Weldon’s New Home Progressing Rapidly

Event Date: October 20, 2005
The new home of the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering has taken shape and has begun to “fill” with the components that will transform it from a structure into the premier biomedical education and research facility in the world.

According to staff engineer Kirk Foster, who is serving as point person for BME on completion, “The building is progressing rapidly and is on schedule for move-in during the summer of 2006.” Classes and research will formally start with the fall 2006 semester, and the building will be dedicated around Homecoming. Gr oundbreaking for the new building occurred on September 26, 2003 and was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Whitaker Foundation.

All too often, the design of any new facility is based on the past. An institution tells a designer that they need X-type of building, so many square feet, so many classrooms, so many labs, and a new building is proposed based on the way things have always been done. This time, design has been focused on the future.

As biomedical engineering bridges many different disciplines, the design process for the new building brought together architects, faculty members, and staff in new ways. Plans and ideas were examined in light of how they will affect, or be effected by, emerging teaching and research paradigms as well as advances in technology.

The result is a design that enhances discovery on multiple levels, from encouraging student and faculty interactions with informal and formal gathering spaces to strategically aligning research facilities, so as to maximize sharing of both traditional and non-traditional resources.

In areas where a need for continual adaptation is expected, from interpersonal interactions to technology changes, provisions were made to allow quick modifications to meet future needs.

The building site was chosen so that it functions as a gateway between the academic campus and the expanding, translational research-intensive Discovery Park area of the university. Key buildings within walking distance include the Lynn Hall of Veterinary Medicine, the Birk Nanotechnology Center, the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entreprenuership, the Bindley Bioscience Center, and Lilly Hall.

Internal arrangements were designed with connectivity in mind as well:

  • The proximity of multi-sized classrooms, instructional laboratories, team-based project rooms, counseling areas, and informal interaction spaces creates a unique learning environment and encourages an integrated and fluid movement of people, activities, and ideas
  • A good example of internal connectivity is found in the central instructional laboratory complex. Contained in this interconnected complex are a wet-bench laboratory (cell and tissue biology), an instrumentation laboratory (mechanical and electrical testing), a tissue culture facility, and a microscope darkroom (light and fluorescence). A central prep room and instructional coordinator’s office link the multi-faceted learning activities scheduled for all levels of undergraduate laboratories

Research labs are clustered along thematic lines for flexibility and synergy:

  • Flexible response to the continuous, fast-paced, changing needs of the medical industry and healthcare is critical to successful biomedical engineering, and to the education of tomorrow’s biomedical engineers. This new facility is designed to enhance this capability for both teaching and research activities.
  • One example of this adaptability is the design of the “Flex Lab” instructional laboratory space. This centralized space for engineering design courses has been provided with a “dance floor” arrangement that easily allows benches and other mobile equipment to be quickly reconfigured for the varied aspects of prototype design and testing

Designers worked with faculty members and staff researchers to ensure that all resources needed, from consumables to appropriate electrical power supply, were readily and safely accessible.

Securing research space for taking stable measurements with highly sensitive instrumentation was also configured into the overall building design. The building incorporates a number of these specialized areas. One example is the optics laboratory which is built on its own concrete slab in the basement, and sits independent of the rest of the facility. This design ensures that vibrations which could affect measurements are eliminated. In other labs, special lighting equipment was chosen to eliminate lighting-induced electromagnetic interference with extremely discriminating sensors.