College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

More than lab work

Two themes that I’ve emphasized as dean are collaboration and sustainability. While it’s not difficult to imagine that those two concepts are closely related, to see them resonate well in a single project is truly gratifying.

The project, in this case, is a $2 million renovation of research labs in the 1964 wing of Sweeney Hall. Eight of the labs will undergo significant changes, and inefficient fume hoods in the second- and third-floor labs will be replaced by variable air volume models.

These renovations are important for a number of reasons. They may result in as much as $25,000 a year in energy efficiency savings. And some of the work will create larger labs specifically designed to accommodate interdisciplinary research; i.e., we’re physically creating collaborative space.

The primary beneficiary will be the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department (CBE), but there’s more to the collaborative story. Most of the funding comes from a one-time $1.76 million NSF grant for upgrading research infrastructure. CBE Chair Surya Mallapragada worked closely with individuals in Facilities Planning & Management to develop the proposal, which first survived an internal competition at Iowa State before being submitted. Once the award came through, additional funding was provided by the university’s “Live Green!” sustainability initiative, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost, and our own college. Surya’s leadership in bringing all of this together deserves a great deal of credit.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and I’m eager to see these revamped labs become available to faculty and students. They’ll be a showpiece once the CBE departmental centennial comes around in 2013—collaboration and sustainability in action.