University of Delaware’s $132M lab a ‘temple of the future’

 

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About 150 people gathered in the courtyard for the opening of the 194,000-square-foot, $132 million Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory building on the University of Delaware campus in Newark. / Nichole Dobo/The News Journal

NEWARK — To celebrate the opening of the University of Delaware’s first new laboratory in nearly 20 years, President Patrick T. Harker offered a new twist on the familiar ribbon cutting.

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University of Delaware president Patrick T. Harker lead the group in saying 'hydrogen, helium, lithium' rather than 'one, two, three' before they cut a blue ribbon at the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory building. / Nichole Dobo/The News Journal

As dignitaries lined up behind the blue ribbon Thursday on campus, Harker suggested paying homage to the periodic table was appropriate, considering the occasion. Instead of one, two, three to synchronize the snip of the scissors, they said: “Hydrogen, helium, lithium.”

The 194,000-square-foot, $132 million Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory building, located at Academy and Lovett streets, is home to new classrooms and laboratories for researchers. The idea is to meld many disciplines under one roof to encourage cross pollination that will lead to innovation.

The ISE lab boasts natural light, environmentally friendly construction and spaces designed to offer a new approach to the education offered to students and the facilities for academic research.

“We can not overstate the importance of this investment in our state’s future,” said Gov. Jack Markell in his address to about 150 people at the opening ceremony.

The building has two wings connected by a catwalk. One side houses classrooms and educational laboratories that encourage learning through doing projects. The second is filled with professional laboratories and office space for researchers. Building construction began in 2010, and the classroom wing opened this fall for students to take courses there.

Although the word “laboratory” brings to mind science, the building will have classes and research from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities. The plan is to encourage students and researchers from different fields to work together in teams.

The space also will be open to partnerships with outside industry, a plan that is meant to help attract business to the state by offering access to high-tech labs and equipment. The 10,000-square-foot nanofabrication laboratory is expected to be of particular interest because of its rarity.

Many students first find the love of learning when they are in a laboratory, Harker said. The 19th-century chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur, who is credited with discoveries that lead to pasteurization and immunization, called laboratories sacred dwellings and temples of the future, Harker said.

“The ISE Lab is our temple of the future,” he said.

Husband and wife Krishan and Krishnna Khanna, of Newark, were among the crowd there to see the new building. They donated $1 million to the building’s construction fund, and thousands more for scholarships.

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Krishan and Krishnna Khanna, of Newark, donated $1 million to the building construction fund.

Krishan Khanna said he was born of “very humble” beginnings in India, and education made the difference in the life of his family, so he wanted to give others the opportunity to get an education. The couple moved to Delaware from India in 1969, and Krishan Khanna found work as an accountant and Krishnna Khanna was hired as a public school teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

KR Sridhar, the CEO of Bloom Energy, spoke at a public event in Mitchell Hall about how the new building connects with what his company hopes to accomplish at the university’s STAR campus. Many states can offer financial incentives to attract business, but the environment is what set this area apart, he said.

“It is all about the people,” Sridhar said.

Contact Nichole Dobo at 324-2281 or ndobo@delawareonline.com.