By James E. Kloeppel
The official "grand opening" and dedication ceremony for the UI's Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory will take place April 25.
With a pricetag of more than $61 million, the laboratory is the largest capital project undertaken on the Urbana-Champaign campus. The 227,500-square-foot facility, at 601 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, houses state-of-the-art research laboratories, faculty offices and support services for the School of Life Sciences' departments of microbiology and of cell and structural biology, and the School of Chemical Sciences' divisions of physical and inorganic chemistry in the department of chemistry and members of the department of biochemistry.
"The facility will allow us to physically and intellectually bridge the gap between the chemical and life sciences," said Stephen G. Sligar, director of the School of Chemical Sciences. "The new building provides much-needed space for leading-edge faculty research and significantly enhances both undergraduate and graduate research and education on the UI campus."
The dedication ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Foellinger Auditorium with brief remarks by UI President James J. Stukel, Chancellor Michael Aiken and Jesse Delia, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The formal ribbon cutting will occur at 10:15 a.m. at the entrance to the Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory. A reception, tours of the facility and poster sessions will follow.
"This is the culmination of many years of effort," said Donald R. Ort, interim director of the School of Life Sciences. "The new facility will enable us to do many things that were not possible in our old buildings, where we were geographically isolated and space limited.
"By bringing together researchers from different disciplines, we can explore a variety of new research thrusts in areas
such as microbial oxidative systems, sonochemistry, and the linear sequencing of amino acids and protein folding."
One of the facility's crown jewels is the Keck 750 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer. The $1.8 million instrument was funded, in part, by a $725,000 grant from the Keck Foundation, and is one of the most powerful NMR spectroscopy units commercially available.
"As you go to higher and higher field strengths, you are able to see finer and finer structures in the spectra," Sligar said. "This is a very powerful tool for looking at a wide variety of systems, and will be used to address issues ranging from structural biology to solid-state chemistry."
The Keck NMR spectrometer forms the core of the new Center for Complex Structures, which marries the classic fields of materials science and structural biology, Sligar said. "This major instrument allows us to cross some of the boundaries between the chemical and biological sciences, and really accentuates the type of synergy being developed at the Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory."