BY SYDNEY BECKER
The College of Arts and Sciences has established a new facility called Building X. Scheduled to be finished in fall 2024, the facility is meant to serve as an “interdisciplinary hub” to better expand the foundational sciences, according to the university’s website page on the building.
The new facility replacing the McKinly Lab that was damaged in a fire in 2017 will also be equipped with highly advanced equipment, technology and labs for student use to promote modern research for both undergraduate and graduate students.
On July 20, a topping off ceremony was held, where Gov. John Carney, Newark Mayor Stu Markham and university officials gathered and signed the final beam placed on the building.
Carney stated last year that $41 million of the state’s federal stimulus funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) would go into the Building X project. The rest of the cost, expected to be around $143 million, will be covered by the university, relying heavily on fundraising.
“Long-term, a facility like this is about training and educating the leaders of tomorrow, the scientists of tomorrow, the people that are going to be the workers of the future,” Carney said at the July topping ceremony. “They’re going to create the industries of the future.”
Within the College of Arts and Sciences, the departments most impacted by Building X will be the biological sciences department, the physics and astronomy department and the psychology and brain sciences department.
Faculty members in these departments who worked closely in the process of bringing Building X to life are passionate about the opportunities it will give to undergraduate students just starting out in research.
“It’s to introduce the excitement of discovery to them,” Velia Fowler, chair of the department of biological sciences, said. “People don’t have to go on to do research in their own life, but it’s really great they understand the process of discovery and, what does it mean to prove something.”
This idea of discovery seems to be the driving factor that has inspired new approaches to science and research, which will all be implemented by Building X. According to the university’s webpage on Building X, teamwork across academic disciplines and high-end techniques that will allow for more effective research will be a few of the factors that aid new discoveries for students.
Fowler mentioned that new aspects of the building include the following:
- A basement specially engineered to block out any vibrations for quantum-scale optical measurements for physicists
- Soundproof rooms to conduct disturbance-free tests for patients in the psychology department
- A bridge connecting Building X to the vivarium that has MRI machines to study brain functions in human patients
Although the building has not yet been finished, students seem excited as they await its unveiling.
“Undergrad research is a little difficult to get into,” Chris Miranda, a junior chemistry major, said. “I think dedicating a whole building to it would make it easier and more centralized for students to get hands-on experience.”
Miranda also noted how this would greatly aid undergraduate students in their professional careers, which is another goal of Building X. Miranda believes that gaining hands-on experience, such as working in a professor’s lab, is vital to landing internships and competing for jobs in the future.
“I think it’s important that UD focuses on these things because the university is not only there to provide education, but also to provide a means for a smooth transition into industry,” Miranda said.
While Building X will most impact the three departments mentioned above, Dr. Tania Roth, associate dean for natural sciences, stressed that it will also help students whose majors do not fall under the aforementioned departments.
“One of the things we try to promote here at UD is thinking across disciplines,” Roth said .
The multidisciplinary mindset seems to be a major focus of Building X, as faculty believe this will aid in communication between departments and allow them to share resources and knowledge.
Students who will not be directly impacted by the new building and its resources still recognize what it may mean to the university’s community and how it can benefit many students within the sciences departments.
“You want to spread out your resources to help everyone,” Nick Lago, a junior computer science major, said.
While Lago believes Building X will benefit students interested in research and will help aid connections with professors, the size of the building site and time put into its construction made him wonder about the associated costs.
“Maybe they have spent a lot of resources on it, like money and time, that they didn’t need to,” Lago said.
The university has not announced if or when Building X will take on a new name. There has also been no public announcement mentioning specific donors that have made large contributions.
Although Building X will serve as a facility for science departments and science students, its overall impact will be felt across the campus community and beyond.
“We’re trying to train the next generation of scientists,” Roth said. “With Building X and the promise of it we can increase, hopefully, public understanding of how important science is.”