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Artist’s representation of Building X, a state-of-the-art science
facility on the UD Newark Campus that is expected to open in fall
Many hopes and
dreams are arising from the ashes of fire-damaged McKinly Lab as the
University of Delaware begins construction of a new science facility
known, for now, as “Building X.”
When completed in fall 2024, the four-story, 131,000
square-foot-structure, located along East Delaware Avenue, will provide
state-of-the-art research and teaching labs and serve as a “science
collider” in the friendliest sense. It will bring together faculty and
students from biology, psychology, neuroscience, physics and quantum
science to accelerate research in areas from Alzheimer’s disease to
depression to quantum medical sensors, preparing students for
high-demand careers in health care.
“This interdisciplinary science building at the heart of the UD
campus will catalyze cutting-edge research in the fields of human
disease, developmental disorders, neuroscience and human behavior, and
educate more than 1,000 students a year in those critical areas of
health care need,” said University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis.
“In addition, by enhancing collaborative partnerships within the state
and beyond, this new facility will be an invaluable asset for our entire
community for generations to come.”
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Gov. John Carney announced earlier this year that the state will
dedicate $41 million in federal stimulus funding from the American
Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support the building project, “for which UD is
very grateful,” Assanis said. The remaining costs, currently projected
at $143 million, will be borne by the University, supported by
fundraising efforts that could lead to donor naming opportunities for
UD's new science facility will enable interdisciplinary research in
the biological basis of human disease and mental health, expand training
of Delaware's health care workforce including in areas that will help
prevent and prepare for future pandemics, and further bolster the
state's rising reputation for bioscience research, according to Kelvin
Lee, UD's interim vice president for research, scholarship and
“Working across disciplines, UD faculty are providing the research
and education critical to preparing the workforce of the future — from
neuroscience to quantum science,” Lee said.
Biologist Aimee Jaramillo-Lambert (center) will probe chromosome
structure and separation in sperm and eggs to improve scientists’
understanding of how disruptions in these processes contribute to
infertility and birth defects, with the aim to uncover potential
Designed by HGA Architects Inc., and to be constructed by
Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, the L-shaped brick facility will
contain research and teaching labs, faculty offices and student
workspaces, with small conference rooms located throughout to help
foster interaction. Most of the building’s mechanical equipment will be
housed under a sloped roof similar in style to neighboring buildings,
including Wolf Hall and Du Pont Hall. A bridge will connect the
building’s second story with the nearby Center for Biomedical and Brain
Solar panels will be installed on a portion of the rooftop.
Additionally, the building is designed to meet the City of Newark’s
construction standard for sustainability, which is comparable to the
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver
certification, according to Michael Barry, project manager from UD
Facilities, Real Estate and Auxiliary Services (FREAS).
While the new building will occupy the same general space as McKinly
Lab, the surrounding landscape will transform the area, offering a
large, inviting quadrangle, or courtyard, with gathering spaces and
bench-style eating areas.
“It is a more interactive environment than the previous one, and it
has a straight-line connection to The Green which was a very important
consideration for connecting and unifying the area,” Barry said.
Physicist Benjamin Jungfleisch’s work holds promise in advancing
quantum information science and the engineering of new materials for
Where does the working name “Building X” come from?
John Pelesko, dean of UD’s College of Arts and Sciences, led the
building planning team, which included chairs and faculty from the
departments of biological sciences, psychological and brain sciences,
and physics and astronomy, along with Research Office and FREAS staff.
As a mathematician, Pelesko naturally likes to solve problems — the
“x,” which stands for an unknown quantity in equations, helped to
inspire the working name.
"Calling it ‘Building X’ makes it clear that this was a blank slate,
that is, what it would be was unknown at the start of the planning
process, and that this was an opportunity to reimagine what a modern
science laboratory building could be and how it could be organized,”
The building will help UD solve a number of pressing space challenges
driven by growing programs and new faculty hires, and it will expand
the University’s research horizons.
“This facility is going to solidify the future of our science
enterprise at UD,” Pelesko said. “It is absolutely core to our advancing
Research in the building will focus on three interdisciplinary
themes, Pelesko said. On the top floor, research teams organized under
the theme of mind, brain and behavior, including students in the new neuroscience program, will delve into mental health topics, including depression, addiction and emotional disorders.
On the second floor, studies of the models and mechanisms of human
disease, from Alzheimer’s to infertility, will complement more applied
research underway at the Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center on UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus and UD’s new master’s program in biopharmaceutical sciences. A bridge will connect this floor to the Center for Biomedical and Brain Imaging to allow researchers and study volunteers easy access to elite scientific instruments such as the fMRI, which provides a harmless, non-invasive way of revealing brain regions that are active during a particular task or emotion.
The first floor and the basement will bring together physicists,
materials scientists and biophysicists to explore quantum science and
technology, probing the properties of atoms and molecules and assemblies
thereof, to spur development of revolutionary new materials and
devices. UD recently joined the Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance and has launched a new graduate program in Quantum Science and Engineering, with the first cohort having started this fall.
The basement also will house research “core facilities” including a new satellite location to UD’s world-class Bio-Imaging Center,
providing new tools for cell and tissue imaging, as well as
laboratories for the fabrication and characterization of advanced
materials — all available for use by researchers across campus and by
Tania Roth, chair of UD’s Department of Psychological and Brain
Sciences, said that Building X will enhance research and teaching on
mental health topics, including depression, addiction and emotional
super-excited the building is moving forward now,” said Tania Roth,
chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. A number of
the department’s faculty were displaced when fire struck McKinly Lab in
2017 and had to be relocated among nine different facilities across
“The new building will enable
us to do what our department does so well — which is training the next
generation of scientists through hands-on, experiential learning for
undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students,” Roth said.
And there is no shortage of students, especially now. “Because of the
current situation with COVID, a lot of people are facing challenges
that are stressful and overwhelming and are having a marked effect on
people’s mental health. Prospective students are seeing this and want to
learn how to help,” Roth said.
The department prepares students for careers in medicine, in research
labs, in marrying clinical science with the clinical treatment world.
And the faculty are committed to exposing students to more than what
they will find in a textbook — like getting to hold a human brain to
really understand its anatomy.
“That gives students such a unique perspective,” Roth said.
She hopes the facility also will foster community engagement and a better understanding of the work within its walls.
“We’re not just training new scientists, but training folks who can go out and improve lives,” Roth said.
New custom-designed teaching labs in Building X will allow UD’s
Department of Biological Sciences to enhance and expand undergraduate
laboratory instruction, as well as recruit new expertise in cell and
tissue imaging and computational biology, according to Department Chair
Fowler, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, calls Building X
“a game-changer” for her department, which offers one of the
University’s most popular majors. The majority of the department’s
graduates pursue research science positions in industry or head on to
medical, dental or pharmacy school.
The department will gain much-needed modern research laboratories for
new faculty who have been hired to expand biology’s emphasis on the
models and mechanisms of human disease, as well as make it possible for
research faculty studying common organisms to work together as a cohort
or to collaborate on interdisciplinary initiatives in exciting new areas
in biophysics and neuroscience.
“New custom-designed teaching
labs will allow us to enhance and expand our undergraduate laboratory
instruction,” Fowler said. Priorities include course-based undergraduate
research experiences (CURES) for upper-level students — small classes
with mini-research projects where students work alongside faculty, learn
how to make hypotheses, design experiments, evaluate data and reach
“It’s really important for undergrads to have real research
experiences, because reading it in books is just not enough to be a
scientific thinker,” Fowler said. Previously, the available teaching
laboratory space limited the program to only 250 students a year, while
the new facility will allow expansion of the program to some 400
students a year, at the same time increasing the variety of lab courses
“This building also will help us bring in faculty with new expertise
in cell and tissue imaging and computational biology, which is what
modern science is all about,” Fowler said. “Without that, it’s like
we’re patching things together with scotch tape. That’s really
Edmund Nowak, chair of UD’s Department of Physics and Astronomy,
said the new building will be transformative in providing physicists
with the facilities and experimental capability critical to educating
the next generation of the quantum science and technology workforce.
“We cannot be competitive without laboratory spaces that can support
this experimental capability,” said Edmund Nowak, chair of UD’s
Department of Physics and Astronomy. “The new building will be
transformative in this regard and help us to educate a quantum-smart
workforce, which is in high demand by technology companies.”
Building X will have space for 11 physics experimentalists and two
biophysics experimentalists, Nowak said, plus its research core
facilities will support and promote collaborations with researchers in
biology, chemistry, materials science, and electrical and computer
Nowak said the new facility will enable researchers to probe physical
properties of materials at very low temperatures (below -456°F), which
is often necessary to preserve the coherence of quantum phenomena over a
huge range of frequencies, and at very high magnetic fields — up to 12
Tesla, which is about 250,000 times the strength of Earth’s magnetic
field. Using a high-tech laser facility fitted out with intense lasers
and ultrafast terahertz sources, physicists will also be able to study
extreme states of matter, image molecular dynamics and conduct molecular
spectroscopy to probe the structure and properties of molecules.
“Poking and prodding particles and matter with, for instance,
electromagnetic fields, and observing how they respond under extreme
conditions helps physicists deepen our knowledge of fundamental physical
laws both at macroscopic and atomic scales relevant to the quantum
world. Investment in such basic science is essential. It underpins the
development of new technologies,” Nowak said.
“This new facility is also going to be important for recruiting
top-notch faculty and students — they are the backbone of research,”
Nowak added. “It’s really exciting — analogous to the phoenix, I can’t
wait for Building X to rise from the rubble of McKinly.”
Learn more about Building X on this webpage. For more information on how you can support the project, contact Meaghan Hogan, associate vice president, Office of Development and Alumni Relations.
Article by Tracey Bryant, photos by Kathy
F. Atkinson, Evan Krape, Ashley Barnas, architectural rendering courtesy of HGA Architects Inc.
Published November 02, 2022