December 8, 2017

New STEM lab facility, microscope and other items gain trustee approval

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s Board of Trustees on Friday (Dec. 8) approved moving forward on a project to construct a new STEM teaching lab building and the purchase of a state-of-the-art electron microscope to advance nanotechnology research and education on campus.

Other actions included a fee for international students to support enhanced courses for English language and cultural skills, approval to donate land to Jennings County, and a land exchange between the university and Purdue Research Foundation.

Trustees granted approval to plan, finance, construct and award a construction contract for the previously announced STEM teaching lab building, which, when completed, will serve primarily first- and second-year undergraduates from across the university. This state-of-the-art facility will take full advantage of complementary work across the chemistry and biology disciplines.

The 111,000 gross-square-foot lab building, with an estimated cost of $64 million, will be located northwest of the Elliott Hall of Music. Construction is scheduled to begin in September 2018 and be completed in August 2020, and will be paid for with $44 million in university funds and $20 million in gift funds.

“The innovative technology in this building will facilitate enhanced integration between the biological sciences and chemistry departments in the College of Science, and this is a facility that will impact students across the university – regardless of major,” said Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity. “It is expected that more than 80 percent of the students taking classes in the new building will come from outside the College of Science, including students from the colleges of Health and Human Sciences, Agriculture, Engineering, and Pharmacy.”

“We’re absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to increase collaboration between our life sciences departments, and even more so to serve all of Purdue’s students with the best possible STEM learning environment through these labs of the future,” said Patrick J. Wolfe, the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science and the William F. and Patty J. Miller Professor of Statistics.

The new facility will house all first- and second-year chemistry and biology courses. Those courses are currently housed in Brown Laboratory of Chemistry, Lilly Hall of Life Sciences and Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry, which no longer have the required quality and quantity of lab space. The consolidation also will allow the university to avoid duplication of equipment and material, allow expansion of the current curricula, and increase lab utilization and course efficiency, Wolfe said.

Board members also approved a $2.8 million expenditure to purchase a new aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope from FEI (Thermo Fisher Co.). The microscope will be housed in Discovery Park’s Birck Nanotechnology Center.

This will be the first such microscope at Purdue and in the state and will put Purdue at the forefront of nanomaterials research and education, said Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships and the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. The new tool will allow researchers to image and probe materials and phenomena with atomic-scale resolution.

The microscope’s total $3.5 million cost represents a 50 percent discount from its original $7 million price tag, and includes a $700,000 trade-in value for a 12-year-old electron microscope currently located at Birck Nanotechnology Center. The funding breakdown to purchase the new microscope includes $1.4 million from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, $1 million from the College of Engineering, and $400,000 from the College of Science.

Other board actions include:

* An additional fee assessment to aid international students through the Purdue Language and Cultural Exchange (PLaCE) program. The international student fee will be increased $65 beginning in the 2018-19 fiscal year, with that revenue going to support the PLaCE program in the College of Liberal Arts. Funding will support two courses and a set of advanced short courses focused on building English language skills and familiarity with American culture. Akridge said the courses will be offered to all international students who fall below a designated score on the TOEFL iBT, a test of English proficiency for international students planning to study in the United States. PLaCE grew out of a University Senate resolution that recommended development of an English language center to provide support services for incoming international students.

* Donating 8.2 acres to Jennings County for development of a new station for the Campbell Township Volunteer Fire Department. The property is currently a part of Southeast-Purdue Agricultural Center. It was determined that, in addition to the benefits to the county, the new fire station would offer opportunities for farm safety and response training. The land has an approximate value of $55,200.

* A land exchange between the university and Purdue Research Foundation. The 0.2 acres of land being deeded to PRF will better align land ownership in the area surrounding the Williams Street extension, which is part of the State Street Redevelopment project. The 0.2 acres currently owned by PRF will be deeded to the university as a needed component for the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital Phase I site plan. 

Sources: Jay Akridge, 765-494-9709, 

Patrick J. Wolfe, 765-494-1730, 

Suresh Garimella, 765-494-6209, 

Michael B. Cline, vice president for administrative operations, 765-494-8000

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