Spotlight Projects

  • Cleaning the Cleanroom

    Dec 01, 2020

    Even “cleanrooms” need to be cleaned, and F&S building service workers (BSWs) are up to the task.

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign features many state-of-the-art research facilities, including a cleanroom where some of the world’s brightest scientists and researchers use extremely sensitive tools, processes, and chemicals.

    For this room to earn the name “cleanroom,” this space must be immaculate.

    cleanroomResearchers who use the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) have access to more than 140 specialty instruments and $40M worth of scientific tools, including in the MicroFab cleanroom and Raith prep cleanroom. MRL is a vital resource necessary to grow the health of the university’s scientific research. U of I faculty members, external academic researchers, and private industrial partners studying materials science engineering, chemical engineering, bioengineering and aerospace engineering, physics, and other physical sciences have 24/7 access to these capabilities that advance the world’s understanding of some of the most ground-breaking scientific discoveries. Research engineers Xiaoli Wang, Jeff Grau, and Tao Shang are in charge of the cleanroom and prep cleanroom.

    The rooms house a wide range of micro and nano-fabrication projects. Many precise tools, dangerous acids, and highly volatile ingredients are used to develop intricate microstructures. Optical photolithography, direct-write lithography, e-beam lithography, and wet etch processes are all carried out in MRL cleanroom labs.

    In other words, BSWs cannot just walk in and start dusting, sweeping, and spraying.

    Carla Ogle, an experienced BSW at MRL, learned how to navigate the space more than four years ago and has taught many others.

    First, BSWs enter the “gowning” room, where anyone entering the functioning cleanrooms must put on special personal protective equipment (PPE), including a full white suit, multiple sets of foot coverings, a gown, hood, gloves, boots, safety glasses, and a hair net. Unlike regular safety PPE, cleanroom garments worn in the space act to protect the environment from the wearer.

    Once in, the BSWs empty all the regular trash cans. A special duster is then used on surfaces, and the floor is cleaned three different times, the final time with chemicals specifically developed for cleanrooms.

    “I enjoy working in the cleanroom because it’s a different process and more meaningful challenge to care for the space,” said Ogle. “It helps me, and the rest of our BSWs, understand the impact of the research being done on this campus and how F&S enables it.”
  • Wax Stays Steady Despite Heat

    Oct 14, 2020

    During an emergency Marlo Wax reacted quickly, saving herself; the lives and safety of students, faculty, and staff; and university grounds and buildings.

    Wax works daily to collect waste from buildings across campus, including student housing facilities. On September 28, Wax was making her rounds, finding herself outside of Scott Hall and used her front-loader to pick up an 8-yard front-loading trash can. During the load-in process, some of the bags from the can toppled over onto the truck’s exhaust, which sits just behind the driver’s seat. The heat from the exhaust mixed with some of the refuse, which may have included oil or other flammable items, and almost immediately caught on fire, sending flames shooting skyward.edit_DSC0515

    The truck fire was near a large tree, which rose above the ground near the windows of Scott Hall, something Wax thought could cause danger to students if limbs and leaves were to catch on fire.

    “I first noticed the smoke coming into the cabin and knew something was wrong,” Wax said. She immediately radioed to her supervisor Dan Hiser and the pair determined to get the truck out of the way of students and other university facilities. Wax drove the truck to Lot 31, a nearby grass lot just west of Memorial Stadium and unloaded the flaming garbage onto the ground to ensure no further danger to her and others and no more damage to the truck.

    While Hiser informed the fire department of the situation, another F&S driver who overheard her call, Jeff Myers, responded, too, driving himself to Lot 31 to help Wax put out the flames with his truck’s fire extinguisher, while they waited for emergency personnel to put out the last burning embers. Operating Engineers and Laborers helped secure the area and get rid of the burned trash.

    Wax was proud of her colleagues for assisting her during a time in need, but also her ability to react quickly to ensure the safety of university students and facilities: “I just thought to stay cool, keep your head, and get the truck out of there. Just stay aware of the truck and your surroundings.”

  • Uniform Shirts to be Worn by F&S Frontline Staff

    Aug 18, 2020

    Dear Colleagues,

    Beginning Monday, August 31, F&S frontline staff will start wearing a uniform shirt while preforming service and project work. This new Illini Blue attire will emphasize the unit’s role as the caretaker for the university’s physical environment by presenting a consistent visual appearance on campus that reflects the professionalism of our team while contributing to proactive university security efforts.


    The shirts will also be labeled with each employee’s name and feature the block I. The apparel will aid in our ongoing customer-focused COVID-19 response strategies, allowing you to better identify and interact with F&S employees during the return to on-site instruction. 

    F&S dress guidelines have always focused on the importance of maintaining a professional appearance as a representative of our organization and the university. As a means to help achieve our strategic objective of furthering engagement with the campus community and especially during this vital period, the new shirts will strengthen F&S’ commitment to being a responsive and highly valued service provider while highlighting the unit’s vast expertise and capabilities.


    Dr. Mohamed Attalla, MBA, P.Eng.
    Executive Director, Facilities & Services