Internal Approval Routing Form April 2008 Title of Program/Center: S

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Internal Approval Routing Form

April 2008

Title of Program/Center: Software Technologies Research Center (STRC)

1. Review and Approval by Department  Date: 2/2008

2. Review and Approval by College  Date: 12/11/07___
3. Analysis of Needed Resources by Academic Affairs: Adequacy,  Date: 3/21/08___

Appropriateness, Availability

4. Review by Graduate College  Date: 3/27/08___
5. Review by Senate Research Committee  Date: 4/8/08___
6. Final Review by Academic Affairs for Academic and Fiscal Soundness □ Date:





1. Name of Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
2. Title of Proposed Unit: Software Technologies Research Center (STRC)
3. CIP Code (6-digits):
4. Proposed Date for Initiation of Unit: Upon IBHE approval
5. Contact Person: Dr. Charles Evans
5.1. Telephone 1.217.333.3079

5.2. E-mail

5.3. Fax

6. Unit Objectives and Contributions
6.1. What are the goals and objectives of the new unit?
Mission Statement

Software Technologies Research Center (STRC) is an innovative, state-of-the-art hardware and software applications and training facility where clients “test drive” 21st-century computer technology and develop solutions for their emerging needs.

Goals and Objectives

To accomplish its above-stated mission, STRC has several major goals:

  • To facilitate collaborative research among UIC affiliated laboratories, government laboratories, industry and/or non-profit institutions (e.g., museums), by providing administrative, financial and technical support, as needed

  • To oversee the development of useful and usable computer- and network-based tools and technologies to solve real-world problems

  • To encourage the technology transfer and dissemination of these solutions to collaborating sites

  • To foster early adoption by creating user communities and providing support, as needed

STRC oversees the development of tools and technologies that represent major advancements in computer graphics, scientific and information visualization, display environments, optical networking and computer-based interactive systems. STRC works with a variety of application areas, including: computational science and engineering, emergency response, homeland security, rapid prototyping, design and manufacturing, healthcare and medicine, education, mathematics, architecture, art and entertainment.

Collaborative research with interested partners draws upon the expertise of faculty, staff and students in STRC affiliated laboratories/units, including the Academic Computing and Communications Center (ACCC), Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), Laboratory for Advanced Computing (LAC), National Center for Data Mining (NCDM), Industrial Virtual Reality Institute (IVRI), and the Virtual Reality in Medicine Laboratory (VRMedLab), among others. These laboratories/units reside in several UIC campus departments: Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Art and Design, Education, Biomedical Visualization, and Math, Statistics and Computer Science. STRC coordinates grant procurements and processing, staff and graduate student funding, and technical project management, across these departments.
As an extension to STRC’s UIC-centric collaborations, STRC partners with other University of Illinois units, notably the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the NCSA Technology Research, Education, and Commercialization Center (TRECC), and the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA). In addition, STRC partners with Argonne National Laboratory’s Mathematics and Computer Science Division, Northwestern University’s International Center for Advanced Internet Research, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at University of California, San Diego, University of Michigan’s School of Information, and the University of Minnesota’s Geology and Geophysics Department, to name a few. These partnerships support the development of teams, tools, hardware, software systems, networks and human/computer interface models on an accelerated scale, to enable researchers to study and better understand complex systems, from the micro to the macro level, in both time and space.
For example, UIC’s partnership with Calit2 includes the NSF-funded OptIPuter project; it is but one example of collaborative research that is a direct outgrowth of STRC’s alliances/partnerships. The OptIPuter team’s mission is to develop innovative methods for scientists to explore very large remote data objects in an interactive and collaborative fashion, which is impossible on today’s shared Internet. The research agenda involves the design, development and implementation of the OptIPuter – a tightly integrated cluster of computational, storage and visualization resources, linked over dedicated optical networks, across campus, metro, national, and international scales. Not only has STRC fostered collaboration among UIC faculty, staff and students working on this project, but it has encouraged adoption by new user communities, making OptIPuter technologies and resources accessible in an effort to advance scientific research.
As another example, STRC has had a multi-year partnership with NCSA’s TRECC facility. STRC deploys UIC-developed visualization hardware and software technologies to TRECC, where businesses, educational institutions and government entities see them demonstrated and gain access to them. Commercialization of these technologies is among STRC’s goals, and a potential outgrowth of its relationship with TRECC.
In 2006, STRC initiated a new partnership with IGPA. IGPA is a system-wide public policy institute that reports to the University of Illinois President’s Office. IGPA has a long history of scholarly work in public policy research and analysis related to governance, healthcare, public finance, race and social policy. IGPA provides training programs and workshops on public leadership and management that are targeted at State and local public servants in leadership positions. IGPA’s strategic plan targets technology as a key enabler for developing new, evidence-based approaches to public policy research and analysis, and for extending the reach and quality of its management and leadership programs. An IGPA/STRC partnership resulted from IGPA’s desire to embrace advanced technologies and STRC’s technological expertise. IGPA is interested in expanding the number and scope of its international collaborations through its partnership with STRC.
STRC’s activities draw upon the technological expertise, knowledge, and innovation within UIC laboratories, partner institutions and industry collaborators. These multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional relationships afford UIC graduate and undergraduate students opportunities to develop marketable skills that better prepare them for careers upon graduation. In turn, STRC partners and collaborators have a pool of candidates who qualify for summer internships while in school, and high-end job opportunities upon graduation.
On behalf of its affiliated laboratories, STRC conducts tours and demonstrations to recruit new students, staff and faculty for the campus, and to enhance the campus’ reputation as an exceptional university. STRC also coordinates technical presentations, conferences, and public events in order to promote the results of its research and technology-transfer activities.

    1. What is the relationship of the unit to the university’s mission and priorities? Is the unit involved in instruction and, if so, to what extent?

STRC is focused on research and the deployment of research, providing UIC students with unprecedented opportunities to use, support, design, develop and deploy high-performance computing and communications technologies. Through its collaborations with academic, government and private sector partners, STRC augments UIC student class work with field work, thereby strengthening and broadening UIC’s educational mission, and providing students with the necessary skills to join the next-generation global workforce. STRC activities affect all workforce dimensions − education, on-the-job training, advancement, and mentoring − for students, for scientific collaborators and for the general public, through STRC’s outreach efforts at schools and museums.

STRC’s mission, stated in Section 6.2, is completely aligned with that of UIC:
UIC’s first mission is “to create knowledge that transforms our views of the world and, through sharing and application, transforms the world.”
STRC was established almost 20 years ago in direct response to the needs of companies and institutions in metropolitan Chicago. (Appendices A and B list the outcomes of those partnerships in terms of Federal and Non-Federal funding obtained, and scholarly publications written.) STRC offers a range of research and training programs to encourage greater utilization of advanced visualization hardware and software technologies in networked, high-performance computing environments, to enable clients to maintain a competitive edge in today’s global marketplace. Since its inception, STRC has grown nationally and internationally, and works with academic, government, industry and educational institutions worldwide, to further the early use and adoption of networked, collaboration and visualization cyberinfrastructure.
STRC conducts networking and visualization research with international researchers – including Canada, The Netherlands, Russia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Korea, China, and Japan – as part of three organizations it helped co-found: the GeoWall Consortium (for Geoscience research), the Global Lambda Visualization Facility (GLVF, for visualization research), and the Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF, for network infrastructure and research). The GeoWall Consortium promotes the use of low-cost stereo display systems, developed by STRC, to visualize Earth’s structure and dynamics and to aid the understanding of spatial relationships. To date, 35% of U.S. undergraduate non-major geoscience students use the GeoWall in their coursework. GLVF researchers cooperatively work together to integrate advanced visualization and collaboration technologies with cyberinfrastructure in support of global e-science applications. GLVF leverages GLIF’s network infrastructure resources and research efforts.
UIC’s second mission is “to provide a wide range of students with the educational opportunity only a leading research university can offer.”
STRC enables UIC to provide state-of-the-art equipment, opportunities, and supervision to enhance undergraduate and graduate education, as STRC funding provides financial support for student workers and Research Assistants to gain expertise in high-performance computing and communications, work with clients in one-on-one projects, and develop hardware and software application solutions. In turn, STRC partners readily become early adopters, and provide our students with summer internships and jobs upon graduation.
STRC provides scientists and students better technologies in the laboratory and classroom than they currently have at home. Notably, STRC created the “Cyber-Commons” work environment, a community resource openly accessible to UIC faculty and students, where they gather, meet, study, and work. The typical Cyber-Commons area has an ultra-high-resolution tiled-display wall (50 times the resolution of HDTV) coupled to a 10Gigabit/second network, and supports opportunities for expanded collaboration with other educational and research institutions not otherwise possible. STRC’s goal is to use GLIF’s advanced networks to connect internationally distributed Cyber-Commons – we already have interest from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and Moscow State University in Russa – to create virtual Communities of Learning; i.e., a networked set of instructional spaces in which to share course content, and to enable and encourage undergraduate use.
UIC’s third mission is “to address the challenges and opportunities facing not only Chicago but all Great Cities of the 21st century, as expressed by our Great Cities Commitment.”
As the Chicago area’s largest university, UIC has a responsibility and unique opportunity to contribute to the well being of urban life, as embodied in its Great Cities Commitment – conducting and supporting engaged, interdisciplinary, high-impact research and partnerships that address key urban issues on a local and global scale. Similarly, STRC contributes to the betterment of Chicago, by being a world-class center in advanced networked collaboration and visualization hardware, software and infrastructure, and contributes internationally through its affiliation with GLVF, a one-of-a-kind distributed facility created by major research institutions, in major urban areas, worldwide.
In addition, STRC’s affiliate, IGPA, has numerous ongoing efforts on public policy relating to the City of Chicago, and sees Chicago as a unique testbed for studying the complex interrelationships among science and engineering issues; e.g., transportation, infrastructure, and environment, coupled with economic and social issues. IGPA’s mission is strongly focused on public engagement, and it is actively pursuing partnerships with the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, as well as international collaborations, to keep its initiatives focused on real-world issues.
UIC’s fourth mission is “to foster scholarship and practices that reflect and respond to the increasing diversity of the U.S. in a rapidly globalizing world.”
STRC builds virtual organizations of people, institutions, and information, across disciplinary, organizational, geographical, and cultural barriers, on a global scale, who help design, develop, adopt, deploy and evaluate advanced, networked collaboration and visualization technologies. These technologies are developed, documented, evaluated, replicated and scaled for other institutions to use. STRC thereby fosters geographical diversity, from Chicago to San Diego, to Amsterdam, Moscow or Beijing; develops the next-generation workforce who help design, develop, adapt, deploy and/or use STRC technologies; encourages creativity and innovation; fosters multi-disciplinary teams; encourages partners to contribute relevant tools and techniques; leverages existing Federal investments in cyberinfrastructure; produces open software that is replicable and potentially scalable; and, sustains learning and workforce development activities.
UIC’s fifth mission is “to train professionals in a wide range of public service disciplines, serving Illinois as the principal educator of health science professionals and as a major healthcare provider to underserved communities.”
STRC collaborates with the UIC Virtual Reality in Medicine Laboratory (VRMedLab) to translate research developments into capabilities that support training and patient safety in the medical profession. In addition, the IGPA strategic plan calls for increasing the level of technological training experienced by its students. These partnerships with STRC are critical to improving the sophistication of future generations of healthcare professionals and public servants and public policy researchers.
In particular, STRC affiliated laboratories EVL and VRMedLab collaborated on several NIH proposals, to prototype a networked collaborative surgical system for tele-immersive consultation, surgical pre-planning, implant design, post operative evaluation and education. Tele-immersion enables users in different locations to collaborate in a shared, virtual, or simulated environment as if they are in the same room. It is the ultimate synthesis of networking and media technologies to enhance collaborative environments. Tele-immersive applications combine audio, avatars (representations of participants), virtual worlds, computation and tele-conferencing into an integrated networked system.

    1. What specific needs and measurable contributions will the unit make to statewide priorities and needs?

In addition to its IGPA efforts, STRC has directly contributed, and continues to contribute, to State priorities and needs. Notably, UIC is part of I-WIRE, the Illinois Wired/Wireless Infrastructure for Research and Education, a $7-Million State of Illinois-funded dark-fiber network that connects the University of Illinois (both the Chicago and the Urbana-Champaign campuses as well as NCSA), the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Illinois Century Network; STRC affiliate laboratories EVL and LAC/NCDM are major users of I-WIRE.

STRC affiliated laboratories, as part of the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation, supported the $208-Million National Science Foundation (NSF) award to NCSA to fund the acquisition and deployment of the world’s most powerful “leadership-class” petascale supercomputer. This subsequently led to the creation of the Great Lakes Consortium, primarily Midwest institutions who supported NCSA’s petascale initiative; STRC and UIC continue to stay involved.
STRC faculty has, over the years, received considerable support from NSF to create, with Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory, the StarLight facility. StarLight, located on Northwestern’s downtown Chicago campus, is one of the largest and most advanced optical networking exchanges in the world – clearly making Chicago a global hub for high-performance network services and applications. StarLight currently provides services to 25 national, international, and regional research and education networks, as well as national Federal agency networks and network testbeds with 1, 2.5 and 10 Gigabit circuits.
More specifically, the ILLINOIS COMMITMENT is premised on the conviction that higher education provides the foundation for Illinois’ future by enhancing the social, economic, and civic well being of the State and its residents. STRC is completely aligned with these goals.

  • ECONOMIC GROWTH – Higher education will help Illinois sustain strong economic growth through its teaching, service, and research activities.

STRC offers expertise and project planning, dedicated project research teams, a multi-million dollar facility with a range of technologies, high-speed network testbeds and collaborative spaces. Graduate student researchers represent the best in future research and development professionals. They are instrumental in shaping, developing, and testing a host of next-generation technologies. They specialize in a wide range of topics within computer science, engineering and art, and are encouraged to participate in professional conferences, societies and associations as part of their formal degree program. STRC collaborators are able to conduct cutting-edge networked visualization and collaboration research using a fully operational and professionally supported facility before making investments that may or may not be appropriate. This is a winning strategy with the potential to spur economic growth.

  • PARTNERSHIPS - Higher education will join elementary and secondary education to improve teaching and learning at all levels.

STRC’s staff and faculty participate in mentorship programs with secondary and elementary schools, such as the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) and Lincoln Elementary School in Oak Park. STRC also collaborates with museums in Illinois (such as Adler Planetarium, SciTech and the Museum of Science and Industry) to create next-generation museum exhibits. In addition, STRC is heavily involved in UIC recruiting activities, and its laboratories give numerous demonstrations to high-school students to show them the value of attending UIC.

  • ACCESS AND DIVERSITY - Illinois will increase the number and diversity of residents completing training and education programs.

Scientific visualization is highly multidisciplinary. STRC achieves diversity by recruiting students in the sciences as well as in the arts and humanities, which have historically seen greater participation by minorities and women. In addition, STRC is very active in UIC College of Engineering recruitment activities. At UIC, of the 450 undergraduates who enrolled in the College of Engineering for Fall 2006, 105 were minority students (65 Latino, 33 African-American, and 7 American Indian). UIC ranks 8th in diversity according to US News and World Reports. UIC itself has a higher percentage of Latino and African-American students than any Big 10 university and ranks 44th (of over 2,000 universities) in the number of BA degrees awarded to Latinos and African-Americans. At the graduate level, UIC is ranked 26th in MA degrees awarded to Latinos and African-Americans. UIC provides a variety of offices, centers, and committees devoted to supporting its diverse student body and staff, notably the African-American Cultural Center, the Rafael Cintron-Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, the Office of Disability Services, the Office of Women’s Affairs and the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center. The African-American Cultural Center, in particular, is in close contact with STRC to recommend qualified students seeking internships.

  • HIGH QUALITY - Illinois colleges and universities will be accountable for providing high-quality academic programs and the systematic assessment of student learning outcomes while holding students to ever-higher expectations for learning and growth.

STRC students are evaluated annually by faculty and staff on the following criteria: technical ability; responsiveness; ability to work in teams; communications skills; number of 1st-author papers per year; number of co-authored papers per year; number of 1st-authored non-papers (posters and conference demonstrations); and number of co-authored non-papers per year. Research Assistant support is provided only to highly qualified candidates, who exceed expectations by meeting the criteria defined above.

    1. What is the demand for the unit’s services? What clients or population will the unit serve?

STRC serves academic, government, industrial and educational (e.g., museums) groups, both large and small, that do not have the infrastructure necessary to conduct advanced research. For example, major corporations, such as Motorola, conduct short-term (1-3 years out) research focused on new product designs. They typically do not have the resources to conduct long-term (5-10 years out) research. By leveraging its Federally funded projects, STRC can provide institutions with the facility and personnel resources at significant cost savings, in which to test new product ideas.

In a recent collaboration with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) and the consulting firm Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA), STRC researchers developed a system to evaluate alternative tollway signage designs. The system used commodity gaming technology and high-resolution displays. ISTHA and WSA elicited useful feedback from a focus group of ‘virtual’ drivers on proposed highway signage in a fairly short time frame. Without access to STRC technologies and resources, this project might have taken significantly longer and the final results might not have been as effective.
Museums, including the SciTech Hands-on Museum in Aurora, the Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and the Science Museum of Minnesota, have benefited from STRC collaborations. Graduate students have trained museum staff on the development of new technologies, interactive applications and exhibitions. Adler Planetarium’s Space Visualization Laboratory is a working laboratory on the main exhibit floor that features a variety of STRC display technologies on which they display high-resolution digital imagery captured by sky surveys and satellite missions. For the Science Museum of Minnesota, STRC and collaborating researchers developed and deployed a new visualization display system called “Lambda Table,” a table-oriented high-resolution display, and a geoscientific application called “Rain Table,” which will be part of its Water Planet exhibit, scheduled to open in January, 2009.

  1. Organization

    1. Describe the proposed unit’s organizational structure.

STRC reports to the UIC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. The following staff positions support STRC activities:

  • Co-Directors

  • Associate Director

  • Senior Research Scientist

  • Assistant Director of Budgets & Contracts

  • Manager of Systems Services

  • Research Programmer

  • Project Coordinator

  • Graduate-student Research Assistants from affiliated UIC departments and laboratories (Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Art and Design, Education, Biomedical Visualization and Math, Statistics and Computer Science)

Additional information about staff roles can be found in Section 7.2.

Affiliated Faculty & Staff:

  • John Bell, Computer Science

  • Drew Browning, Art and Design

  • Peter Doran, Earth and Environmental Sciences

  • Bob Grossman, Math, Statistics and Computer Science (Laboratory for Advanced Computing and NCDM, the National Center for Data Mining)

  • Andrew Johnson, Computer Science

  • Steve Jones, Communication

  • Bob Kenyon, Computer Science

  • Jason Leigh, Computer Science

  • Tom Moher, Computer Science

  • Peter C. Nelson, Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence Laboratory)

  • Tom Prudhomme (IGPA/UI)

  • Sabrina Raaf, Art and Design

  • Annette L. Valenta, School of Public Health (VRMedLab)

  • Daniel Sauter, Art and Design

  • Daria Tsoupikova, Art and Design

  • Oliver Yu, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Affiliated Institutions:

  • National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (NCSA/UIUC)

  • Technology, Research, Education, and Commercialization Center (TRECC)

  • Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA/UI)

  • Northwestern University

  • Argonne National Laboratory / University of Chicago

  • University of Minnesota

  • Calit2, University of California San Diego

    1. Explain how the unit is organized to meet its objectives.

STRC Co-Directors develop STRC’s long-term roadmaps and create new project opportunities among STRC’s affiliated laboratories/departments and partners in industry, academia, government and education. The Associate Director works with the Assistant Director of Budgets & Contracts to organize and manage STRC finances, interfacing with UIC’s Offices of Research Services and Business Affairs to process/prepare STRC grant and contract proposals, as well as manage finances of the various STRC projects. The Associate Director also oversees financial development efforts to sustain STRC’s funding base.

Graduate student Research Assistants are jointly supervised by the Senior Research Scientist and affiliated faculty, and conduct the bulk of the research and development with STRC partners, utilizing STRC facilities. The Project Coordinator mediates STRC’s clients and development teams to ensure deliverables are accomplished, documented and publicized, thereby helping build a self-sustaining funding base. The Manager of Systems Services is responsible for ensuring that all the necessary computing and communications resources for project completion are available, and is assisted by the Research Programmer who does systems administration and technical support.


  1. Unit Outcomes

    1. What targets have been set to assess the proposed unit’s success in achieving objectives? Among others, specific performance measures might include:

  • Expected research and/or public service products;

STRC affiliated faculty and students are encouraged to generate, on average, two research papers per year, and to participate in at least one major international conference per year to demonstrate the latest research findings and products. Where applicable, STRC faculty files invention disclosures and pursues patents with the UIC Office of Technology Management.

  • Ratio of external to internal funding for the unit;

STRC targets a 4:1 ratio between external and internal funding, and will endeavor to increase this ratio over time.

  • Impact of this unit on national, state, regional, and local area organizations, business, or communities;

STRC-developed research and technology is deployed to local, national and international partners and collaborators, and to State and local partners.

  • Collaborative research product that promotes the Illinois economy.

STRC focuses on creating jobs, and on making industry more competitive. STRC students are in demand upon graduation, and it is important to stimulate local industry so high-technology jobs are available in Illinois – not just Silicon Valley. STRC provides consulting and training services to large and small Illinois companies and institutions, and collaborates on Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants.

  1. Resources

    1. Indicate the number of students, business, industries, and/or other clients to be served by this unit. Include a description of faculty participation and student involvement in the unit if applicable. Table II should be completed (even if no new state funding is requested in the budget year) and should reflect all sources of funds, both state and non-state, and reallocations. A narrative budget statement should be provided to explain Table II, to include the following information:

  • Explain projected increments in total resource requirements (line 1) in terms of projected staff requirements, equipment and materials, and contractual services.

  • Explain new state resources required (line 6) in the budget year in terms of assumptions and factors used to construct line items 7 through 11. If resource requirements in the budget year include non-recurring costs (e.g., one-time equipment purchases), describe how these resources will be reallocated in subsequent years.

On average, STRC serves approximately 40 students (undergraduates and graduate students). STRC supports approximately 14 students as Research Assistants. STRC supports approximately two-dozen businesses/institutions per year through technology demonstrations, consulting, and deployment.


Current Year

Budget Year








Total Resource Requirements







Resources Available from Federal Sources1







Resources Available from Other Non-State Sources1







Existing State Resources2







Resources Available through Internal Reallocation3


New State Resources Required4

Breakdown: New State Resources Required


FTE Staff5


Personal Services


Equipment and Instructional Needs




Other Support Services6

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