Plans in full swing for new biomedical facility

Yale has huge plans for its engineering program. And in the program’s spotlight right now is the 50,000 square-foot biomedical engineering building soon to be constructed on the corner of Prospect and Trumbull streets.

Less than a month ago, Yale announced that world famous architect Cesar Pelli will design the new building. Although the building is yet to be named, construction of it is one step closer, and the engineering program’s directors have decided exactly which programs will be in the building and how space will be used.

The building is set to house the biomedical engineering program, but it will also be used for other engineering disciplines, dean of engineering Paul Fleury said.

“The biomedical engineering program is in its first few years of existence,” Fleury said. “It will definitely be the biggest program in the new building, but the building will also have the flexibility to provide space for other disciplines like mechanical and chemical engineering. We want the building’s purpose to be broader than just biomedical engineering.”

Construction of the building is tentatively set to begin in 2003, and completion of the building is expected to take at least three years.

The building, which is being financed in large part through a $24 million donation from John Malone ’63, will be used for hood-intensive laboratory research as well as for teaching. Pelli will design the building to include workspace for activities requiring modern high technology lab space, such as projects by engineering graduate students and faculty.

An important aspect of the building will be its capability to serve interdisciplinary programs, Fleury said. The building’s laboratories will be used for projects by medical faculty teamed with faculty from engineering disciplines and, of course, for biomedical engineering, which is inherently interdisciplinary. Cutting edge research in biomaterial-tissue engineering, which involves the development of artificial tissue, will take place in the building, said James Duncan, director of biomedical engineering and member of the building’s space planning committee.

“Biomedical engineering will be the key occupant of the building,” Duncan said. “It’s an up-and-coming program, and it is fitting that it will be housed in a building with the perfect location to serve as a gateway or welcoming to the engineering and applied science complex.”

Pelli, well known for designing the world’s tallest building — the Petronas Towers structure in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — is excited about designing the building and has had discussions about drawings with the space planning committee this past week, Duncan said.

Administrators said the estimated three years for completion of the building is considered a short duration of time for construction of such a highly specialized building.

“It will be a real challenge to do all of this in three years,” Fleury said. “But we do need it, and it will give us some needed and very high quality space for our programs and will be a symbol of the importance Yale is giving to engineering.”

Before completion of the building, the biomedical engineering program hopes to have completed another project — recruitment of new faculty to fill four spots for biomaterials researchers recently created by Yale President Richard Levin. Biomedical engineering is hoping to attract candidates who will add to the success of the program, which is centered around “engineering with a flavor towards biology,” Duncan said.

“The new building will be a big step for biomedical engineering,” Duncan said. “We really do think that undergrads in particular will benefit tremendously from having the kind of research that will be conducted in the new building take place on campus.”

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