Rensselaer marks the opening of the center for biotechnology and interdisciplinary studies

09/02/04

TROY, N.Y. – World-renowned biotechnology experts and science policymakers will join the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute community at a series of events Sept. 9-11, including a symposium, Presidential Colloquy, ribbon-cutting, a play, and an open house to mark the opening of the Institute's Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

On Thursday, Sept. 9, Rensselaer will host a biotechnology symposium that will begin with keynote addresses from:

  • Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D., President and Professor of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, on "The Human Genome Decoded: Promises Kept and Promises To Come"

  • Robert S. Langer, Sc.D., Kenneth J. Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on "Biomaterials and How They Will Change Our Lives"

  • Troy Duster, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, New York University, and Chancellor's Professor, University of California, Berkeley, on "The Role of Molecular Biology in the New Uses of Race in Science, Medicine, and Law"

On Friday, Sept. 10, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson will host a Presidential Colloquy on "Opportunities at the Interface of Bioscience and Bioengineering" with:

  • The Honorable Elias Zerhouni, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health

  • Bruce Alberts, Ph.D., President, National Academy of Sciences

  • William Wulf, Ph.D., President, National Academy of Engineering

  • Claire M. Fraser '77, Ph.D., President and Director, Investigator, The Institute for Genomic Research

  • James C. Mullen '80, President and CEO, Biogen Idec Inc.

  • William A. Haseltine, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Human Genome Sciences Inc.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony, lead by President Jackson, will follow the colloquy. Speakers will include:

  • The Honorable Hillary Clinton, United States Senator (N.Y.)

  • The Honorable Michael McNulty, United States Representative (N.Y.)

  • The Honorable Joseph L. Bruno, New York State Senate Majority Leader

  • The Honorable Elias Zerhouni, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health

  • Bruce Alberts, Ph.D. President, National Academy of Sciences

  • Samuel Heffner Jr. '56, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

  • Howard P. Isermann '42, Honorary Trustee, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

  • Robert E. Palazzo, Ph.D., Acting Director, Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and Chair, Department of Biology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

"This extraordinary group of leaders in the sciences, engineering, business and government is rarely assembled in one place, and their participation is a testament to what the Rensselaer community has accomplished in a few short years," said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. "By establishing the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, we have created a gathering place where scientists and engineers from various disciplines will explore at the intersection of the life sciences, with engineering and the physical and information sciences, thereby accelerating discovery and ultimately enhancing the quality of life for all people."

Rensselaer's new center ranks among the world's most advanced research facilities focused on the application of engineering and the physical and information sciences to the life sciences. The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies is a 218,000-square-foot, $100 million facility (including $80 million for construction). With its high-tech laboratories and expansive atrium, it provides a platform for collaboration among many diverse academic and research disciplines to enhance discovery and encourage innovation.

The Center is designed to foster the multidisciplinary nature of biotechnology. It is organized around "constellations" of research – Biocomputation and Bioinformatics; Integrative Systems Biology; Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine; and Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering. Each research constellation of "star" faculty, junior faculty, and students will constitute a critical mass of expertise within the specific focal area. Each focal area will involve overlapping fields of expertise. Other research foci in the building will include fields such as nanobiotechnology and biomedical imaging.

Research and office space will support approximately 400 faculty, staff, and students. A wired 150-seat auditorium, the Bruggeman Conference Center, and other meeting spaces will enhance opportunities for collaboration on campus, throughout the region, and around the world. Labs will include state-of-the art equipment, such as a 800 mHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer. Essential infrastructure, including laboratory equipment like the NMR and facilities within the center will be funded in part by a $22.5 million grant from the Gen*NY*sis program. This New York State biotechnology economic development program was championed by New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. Rensselaer also has been designated to receive $750,000 in federal funding to support the creation of a new Center for Quantitative and Computational Bioscience to be housed in the new facility.

The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies is on Rensselaer's South Campus, on 15th Street near College Avenue, adjacent to Academy Hall and the George M. Low Center for Industrial Innovation. It will be linked by a new pedestrian walkway west to the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) now under construction. The Center's red brick façade on 15th Street mirrors the historic Georgian-style architectural features of the Ricketts campus to the north. Significant streetscape improvements have been made along 15th Street, including street lamps and a new gateway on the corner of College Avenue welcoming visitors to the south campus.

Designed jointly by Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann of Butler, Pa., and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Pittsburgh, Pa., several of the architects are Rensselaer alumni including: Dick Rittelmann '60, principal-in-charge; Peter Bohlin '58, design architect; and Jon Jackson '73, lead architect. Harry Gordon '73 and Michael Maiese '90 also are on the team.

Rensselaer broke ground on the building May 17, 2002.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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