It’s not often that an exceptional group of leaders in science, engineering, business, and government are assembled in one place, but it’s even less frequent when such an exceptional research facility as Troy, NY-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies opens its doors. “[These leaders’] participation is a testament to what the Rensselaer community has accomplished in a few short years,” says Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson of the multi-day event in mid-September. “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.”
Designed to foster the multidisciplinary nature of biotechnology, the 218,000-square-foot, $100-million facility 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, while each focal area will involve overlapping fields of expertise. With its high-tech laboratories and expansive atrium, the center provides a platform for collaboration among many diverse academic and research disciplines to enhance discovery and encourage innovation.
Implementing the teaming and interaction so necessary in today’s workplaces is unique to research facilities, says Amr Abdel-Azim, senior executive for capital projects at Rensselaer. “The building is designed to provide an environment for researchers to meet each other, work together, and ‘rub elbows.’ In working together, the layout of the building encourages them to look at the same aspect from different angles,” he notes, adding that many of the design elements of this living classroom were developed jointly between architects Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, but further assisted by the insight of research personnel and a number of Rensselaer alumni now practicing architecture.
The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies will become home to a new $22.5-million Gen*NY*sis Center for Biotechnology and Medicine funded by New York State. Additionally, Rensselaer has received $750,000 in federal funding to support the creation of a new Center for Quantitative and Computational Bioscience to be housed in this facility.
Linda K. Monroe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.