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Engineering Field Notes

Illinois Engineers Around the World

Summer at John Deere

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By: Joey Lund

We checked in with Matt Biederwolf, a senior in Mechanical Engineering, to talk about his plans for the 2014 summer.  Matt has previously held summer internships with both Kraft Foods and Yaskawa America, and this summer he is interning with John Deere in Waterloo, Iowa.


Describe your experience at John Deere. This summer, I am working as a Product Engineer in the Product Verification and Validation group focusing on Noise, Vibration and Harshness. This means I am working on understanding vibrations and sound as they relate to an operator (i.e. farmer), whether it’s loud and annoying sounds or vibrations that are causing parts to fail prematurely. My specific project will be to build a modal analysis of a tractor cab and then correlate the results to an existing model.

How did you become interested in this work? As for the work I am currently doing at John Deere, I became interested in this topic after taking Professor Bentsman’s ME 360 class. Modal analysis was interesting to me, so getting a job in Noise, Vibration and Harshness kind of fit perfectly.

How has Illinois benefitted you? Illinois is the reason why I am where I am. It is unbelievable all the opportunities that the U of I has given me to grow. The resources are amazing: the career fairs where I have gotten each of my 3 internships; the people I have met who have challenged me; and the professors who have been so gracious to help me along the way. The most important thing I’ve developed here is the ability to learn and lead. In so many situations, I don’t know all the answers, but I am able to learn and then make smart decisions.

What has been the highlight of your experience? My manager invited me over to his house for dinner one Friday night. This is a really nice thing to do for any intern, but I had an enhanced appreciation because of my multiple food allergies. He went out of his way to personally make sure that all the food made for me was safe for me to eat, and that was pretty special… There is a real family aspect to John Deere.

Any advice for other engineering students about summer opportunities? Create your resume, use Engineering Career Services to review your resume and participate in their mock interviews, and don’t be afraid to just go to the career fair. It’s vital be yourself. I can’t tell you how many people try to change who they are for the career fairs, and it is not what companies are looking for. Dress nice and be polite, but act the way you normally do. A second piece of advice is to not be afraid to do an internship with a company you have never heard of before. At the career fair, if a company has a short line, go over and talk to them, even if you have never heard of them! You never know what you will find.

I4K- Engineering Students in the Fight Against Cancer

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For most, summer is time to unwind and relax but that’s not the case for the Illini 4000 team. A team of dedicated and hard-working student cyclists are riding bikes across the United States to raise money for cancer. They begin their journey in New York City and will ride to San Francisco, going through 15 states and covering more than 4000 miles. This year’s I4K consists of 20 riders, nine of whom are College of Engineering students:

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From upper left to right, respectively: Josh Weisberg -Industrial Engineering, Grace Deetjen – Bioengineering, Blake Landry – Civil and Environmental Engineering, Alex Knicker – Civil and Environmental Engineering, Marissa Castner – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Ryan Newquist – Engineering Physics, Arthur Tseng – Civil and Environmental Engineering, David Walder – Computer Engineering, Shiqi Fu – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

The students have been preparing and training for the ride since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. Figuring out where the team will stay every night was key to preparation. Logistics committee member Josh Weisberg, an Industrial Engineering student, said he contacted churches in California, Nevada, and New York for weeks to figure out overnight arrangements. In addition to churches, the team stays at schools, community centers, and even in individual people’s homes.

The generosity of others contributes to the success of the trip in more ways than just providing food and shelter. Fundraising is crucial to I4K. Rider Grace Deetjen, a sophomore in Bioengineering, said that for part of her fundraising, she and fellow rider Shiqi Fu, a junior in Chemical Engineering, would stand out on Green Street and sell cookies. Grace said, “I made $300 in one night. It was absolutely insane.” So far the team has raised more than $80,000 and plans to reach a goal of $150,000 by the end of the summer.

Early training was essential to the team’s preparation. The team had mandatory training for two hours on Saturdays and one-hour training sessions during the week. The training consisted of a variety of cardio, endurance, and strength exercises. Bike training began on April 5th. They completed a 30-mile ride and increased their mileage in 15-mile increments every Saturday until they reached 90 miles on Saturday, May 3rd.

Although the team trained hard and prepared as much as possible, there is only so much they can do to be ready.

Rider Blake Landry, who is completing a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering said, “ You can always train more. I don’t think you could ever be fully prepared for this. Many days are going to be tough and difficult. That grit and determination will get the team through those hard days. To do that, the team must remember why they are riding.”

The Portraits Project is a compilation of stories that they collect along the way as inspiration for the ride. The team gathers stories of current cancer patients, survivors, and caretakers they interact with on the ride. After the ride, the completed portraits will be displayed for the community to see. Sharing them will spread hope for a cure and might even motivate others to join the fight against cancer.

To donate to the Illini 4000, visit their site.

Online Learning at Illinois

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As technologies continue to advance our increasingly interconnected world, the development of a robust online learning platform has emerged as an integral component of the Engineering at Illinois vision for providing access to quality education. Engineering Online has experienced rapid growth in just the last year, with over 60 online courses spanning various disciplines scheduled for the Fall 2014 semester—up from 47 in Fall 2013. With the addition of a new Online Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering, the college now offers four complete master’s degrees online, including degrees in Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil & Environmental Engineering. Online students also have the opportunity to pursue one of 15 specialized certificates, or to expand their professional skill set by enrolling in an individual online course. Online learning programs offer flexibility and convenience, while maintaining the integrity and academic rigor of our elite on-campus programs. Online students are challenged to earn the exact same degrees and certificates as awarded on-campus by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Meg C. Griffin, who has a bachelor’s in civil engineering and a master’s in library science, both from Illinois, is the College of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s online and blended program coordinator. She recently shared information about the importance of online education at a national Society of Women Engineers conference.

Here, she provides an overview of the benefits of these programs.

In recent years, the use of online learning has grown exponentially. Technology has improved for both mass dissemination of learning materials and collaboration between individuals separated by geography. Students in online classes are benefitting from increased and easier access to materials, instructors, and classmates, as well as flexible scheduling and convenience.

Engineers choose online learning for many reasons. A primary one is the ability to advance their careers or develop professionally while maintaining their positions. Programs at many colleges and universities have grown from the needs of students who are unable to take time off from their careers but want access to graduate studies and professional development.

Online programs allow you to access classes from work or home, or while commuting or traveling. Taking an online class from a local university will give you the flexibility of learning online but also the option to visit class and interact face-to-face. However, online offerings also allow you to access opportunities that are not available locally, whether they are specialized classes or an entire master’s program.

Degree programs, graduate certificates, and individual classes for academic credit can all be found online at many universities. They usualy operate on a semester or trimester schedule. Some may be self-paced, in which you can access course materials and complete homework at times convenient to you, while still meeting deadlines. Others may require you to join classes online at scheduled times. Usually, for-credit courses are equivalent to and part of an on-campuss program.

The CEE Online program at the University of Illinois, for example, is part of the graduate program in civil and environmental engineering. Students in this program are mainly professionals working full time, and they range from recent graduates to engineers with decades of experience. They are located across the country and around the world. Most are working toward the master of science degree, but others are in the certificate program. Some take just one class as nondegree students, whether for professional development hours, to refresh skills, or to apply toward a degree program later.

Class meetings on campus are recorded for online students and can be viewed as streaming files on computers, tablets, or phones. Homework is submitted via e-mail or uploaded to the course site, and online students use proctors to take exams. In many classes, online students collaborate with on-campus students on reports and projects.

Students have responded enthusiastically to the program and reported that they have been able to immediately apply skills learned in class to their professional positions.

If you’re interested in online learning for credit, investigate accredited and established programs. Ask questions about who teaches the classes (regular factuly, adjunct faculty, someone else) and the demographics of the students, as well as the level of interaction between participants and faculty. Although online learning can be convenient and flexible, also make sure you have time to spend on a rigorous course, as well as the appropriate technology tools and Internet connection.

In addition to classes, many universities offer lecture series or webinars for professional development for free or at a minimal cost. And sites such as Coursera and Udemy provide access to massive open online courses, which are free, not-for-credit courses offered by educational institutions.

Meet Melisa in Engineering Physics

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Why Illinois?

Initially, I planned on going elsewhere. But luckily, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers invited me to campus as part of their High School Visitation Program with other newly admitted engineering students for a weekend program. It was during this program that I truly fell in love with the campus and culture and realized what amazing and boundless opportunities I would have available to me. I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew there was no better place where I could explore my professional future and develop as a person.


What impresses you most about your major and the College?

The Engineering Physics curriculum at Illinois has taught me to think critically and analytically in a way that I find unique from students at other schools. My favorite aspect of the Engineering Physics curriculum is that you can choose a theoretical track if you’re pursuing graduate level education or, contrastingly, you can focus on the many technical electives the department offers.

My Hoeft Technology & Management Class in Shanghai

In Shanghai, on the Hoeft Technology and Management annual study abroad trip to China.

The Department of Physics has close ties with nearly every department on campus, which allows for concentrations in any of the other engineering disciplines, astrophysics, business, pre-law, pre-medicine, or anything else you can think of. This aspect is definitely unique to Illinois and allows us to be skilled in many facets. It also doesn’t hurt that the Engineering Physics program here is ranked #1 in the United States!

What’s your favorite activity you’ve done through Engineering at Illinois?

I’ve had so many great opportunities, but I would say my favorite is helping plan the High School Visitation (HSV) Program through the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) my sophomore year. Through HSV, SHPE is able to bring students from underrepresented backgrounds to campus for a 4 day weekend. This is such a great program because it allows students to picture themselves taking part in all Engineering at Illinois has to offer.

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers

SHPE friends add fun and camaraderie to the college experience at Illinois.

Have you done research?

Yes, I was a research intern at CREOL, the College of Optics & Photonics at the University of Central Florida. My research investigated bonding of silicon wafers with PECVD deposited layers using spin-on-glass technology as a planarization and adhesion aid. This may enable the commercialization of low power loss silicon-on-nitride wafers as a promising platform for mid-Infrared integrated photonics.

Have you held an internship?

This past summer, I was an Engineering Leadership Program intern for National Instruments working in the Product Marketing division. While there, I worked on a system platform for a Massive Online Open Course signal processing lab course. I also helped create an automated paintball marker system, Paintball Picasso, under Waterloo Labs. This summer I will be interning with IBM to pursue Information Technology.


My team displaying our project for National Instruments.

What has been your favorite place to live on campus?

I really enjoyed living in Florida Avenue Residence Halls (FAR) my freshman year. I was apart of a Living-Learning Community where everyone on my floor became really great friends.

What’s campus life like?

Campus life is a juggling act. Being an engineering student requires strong dedication, hard work, and discipline to reach your goals. You’ll learn what the intensity level of your classes will be early on in your undergraduate career. It then becomes easier to schedule your time for academics, engineering organizations, activities, and a personal life.

Meet Ayesha in Chemical Engineering

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What attracted you to Illinois?

I came to Illinois with the UIC robotics team for a competition and Engineering Open House happened to be that same weekend. I was very impressed with the exhibits that students had the opportunity to work on and just knew this campus would help me further my academic career.

Chemical Engineering, Junior
Activities – Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Society of Women Engineers (Team Tech), Alpha Chi Sigma, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

What do you enjoy most about your major and the College?

I enjoy the breadth of information covered by the Chemical Engineering major and the resources available to engineering students. Some of my favorite resources are the dual screen computers in Engineering Hall and the group study rooms in the Chemistry Library.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

I encourage you to start out strong academically, don’t be afraid to ask questions, learn about the excellent resources available, and join an organization the interests you.

Who has been your favorite engineering professor?

It has been Dr. Brendan Harley because he would explain the concepts with relevant examples, was approachable for questions outside of class, and kept a friendly class environment.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done through Engineering at Illinois?

I won the BP design project given in Fluids and Heat Transfer (CHBE421). This was a wonderful course because of the real world application of the material, great professor, and the design project given by BP.

Have you held an internship?

I had the opportunity for work with LyondellBasell in the Polymers and Olefins department. I focused on safety, reliability, and optimization projects, which helped improve my technical, communication, and time management skills.

What is campus life like in Engineering?

It requires hard work and dedication to stay on the right track, but by managing your time it is easy to stay active socially as well.

Meet Jaime in Materials Science & Engineering

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What is campus life like for engineers?

Engineering at Illinois is world renowned and doesn’t sacrifice any of the benefits of a large university. I like how there are so many options, both within engineering and outside such as study abroad, student organizations, leadership opportunities, etc.

Materials Science & Engineering, Senior
Activities – Material Advantage, Illini 4000, Keramos

What impresses you most about the College?

I am impressed by the dedication of the faculty and staff. It is consistently evident that they care about the quality of education and about each and every one of the students.

What are the academics like?

Engineering is certainly a challenge, but there is definitely time to pursue other interests as well. I encourage everyone to study something that excites them and to stick with it even if it’s difficult.

Study Abroad - Germany
Studying abroad in Germany.


Study Abroad - Greece

Studying abroad in Greece.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Really make this experience your own. Try new things, challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes. If you work hard at something you are passionate about, that’s really all that matters.

Describe your research.

I worked with Brendan Harley in Chemical & Biological Engineering on developing a 3D collagen-GAG scaffold to study the interface between tendon and bone for applications in injury healing. I also worked with Nancy Sottos in Materials Science & Engineering on developing a 2D microvascular network for autonomous cooling of polymers.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done at Illinois?

The coolest thing I have done would be the Illini 4000, where I helped raise money for cancer research by bicycling across the USA!

Illini 4000

What are your post-graduate plans?

I will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

Meet Jeff in Computer Engineering

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What impresses you most about the College?

Prior to studying here, I was truly unaware of the amazing work and discoveries of Illinois professors and alumni. The world would certainly be a different place without the ongoing contributions of the College of Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Computer Engineering, Senior
Activities – Engineering Student Alumni Ambassadors, Tau Beta Pi – Engineering Honors Society, Eta Kappa Nu – ECE Honors Society, ECE Student Advancement Committee, College Democrats, Illinois Leadership Center Student Leadership Advisory Team, Electrical Engineers Without Borders


With Engineering Student Alumni Ambassadors on the Engineering Quad.

What attracted you to Illinois?

Illinois offers a unique college experience, as it has an awesome Big 10 feeling in addition to having very strong academic programs. With strength in all engineering fields, I knew that I would be receiving a great education, while also having a great time in college.

On the TEC trip to Silicon Valley.

What has been your favorite engineering course?

ECE 391: Computer Systems Engineering has been one of my favorites because it taught really novel concepts and pushed students to the extent of their abilities. After this course, I was equipped to work across the field and I have since become a TA for the class.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or done on campus?

Engineering Open House is a spectacular annual event that is held on the Engineering Campus. During last year’s event, the first day of activities concluded with a ‘Tesla Coil concert,’ which was a musical performance created by a man standing between two electrical generators and literally manipulating electricity, which creates musical notes accordingly. It was fantastic!

Have you held any internships?

I spent this past summer interning for Qualcomm in San Diego. I worked to help implement low-level features for upcoming mobile phones processors. During the summer after my sophomore year, I interned at GE Healthcare’s Technology Solutions division working on the instantaneous transfer of electronic medical records.

Sharing my work at my Qualcomm internship.

What’s campus life like for engineers?

Surrounded by a group of awesome peers and some of the top experts in a particular field, Engineering at Illinois offers a world-class engineering education while also embracing and encouraging students to pursue a well-rounded set of interests.

Where is the best place to eat on campus?

J. Gumbo’s

What are your post-graduate plans?

I’m very excited to become an engineer at Apple in Cupertino, CA in July! I will be working on low-level performance engineering for Apple’s iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch), which is actually a great fit for my academic experiences here at Illinois.

Meet Nicholas in Nuclear Engineering

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What do you enjoy most about the College?

It is so well known and has such proud alumni you can’t go to any professional conference without interacting with someone affiliated with Illinois. I have been sought by recruiters simply because I was an Illinois engineer; my major wasn’t even relevant to those companies.

Nuclear Engineering, Sophomore
Activities – Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Hoeft
Technology and Management Program, Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Researcher

What impresses you most about the College?

Some of the things that students do are unbelievable! They are entrepreneurs, they design robots, they create clean water systems – everything. It is truly astounding how people here maximize their education.

Why do you belong at Illinois?

Illinois has become my home. My friends here have become my family. 24 hours a day I am either in class, in the research lab, or with on-campus organizations. Illinois is all encompassing and whenever I go home, I’m thinking about when I’ll be back here.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Start working on the highest GPA possible because classes are only going to get harder. Also, get involved with an organization relevant to your major; you will learn crucial networking skills that you’ll need in order to differentiate yourself and secure internships early.

Describe your research.

I’ve done research at the Center for Plasma Materials Interactions with Professor Ruzic. The goal is to develop high quality thin film solar cells by means of PECVD, which is planned to increase the quality of solar cells and lower the cost.

Have you held an internship?

I interned with Exelon Generation at the corporate office in Warrenville, IL, and worked in the PWR Core Design group. My project was to create a core mapping with higher enriched uranium and analyze power outputs and cost savings. I will be returning to the company to work in the Reactor Engineering Group.

What is campus life like for an engineer?

Engineers do have social lives, and the best way to see that is by viewing the engineering Quad. In between classes, you will see people playing catch, frisbee, laying in the grass, and relaxing.

Where is the best place to eat on campus?

Merry Anne’s Diner

What has been your favorite place to live on campus?

Lundgren Hall. It is close to the Ike and the ARC, perfect.

Meet Asha in Bioengineering

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Describe your research.

I worked on campus with an undergraduate-led research group in synthetic biology this past summer, iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines). It was an intense but incredibly rewarding experience. The goal was to genetically engineer E. coli bacteria to create a biological assembly line that would quickly produce an anti-fat or anti-cancer agent in large quantities. This semester I started researching how to model the chemical properties of bone marrow with gel scaffolds and have observed subsequent stem cell growth.

Bioengineering, Sophomore
Activities – Society of Women Engineers, Biomedical Engineering Society, Illinois
Engineering Ambassadors

What impresses you most about the College?

I have been very impressed with the academic and career support services offered. There are services like CARE (an innovative library program), facilitated study groups offered by the Morrill Engineering Program, and Engineering Career Services. Plus, there is a network of departmental advisors and deans that offer advice on courses and career options. I have stopped into my advisor’s office many, many times to discuss everything from classes to summer options and have even gotten great advice from deans.

Who has been your favorite engineering professor?

Naomi Makins was a wonderful professor for Physics 212, Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism. Physics is not my forte, but she always held my attention in class through her energy and enthusiastic interaction with the class. Her use of demos and visual aids also really helped me understand a subject that was very foreign to me at the time.

What do you enjoy most about your major?

I love bioengineering because it is the perfect mix of the fascinating science of biology and the exciting innovations and technologies of engineering. I feel as though I am getting a great background in order to make a real impact on human health and well-being.

stem cell research
Performing stem cell research.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Get involved early on and seek mentors! This applies to both academics and extra activities. In class ask questions and attend office hours. By doing this and forming relationships with your TAs and professors, not only will you set yourself up for academic success but you will also gain valuable connections to different departments and areas of research and expertise.

When getting involved in student organizations, don’t be afraid to seek leadership positions as a freshman (there are more opportunities than you might think!) Also, seek out older students who can help develop your leadership skills and can offer advice for your college experience.

How have you used Engineering Career Services?

I have used ECS several times in order to prepare for career fairs: had my résumé critiqued regularly, had a practice interview, and received advice on evaluating job offers and different summer program options.

What’s the coolest experience you’ve had in Engineering?

Engineering Open House (or EOH) is one of the most wonderful experiences I have had at Illinois! EOH is a giant science fair held by the entire college of engineering every spring. It features the best student projects, demos, and experiments from every engineering major and student group.

Last year I helped build model dorm rooms that were set on fire on the Bardeen Quad and filmed with a thermal camera! There was also a Tesla Coil concert, which was a completely unique, awesome experience!

EOH group pic_web
My EOH group this year with our exhibit on genetically engineered bacteria, through the Biomedical Engineering Society.

What’s campus life like for an engineer?

You will be challenged by classes, and will need to study quite a bit and even use study groups or student tutoring. However, you’ll also be introduced to the actual work that engineers do in industry, which is very exciting and helps drive your desire to succeed. Of course, after studying you’ll have a great time going out on Green Street, catching a game, or just hanging out with your friends. Campus life is all about balancing school and leisure.

What has been your favorite place to live on campus?

Illinois Street Residence Hall (ISR)

Meet Valeria in Mechanical Engineering

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What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

College is not a race, you have to take it at your own pace. Take time for self evaluation in order to learn about your strengths and weaknesses and recognize when you may need help. Take advantage of all our amazing resources. There are endless opportunities and you want to make sure you look back at your college experience with fond memories.

Mechanical Engineering, Senior
Activities – American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Engineering Learning Assistant, Engineering Campus Tour Director, Engineering Employment EXPO, Society of Women Engineers, Engineering Council, Club Tennis

What impresses you most about the College?

I am impressed by the amazing example both faculty and staff set. They have provided me with countless advice throughout my career, which was helped me grow as a person and develop as an engineer.

What do you enjoy most about your major?

My favorite thing about my major is that it’s broad. It’s the perfect platform to jump into many different industries. I also like that the curriculum is very hands-on and we get to see everything in front of us; it’s tangible. I enjoy the people, the cohesiveness, and the support.

What are the academics like?

Our professors are doing cutting edge research. Your peers are intelligent, driven, and ready to change the world. It’s really exciting to see the work of Illinois faculty and students featured in numerous publications. As for options, the have been boundless. I’ve been able to find everything I have wanted to explore and pursue extracurriculars that perfectly compliment my curriculum.

What’s the coolest experience you’ve had in Engineering?

My coolest engineering experience was being part of the Society of Women in Engineering Team Tech. It’s a yearlong design competition and our corporate partner was Abbott Labs. We competed at the National Conference in Chicago and placed third.

Have you held any internships?

In the summer of 2010, I worked for an engineering contractor in Toulouse, France, where I helped design, assemble, and test numerous mechanical components. During the next two summers I interned for Procter & Gamble in Augusta, GA, and Cincinnati, OH. I will be working for P&G in Kansas City, MO, at a plant next summer.

What has been your favorite place to live on campus?

The Living-Learning Community of Women in Math, Science, & Engineering (WIMSE).

What’s campus life like for engineers?

I always say, ‘when you go to Illinois Engineering, you go to a small private school, and if you want to go to a large public school, cross the street.’ Here, you get the best of both worlds.

Engineering allows you to grab basic theories and make something of value, something new, something better that’s going to help someone in some way. Engineering at Illinois is built on a great set of values and a constant thirst to do better and make a greater impact.

What do you like about Champaign-Urbana?

It’s a great college atmosphere – you are part of the Big Ten! People are friendly, there is plenty to do, and you are not stuck on campus. The bus system makes it really easy to get around and it’s a perfect place where you can feel safe while you experience, explore, and grow in this unique time of your life.