Considerations for the Research Workforce

As you begin planning and working on your research projects, please keep in mind that Engineering IT Shared Services is here to help. We have experience supporting projects from funding agencies like NASA, The US Department of Defense, and The NSF as well as private research partners such as The Mayo Clinic, Samsung, and Zeiss just to name a few. We have several help desk locations around the college, and we’re also available by email and phone. If there is anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Here are a few tools and services you might find helpful in your work:

The Illinois Campus Cluster program is a shared High-Performance Computing environment that many researchers find useful. The Grainger College of Engineering investment in this resource is available for both research and instructional purposes (currently totaling 2,608 CPU cores and 16 GPUs). Additionally, Illinois has a 4,300-core High-Throughput Computing resource available based on HT Condor. Both of these resources are available for free. A comparison chart of computing resources can be found here.

Illinois has a campus license with Microsoft for the use of their full suite of Office 365 products including Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. Teams can be useful for creating real-time chat and file-sharing spaces for your research group and other collaborators. Skype for Business is the campus phone system, but it can also be used to host online meetings and one-to-one chats. We also have access to Zoom. Affiliation with the Grainger College of Engineering entitles you to a Zoom Pro license which allows you to host a meeting with hundreds of real-time participants. Additionally, Engineering IT operates a local GitLab instance in the event you need a version control code repository for your project team. 

Depending on the nature of your project, you may require specialized network considerations. Projects ranging from sensor-based data collection, remote controls, autonomous vehicles and more can have reliance on private wireless networks or radio frequencies that can receive interference from other research projects or from production network services such as IllinoisNet. If you or your project require the use of wireless networking or radio frequencies, please let us know so that we can work with campus networking to minimize impact on your research.

The University of Illinois has agreements with Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive for cloud storage solutions. There are some constraints on data types, file sizes, as well as considerations for certain operating systems versus others, but these cloud solutions may be appropriate for some use cases. Key distinctions can be seen in our storage service comparison chart.

One important note about these storage options: They are all dependent on having an active Illinois netid and/or email address. If you leave campus, you may lose access to your data. With that in mind, we urge you to work with your research team to ensure project data is in a shared location, employ some data management best practices, and that you regularly back up your critical data.

The Campus Webstore works to provide a variety of software titles at minimal cost (sometimes free) for you to use including titles from Adobe, Microsoft, and many others. Some titles are not licensed to campus, but there may be an existing license for it somewhere in Engineering. If you need more specialized software, please let us know so we can work with you to find the best option available.

Some software titles available via Webstore are only free for instructional use. Similarly, software in use in Engineering’s EWS labs (including remote access via Citrix) is licensed for instructional use only.

In many cases, a standard laptop or desktop will be sufficient to do your work or to connect to another system where the work is being done. If you or your team have specialized hardware needs (ex: GPU’s, high-core workstations, etc.) please reach out to us so that we can work with university-approved vendors to generate purchasing quotes that meet your project and your budget needs.

In many cases, the nature of research being done within Engineering requires research teams to be physically present. To the extent that research can be done remotely, many of the tools listed here can help maintain team collaboration and access to a variety of resources.

The campus VPN is required to use many on-campus services remotely including Campus Cluster, EWS, and our managed Linux environment via FastX or SSH. Once connected, you could also directly connect to file storage and other systems on campus, allowing you to do many tasks remotely.

If you are connecting to windows systems on campus, you may be able to take advantage of the Remote Desktop Gateway as an alternative to the VPN.

Several on-campus resources exist to help you get the assistance or training you need to boost a skill or learn a specific tool.