How Close Is Too Close? Industry Courts Computer Scholars

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Kristen Schmid for The Chronicle

Cathy Singer leads Yahoo’s Champaign office at the University of Illinois’s research park. In December 
the company will move into this larger building now under construction, with more employees.

In 2007 Motorola shuttered its operations in Champaign, Ill., leaving behind a team of engineers and an empty office space in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s research park. The jettisoned employees wanted to stay in Illinois, setting off a scramble for their services. With university officials playing matchmaker, a number of companies jockeyed to win the team—but one quickly took the lead.

"Yahoo moved in the fastest by far," says Catherine Singer, a