We closed out what has been a banner year for IUPUI with the dedication of the new Science and Engineering Laboratory Building (SELB) on November 19th.
A very special part of the ceremony was the keynote address by John Lechleiter, chair and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Company, who was also recognized with the conferral of an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Years ago, John taught chemistry at IUPUI. He joined Lilly in 1979 as a senior organic chemist.
It was 20 years ago last month that there was another dedication ceremony at IUPUI, even more historic. It was the opening of the Science, Engineering, and Technology Complex at IUPUI, a three-phase project that moved our Purdue schools from their location six miles north on 38th Street to Michigan Street.
The two schools that share the SELB, the School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Science, were estimated to be about 100,000 square feet short of laboratory space for their expanding academic and research programs. The new building, located at 350 N. Blackford Street, is phase one of addressing that shortage. It is attached to the existing science building and contains about 35,000 assignable square feet for research and teaching space.
Since there was no state funding for the building, it is the success of research by faculty, students, and staff that made the building possible. Ali Jafari, professor of Computer and Information Technology and director of Cyberlab in the School of Engineering and Technology, created Oncourse, the online course management system used at IU. Dr. Jafari and his former graduate student, David Mills, then created ANGEL Learning, a commercial course management system, which was sold in 2009 to Blackboard, Inc., with $7 million of IU’s share of the licensing proceeds being invested in the SELB. Dr. Jafari’s Cyberlab is now fittingly located in the SELB and symbolizes the innovation and translational research that will be its hallmark.
In the SELB, there also will be biology labs investigating the molecular basis of kidney diseases and leukemia, chemistry labs modeling interactions of novel drugs with disease targets, and forensics labs developing new crime-solving tools.
The SELB will be an important component of IUPUI’s mission as Indiana’s life and health sciences campus. It will allow us to recruit new faculty to complement existing research strengths in neuroscience, cancer, and stem cell research, for example, as well as such collaborations with the IU School of Medicine as the internationally recognized Indiana University Alcohol Research Center. The biomedical engineering program, with research that has led to the development of such life-saving devices as cardiovascular stents, will be able to expand its path-breaking work.
Partnerships with industry, including companies such as Lilly, Dow AgroSciences, AIT Laboratories, Citizen’s Energy, Rolls Royce, and others will also benefit. The Center for Earth and Environmental Sciences, for example, has literally touched the life of everyone in the city with its research on water quality. More recently, our new Center for Urban Health has cross-disciplinary research where geologists work with pediatricians to link areas of soil contamination with lead poisoning in children.
When you bring people into proximity with each other, ideas spark, collaborations flourish, complex issues get studied, and confounding problems get solved. Today, more than ever, collaboration is at the heart of discovery and innovation.
When you visit the facility, note that there is glass all around, like eyes opened on to the world of discovery. Note that its features echo the buildings around it—the University Library and the Science, Engineering, and Technology Complex—suggesting its connections to other disciplines as well as to the history of the last 20 years that brought us to this point. Note that the stained glass side of the building flirts with passers-by on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which connects the campus to the city and its neighborhoods through public art and historical markers.
The renowned architect I M Pei said: “You only have to cast your eyes on a building to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place.”
That is why I believe when the architect gets it right, a building speaks for itself.
Our new Science and Engineering Laboratory Building, designed by Blackburn Architects and BSA LifeStructures, certainly does that.