are available on Humantech's website,, or by calling (734) 663-3330, ext. 132.

* Duo Security, the Ann Arbor provider of two-factor computer security as a service, says its revenue jumped 325 percent in 2013. The company also says it doubled its staff size and released new features to support security. Duo's clientele includes some of the most sophisticated technology organizations in the world, in the financial, automotive, education, retail, health, IT and other industries. Last September, Facebook deployed Duo Security's two-factor authentication system across, protecting more than 10,000 users. In late 2013, Duo released new two-factor editions to enable faster deployments, greater usability and lower cost of ownership for small, medium and enterprise organizations. Providing affordable security with Duo's Business Edition at $1 per user per month, smaller businesses can now effectively protect their users on a budget. And more growth is ahead -- Gartner predicts that the number of enterprises using cloud-based services for user authentication will jump to 30 percent by the end of 2016, up from 10 percent today. Other new customers in 2013 included EventBrite, the Better Business Bureau, Under Armour, Paramount Pictures, and ThinkGeek. The company says it intends to double staff size in 2014 and again double by the end of 2015 in order to support increasing market demand. Learn more and try it for free at

* Lansing's Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) announced it was awarded a $10,000 grant from the R. E. Olds Foundation to support and expand its innovative afterschool mathematics learning program, iMath. The program, now in its second year, seeks to improve both enthusiasm and aptitude in math. Offering afterschool math tutoring to fourth to sixth grade students in Lansing's upper elementary schools, ITEC's iMath program uses a web-based, adaptive tool to help students learn and practice math concepts.  Students from Michigan State University serve as tutors and mentors, guiding students and challenging them to excel.  Last year, students who had 80 percent attendance showed a grade level increase of 0.84 with some as high as 1.15. Surveys of the kids before and after their time in iMath showed improvements in attitude, too.

* Joseph Welch, the chairman, president and CEO of Novi-based ITC Holdings Corp., has been named to the board of trustees of 4,500-student Lawrence Technological University. Trustees at Lawrence Tech establish strategic direction, help formulate and approve major institutional policies, and hire the university's executive team. They serve without compensation. Since the beginning of his career in the utility business in 1971, Welch has held positions of increasing responsibility in electricity transmission, distribution, rates, load research, marketing, pricing, and regulatory affairs that included the development and implementation of regulatory strategies. He established ITCTransmission as a stand-alone entity from its parent corporation in 2003 in Michigan. ITC has become the largest independent electricity transmission company in the country, with high-voltage transmission systems serving the majority of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Through its subsidiaries, ITC serves a combined peak load exceeding 26,000 megawatts along 15,000 circuit miles of transmission line.  The company also focuses on expansion in areas where significant transmission system improvements are needed through ITC Grid Development and its subsidiaries. Welch has a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas and is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Michigan. He is the co-author of "Competitive Energy Markets: The Power of Choice." Active in business organizations, Welch is the chairman of the board of directors of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and recently served as chairman of its 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Economic Club.  Welch is an advocate for preparing more American students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

And now, the national and global tech news...

* It was only last fall that Twitter (TWTR) staged its wildly successful IPO, with a feeding frenzy among investors sending the social network's stock up 73 percent on its first day as a public company. Tough crowd. Late in Thursday's trading session, Twitter shares were down 23 percent a day after the company's latest earnings report. Although Twitter beat analyst expectations, it also revealed that it is adding users at a much slower pace.

* IBM began rolling out its Watson supercomputer system across Africa on Thursday, saying it would help to address continental development obstacles as diverse as medical diagnoses, economic data collection and e-commerce research. The world's biggest technology service provider said "Project Lucy" would take 10 years and cost $100 million. The undertaking was named after the earliest known human ancestor fossil, which was found in east Africa.

* What killed off the mighty woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros? Not cavemen, scientists theorized Thursday -- instead, it may just have been dramatic Ice Age global cooling that killed off protein-rich wildflowers that once carpeted the North, replacing them with hardier grasses that didn't have enough nutritional value to keep the big critters alive.

* Google agreed to make concessions on how it displays competitors' links on its website on Wednesday, in a deal with the European Union regulator that ended a three-year antitrust probe and avoided a fine of up to $5 billion, or 10 percent of its 2012 revenue. It must stick to the deal for the next five years. However, Google may still face a second EU investigation, this time into its Android operating system for smartphones, with potentially bigger risks for the company.

* Professional social network LinkedIn said Thursday that it will purchase Bright, a 3-year-old service that connects job seekers with employers, for approximately $120 million in cash and stock. Bright is said to be especially adept at using data to make its job matches, and LinkedIn plans to use the younger company's matching technology to improve its own recommendations.

* Google's eighth employee, Urs Hölzle, shares his experiences at the company's first data center, back when it was less a data center and more a tiny closet surrounded by competitors. (And from the looks of this guy, I think he's the inspiration for the Aaron character on "Revolution.")

Amazon's pilot season is back, and this time it's bringing shows that have Netflix in the center of its crosshairs. The pilots, which are available for any Amazon customer to watch regardless of whether they pay for Prime, include hour-long dramas, as well as the half-hour comedies that Amazon focused on for its first original primetime-style series: "Alpha House" and "Betas."

* Well, here's one problem with colonizing Mars -- with no atmosphere, space rocks that safely burn up in Earth's nice thick air layer slam into the surface at high speed, throwing debris all over the place. NASA recently concluded that space rocks causing craters in excess of 12 feet in diameter rocket into the planet about 200 times per year. One recent collision threw junk nine miles in all directions. Better live underground.

* Speaking of space, "Star Wars Rebels" gets a really cool propaganda poster treatment.

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