Biotech Building Takes Shape; ChBE Prepares for 2012 Move

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The Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building under construction on East Campus.

Walking through the front door of the new Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building, one is immediately struck by the vast scale and utility of the public meeting areas.

Beneath a grand, five-story staircase, the Charlie Butcher Gallery ties together future classroom space with a 200-seat auditorium, pre-function area, and adjacent café that will allow CU-Boulder to host national and international conferences showcasing the latest advances in biotechnology.

A "main street" corridor heads off to the north, linking the wings of the 330,000-square-foot building (half the size of the current Engineering Center) and further fostering interdisciplinary research and collaboration. More than 60 tenure-line faculty and 1,000 students and research and support staff will occupy the facility.

Four of the building's five wings are currently under construction and slated for completion by the spring of 2012. Classrooms and teaching laboratories are being shelled, and will be completed when capital funding from the state of Colorado becomes available.

Corporate, foundation, and individual support is being combined with university, state, and federal funds to continue Colorado's strong legacy in biotechnology.

The building project, on CU-Boulder's east campus near 30th and Colorado, was undertaken to "tear down the walls" between the biological sciences and such disciplines as physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering, thus paving the way for a new era of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.

In addition to the shared spaces at the building's entrance, and several other conference and seminar rooms, collaboration spaces at the center of each academic "neighborhood" will facilitate what Distinguished Professor Tom Cech calls "productive collisions" between researchers.

Cech, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry, is directing the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, which is aimed at maintaining CU's scientific competitiveness while supporting biotechnology development along the Front Range. This initiative, along with the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the division of biochemistry, will occupy the building.

The new building will offer state-of-the-art research and teaching space, including the Chevron Chemical Engineering Teaching Laboratory—a space where some 150 undergraduates each semester conduct lab experiments and gain hands-on experience with instrumentation and process control.

The teaching lab is being named through a gift from Chevron, the first corporate sponsor of building space devoted to faculty and students in chemical and biological engineering.

"The things I learned in the CU unit operations lab during the 1980s prepared me well for my early years as an engineer at Chevron," says Mike Wirth, Chevron executive vice president of Downstream and Chemicals. "As a CU alum, I'm proud that Chevron is helping to build a new lab where students can experiment and master technologies for the 21st century."

ConocoPhillips also has made a commitment to name the ConocoPhillips Center for Energy Innovation, thus continuing its support of research under the umbrella of the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels (C2B2) and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI).

"We are extremely proud to make this gift to establish a world-class center for innovative energy solutions, providing a home for the C2B2 project as well as much-needed space for substantial growth in ChBE research," says Carin Knickel, vice president of ConocoPhillips. "We are excited about the opportunity for increased collaboration and research, and we also view the center as providing an excellent facility for developing talented students with an interest in energy."

The family of Dan Broida and his St. Louis chemical company, Sigma-Aldrich Corp., are among the others making significant private gifts to support the building and initiative.

"Without the generous support of private donors, we would not be able to complete this state-of-the-art building," says Robert H. Davis, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. "The gifts of our individual and corporate partners will facilitate excellence in research and education for generations to come."

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering expects to move into its new space over the course of the spring 2012 semester. Some courses will be offered in the new building starting in fall 2012, while other courses, including the junior and senior labs, will not move to the new building until somewhat later.

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