Biomedical Engineering finds new home

Though undergraduates have been living in their dormitories for nearly a month, members of Yale’s Biomedical Engineering Department are just starting to move into their own new quarters.

Construction crews finished their work at the Malone Center on Prospect and Trumbull streets weeks ago, but the move-in process was delayed until most of the surrounding landscaping work was completed and the fire marshal signed off on the occupancy papers for the new engineering research building. Professors first began relocating to the facility this week, with undergraduate laboratory teaching space set to open next week for classes.

Still, even with the occupancy papers signed, some of the laboratory facilities will lie unused for months, until the department completes its search for additional professors and some existing staff members finish pieces of their current research projects. Though several core members of the department have already moved in, some faculty slated to work in the new building are not scheduled to settle in until January, Project Management Director Steve Brown said.

Brown said the perceived delays are due to the early completion of the project’s $46 million construction phase, which required the department to reschedule its transition process.

“There wasn’t a lot of [land available] for construction, but aside from that, it was pretty straightforward, so we delivered it a little before we said we would,” Brown said.

Members of the two-year-old department said they would prefer to move into their own space rather than continuing to coopt other science departments’ facilities, but said not all of their experiments are eminently portable.

“We’ve all been eager to get in, but you have to wait until they’re ready to move,” Biomedical Engineering chair Mark Saltzman said. “We’ve just been sort of borrowing space to run our projects, but you can’t just shut them down or start them up.”

Saltzman, who said he does not consider the faculty move-in to be delayed, said he has already settled into his office on the highest floor of the four-story building, but most of the laboratory facilities are still empty. The entire second floor, Saltzman said, is devoted to research space for at least two new faculty members who have yet to be hired, while the third floor is slated to house more labs and a comprehensive imaging facility that will include MRI and ultrasound scanning equipment for use by chemists and medical researchers as well as his own department. A vibration-free basement floor is dedicated to mechanical and chemical engineering projects, he said.

The building’s interdisciplinary focus, Saltzman said, reinforces the primary strength of Yale’s engineering, applied science and medical faculty relative to comparable institutions.

“It’s always been a highly collaborative environment here,” he said. “At the big engineering schools, engineering is very isolated from the rest of the community. There aren’t very many universities where there is this close of a connection between engineering and medicine.”

Projects that may benefit from that collaboration include a program to design and synthesize biomaterials for drug delivery — either via injected nanoparticles or local implants — and a tissue engineering program designed to support the synthesis of replacement organs outside a host body, Saltzman said. These projects require the skill of School of Medicine surgeons, he said.

Provost Andrew Hamilton said his office is looking forward to the projects developed in the new building, as well as new construction projects designed to bolster the research facilities of the Chemistry and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology departments.

Boxes speckle the hallways of the Malone Center, the new home for the Biomedical Engineering Department
Caio Camargo
Boxes speckle the hallways of the Malone Center, the new home for the Biomedical Engineering Department

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