September 4, 2008

Weill Hall on Track for Official Oct. Opening

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High-tech shared research facilities and innovative laboratories are just a few of the features the newest addition to the Biology Quad and the most technologically advanced research facility on campus, Weill Hall, sports. The building is set to officially open on Oct. 16, although some labs opened during the summer.
The establishment of a life science research facility has been “the highest priority for [the] University’s presidents since the early ’90s,” said Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Until recently, the structure was called the Life Sciences Technology Center, but the name was changed after the Weill family’s $50 million donation to the building.
Weill Hall stands out as an all-white structure, built with sustainability in mind. It earned a “silver” rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. According to the University’s website, the building is equipped with a rooftop garden that absorbs excess carbon dioxide and cuts down on rainwater flooding. It also uses 40 percent less electricity than a building of comparable size and employs lake-source cooling as an alternative to the use of electricity.
According to Henry, Weill Hall is different from other research facilities on campus because faculty members are placed together not based on their departments, but based on collaborative purposes. Traditionally, labs on campus are structured so that the principal investigator presides over a graduate student, a few post-doctorate fellows and undergraduates. In Weill Hall, however, laboratories are “designed to flexibly accommodate several groups” based on the ranking of faculty members involved.
Weill Hall houses divisions such as the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a soon-to-be Joan and Sanford I. Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology and the Innovation Development and Economic Application Center — Cornell’s first business incubator.
Asked why he chose to work in Weill Hall, Hyongsu Park ’11 said he “wanted an interdisciplinary research” that was in line with his past research experience as a high school student.
Park works at the Bustamante Lab, a group which uses computer models to study uniquely identifying nucleotides in the genome of a couple thousand people.
The new facility may also increase collaboration between researchers on the Ithaca campus and Manhattan campus with routine videoconferences between faculty members of Cornell Weill Medical College.
In addition, the University plans to hire two or three new faculty members to progressively fill up the new laboratories, according to Henry.
Scott Emr, head of the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, is actively recruiting several new faculty members into his department.
“The expectation is to have a total number of core faculty of about twelve within a four-year period,” Henry said.