The new building creates opportunities for integrated research and teaching across multiple disciplines
To get the gist of the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), simply stand in the atrium of the new research wing and look up. A soaring glass roof frames the sky.
That open, ever-changing view is an apt metaphor for the future of the new complex, officially dedicated on October 13 in a celebration that brought together university officials together with faculty, staff, students, parents, and distinguished guests.
A new glass-clad research facility connected to the School of Engineering’s Anderson and Robinson halls, the complex creates new opportunities for integrated research and teaching across multiple disciplines.
Tufts President Anthony Monaco said that the interdisciplinary character of the complex enhances the potential to advance frontiers of knowledge that address critical human and environmental challenges, including global and environmental change and how the brain functions.
“I believe that the best potential for discoveries that address a wide range of human and environmental concerns comes when we can bring strong disciplines together in collaboration,” he said. “We even asked faculty groups to bid for the space to work across disciplines on important challenges facing our society. It is through working together—and connecting and sharing ideas informally in these bright new and renovated spaces—that exciting innovation can occur.”
He added that because “our era’s greatest challenges are constantly evolving, just as science and engineering are evolving,” the spaces in the building are also “deliberately flexible to accommodate new ideas, new themes, and new research initiatives as they arise.”
Special guests attending the ceremony, a part of Parents Weekend programming, were U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts); Stephanie Muccini Burke, mayor of Medford; and Martha Constantine-Paton, J69, A00P, A15P, a professor in MIT’s departments of brain and cognitive sciences and biology and founding member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.
Describing a challenging climate for federal research funding, he reiterated that research “is science’s field of dreams.” The complex, he said, will fuel those dreams by attracting and educating “the best and brightest for the jobs of our vibrant innovation economy—the high-tech, green-tech, biotech industries of the 21stst century. [It] will be a gleaming way station where students can prepare themselves for the jobs of the future.”
The SEC is home to the School of Engineering, the departments of Biology, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the recently dedicated Allen Discovery Center, which explores the frontiers of the life sciences. In addition to these departments, the research wing houses faculty from the departments of Biomedical Engineering, Earth and Ocean Sciences, Chemical Engineering, and Mathematics.
“The university’s strategic plan calls on Tufts to be a community of creative scholars capable of generating bold ideas and innovating in the face of complex challenges,” said Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris. “Here in the SEC, we have built new kinds of spaces to support this goal. I know that Dean of Arts and Sciences Jim Glaser and Dean of Engineering Jianmin Qu both share my excitement at the possibilities this new building offers of ideas and instruction that will make this world a better place.”
Peter Dolan, A78, A08P, chairman of the board of trustees, thanked Monaco for his vision and leadership and called the complex a “vibrant addition to the Science and Technology Corridor, led off with the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex in 2015.
“The SEC is not the final stop,” he said. “Maintaining and updating our facilities is a priority as we continue to strengthen Tufts’ leadership in teaching, research, and civic life. Just down the road on Boston Avenue, the Central Energy Plant is very near completion. It will enable us to be more energy efficient, and is an important example of our commitment to sustainability and the modernization of our infrastructure.”
Constantine-Paton credited her career to Tufts, particularly an Experimental College course in the natural sciences taught by enterprising faculty from three departments. “It is the faculty who taught me here at Tufts, with their dedication and inspiration . . . who turned me toward the sciences,” said Constantine-Paton, who has taught at Princeton, Yale, and, for the past 18 years, MIT.
David Kaplan, Stern Family Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, said the building was about the students. “They are the catalyst,” he said. “They drive us to do what we do.” He encouraged guests, as they toured the new complex after the ceremony, to stop by the first floor, where “we hope to make discoveries in neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive-related brain science that we really need to make progress on. There is a lot of work to do, but we have the best talents in the world here at Tufts.”
The celebration also provided an opportunity to thank the many people who “have set inspiring examples of commitment to the university” through gifts that name spaces, said Monaco. Those gifts support:
- The Kindlevan Café, from trustee emeritus Jeff Kindler, A77, A11P, and Sharon Sullivan, J78, A11P
- The Henricks Art Wall, from Joan Henricks, J69, and Alan Henricks, and which supports a revolving display of art by students and young alumni from the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts.
- The Behnke Luria Conference Room, from Howard D. Luria, A74
- The Wolff Family Conference Room, from Norwin W. Wolff, A59 and Patti Converse Wolff
- The Susan J. Feigenbaum, J76 Conference Room, from Alexander N. Doman, A77
- The Nolop FAST Facility. The FAST (Fabrication, Analysis, Simulation, and Testing) facility will offer a new makerspace in Robinson Hall. Set to open this spring, it is made possible by the Keith Nolop Irrevocable Trust.
Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell also thanked the many individuals and groups who helped bring to fruition the university’s vision for this building. She started with Monaco.
“Tony, you challenged us to find a building that could support the teaching, the research and the collaboration that you wanted to see at Tufts. And so we did. But it took a team of many, many people across the university working collaboratively together.” She expressed appreciation and, “to some degree, awe, that we could take that vision and really manifest it in a facility like this.”
She thanked Vice President of Operations Barbara Stein and Director of Campus Planning Lois Stanley for their leadership and teamwork, as well as the architects at Payette, the “on-time and on-budget” construction team from Turner Construction, project manager Mike Skeldon at Prospectus, South Mountain for expertise on sustainable construction, and landscape architects from Andropogon.
Laura Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.