Creating Conda environments and Jupyter kernels

In the Purdue Analysis Facility, the Python-based Jupyter kernels are created from Conda environments. We provide a pre-installed Conda environment (/depot/cms/kernels/python3), which includes most of the Python packages commonly used for HEP analyses. This environment corresponds to the Python3 (default) Jupyter kernel.


Before creating custom environments, consult with the Analysis Facility support. It may be easier to install missing packages into the default environment.

  • List all available Conda environments:

    conda env list
  • List all available Jupyter kernels:

    jupyter kernelspec list

    or simply click the [+] button (New Launcher) in the AF interface.

Creating a custom Jupyter kernel: minimal example

The basic recipe to create a custom kernel is straightforward:

  1. Create a Conda environment in a desired location with a desired name.

    (See different ways to create Conda environments below.)

  2. Istall ipykernel package and wait for 1-2 minutes.

  3. A new kernel with the same name as the Conda environment will appear in Jupyter.

# path to your Conda environments on Depot:

# or under /work/, if you are not a Purdue user:
# conda_envs_path="/work/users/$USER"

# name of the new environment:

# create a new environment with ipykernel package installed
conda create -y --prefix $conda_envs_path/$conda_env_name python=3.10 ipykernel

# activate environment
conda activate $conda_envs_path/$conda_env_name


Since Jupyter kernel names are based on the Conda environment names, one should avoid creating multiple Conda environments with the same name. Also, one should avoid using names python3 and python3-ml to name Conda environments, as these names are reserved for the pre-installed kernels.

Creating custom Conda environments

There are multiple ways to create a custom Conda environment, the particular choice of a method depends on the use case.

Option 1: Create a Conda environment from scratch

This option is preferred if you want to start from a clean environment and install all packages manually.

conda create --prefix /some-path/my-new-env python=3.10 ipykernel
conda activate /some-path/my-new-env
conda install numpy pandas # install any packages here
conda deactivate

Option 2: Clone an existing environment into a new environment

This is a simple method to duplicate an existing environment.

conda create --prefix /path/to/cloned_env --clone /path/to/original_env

Option 3: Create a Conda environment from a YAML file

This is another method to replicate an environment, it can be used if the original environment is exported and shared as a YAML file. The main benefit of this approach is the possibility to share environments outside of the Analysis Facility (one can simply email the YAML file).

Alternatively, this method can be used to create a Conda environment from scratch, if you know in advance which packages must be present in the kernel.

  1. If you have already been provided with a YAML file, proceed to step 4.

  2. If you are creating a YAML file from scratch, you can use the YAML file corresponding to the default kernel as an example: see here.


    Do not copy prefix: /depot/cms/kernels/python3 from the example YAML, as it will lead to errors during installation.

    Also, you can ignore the variables: section, it is only there for correct installation of the lhapdf package.

  3. Additional Conda repositories may be specified under the channels: section, e.g:

      - conda-forge
      - pyg
  4. Once the list of packages is finalized, create a Conda environment in a desired location (in this example the environment will get created with a name my-new-env):

    conda env create -f /some-path/my-env-file.yml --prefix /some-path/my-new-env


    Keep in mind that Conda environments can take up a lot of space (up to several dozen GB), so the /home/<username>/ storage space may be insufficient for storing more than 1-2 custom environments.

    A better location to store your environment is either /work/ or /depot/ storage (Depot is only writeable by Purdue users).

  5. You can activate the environment and install more packages into it at any time:

    conda activate /some-path/my-new-env

Uninstalling a Conda environment

# list available environments
conda info --envs

# uninstall an environment by name or by path
conda remove --name <env-name> --all
# or
conda remove --prefix /path/to/env --all