New Science and Engineering Complex Is Designed for Collaboration

Faculty and students will focus on the environment and neuroscience as inaugural research themes
architectural drawing of planned building
“The SEC will be the first Tufts-owned building in which students and faculty from different disciplines will share laboratory space, a concept that is being used more and more on campuses around the country,” says Diane Souvaine.
May 5, 2015

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The study and practice of science is about to get even better at Tufts. The Science and Engineering Complex, scheduled to open in 2017 on the Medford/Somerville campus, is expected to change the way research is done at the university. The gleaming five-story, glass-and-brick building will foster collaboration among scientists and engineers from different departments and serve as the anchor for the university’s emerging Science and Technology Corridor that extends south along Boston Avenue.

The building, known as the SEC, is under construction on a parcel of land that fronts Dearborn Road, behind Anderson and Robinson halls. Instead of housing individual departments, the SEC will allow faculty from different disciplines to collaborate on selected research themes in laboratory space designed to accommodate new themes as they arise.

“The cross-school use of labs represents an exciting innovation for Tufts,” says Diane Souvaine, vice provost for research. “The SEC will be the first Tufts-owned building in which students and faculty from different disciplines will share laboratory space, a concept that is being used more and more on campuses around the country. Finding ways to work together can be challenging, and yet research done collaboratively by people from different fields and areas of expertise can be particularly fruitful.”

The 80,000-square-foot teaching and research center will feature state-of-the art laboratories for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to six research lab suites, each about 4,000 square feet, the SEC will house four teaching labs for students taking introductory and advanced courses in biology and engineering.

Two inaugural research themes have been chosen—global and environmental change, which will include projects by faculty from the biology, earth and ocean sciences and civil and environmental engineering departments, and neuroscience, which will focus on the brain’s function and adaptability, and could support research conducted by faculty on all three campuses.

The SEC will be the gateway to other research and learning facilities along Boston Avenue. Another new building, known as the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex, or CLIC, is slated to open later this spring in a renovated factory building at 574 Boston Ave. The corridor also encompasses the Science and Technology Center at 4 Colby St., the psychology department at 490 Boston Ave. and Bromfield-Pearson, which houses mathematics at 503 Boston Ave.

President Anthony P. Monaco, a geneticist whose doctoral research led to the landmark discovery of the gene responsible for X-linked Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, says the SEC and CLIC facilities are important advances for Tufts, ones in keeping with trends in education and research at major universities.

“Strong individual disciplines, brought together by collaboration and interaction, offer the best potential for discoveries that address a wide range of human and environmental concerns,” Monaco says. “It is through working together—and socializing in the bright new spaces in these buildings—that interaction and exciting innovation can occur.”

To encourage such collaboration, the SEC will be a five-minute walk to nearly all of the science and engineering departments on the Medford/Somerville campus. In addition, a variety of social gathering spaces will allow faculty and students from different backgrounds to meet and talk. A café, atrium and numerous meeting rooms will help foster connections, as will outdoor terraces and walkways.

The Science and Engineering Complex will set other precedents. Michael Skeldon, the project manager, says the SEC will be one of the most energy-efficient buildings of its kind in the country and serve as a model for sustainability standards for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. The goal is to receive LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, recognizes best-in-class environmental strategies and practices.

Barbara Stein, the university’s director of strategic capital programs, and Skeldon are leading the SEC project, keeping it on schedule and aiming to cause as little disruption as possible. Photos and construction updates are posted on the university’s construction website.

Stein says she is excited by the transformation of the area, which will also be the terminus for the proposed expansion of the MBTA’s Green Line, minutes away from the Science and Technology Corridor.

“When it is completed, Tufts will be on the cutting edge of how research is being done,” she says.

Marjorie Howard can be reached at marjorie.howard@tufts.edu.

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