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Pharmacy/Biology Building dedication set for Oct. 21

by Richard Veilleux - October 17, 2005

Standing in the brightly lit laboratory he shares with Sandra Goss in the new Pharmacy/Biology Building, graduate student Bakul Bhatnagar runs through the reasons the building is an improvement on the 52-year-old Hewitt Pharmacy Building.

“There are working fume hoods,” he says. “There are windows. Every floor has a cold room [for research requiring ultra-cold temperatures]. The entire building is temperature-controlled. It has a great library. It’s just an awesome building.”

Adds Goss, another pharmacy graduate student, “It’s also more secure, with number locks to get into the labs, and there’s more seclusion.” She notes that in the much smaller Hewitt Building, students and faculty often jostled for room in the cramped labs.

During a dedication ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, faculty, staff, and students will be able to get a first-hand look at the new, 226,000-square-foot building, which includes 80,000-square-feet dedicated to laboratory and office space for two biology departments – ecology and evolutionary biology and physiology and neurobiology – in addition to the School of Pharmacy. The event will be held in the courtyard between the new structure and the Chemistry Building. Guided tours and a reception will follow the ceremony.

It is the 12th major academic building – five tied directly to the sciences – to be erected under the auspices of the UConn 2000 program. Two other academic buildings – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Building and the Center for Undergraduate Education – were completely renovated. The CUE also includes a 20,000-square-foot addition.

Robert McCarthy, dean of the School of Pharmacy, says, “We finally have a high quality facility to match our high quality faculty. We needed to have this to take us to the next level.”

Michael Pikal, the first Pfizer Distinguished Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Technology, in his lab.
Michael Pikal, the first Pfizer Distinguished Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Technology, in his lab.
Photo by Peter Morenus

He says the new building is about to pay dividends – two nationally recognized medicinal chemists await final administrative approval before joining UConn’s faculty.

Both professors are leaving Ivy League universities to come to UConn, and McCarthy says a major selling point in luring them was the new building and the state’s commitment to continue its investment in the University.

Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the new building will be a boon for the biology departments, too, whose researchers are regularly awarded major external research grants.

One new hire, Cathy Proenza, who came from a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, cited the new building as a reason for coming here.

MacKinnon says, “The Pharmacy/Biology Building will bring more of our life sciences researchers together and will make them part of the growing science and technology quadrangle. They’ll be direct neighbors of faculty in the new Chemistry and Biology/Physics buildings. This makes it possible to do the kind of collaborative research that leads to new discoveries.”

The new building will house 27 biology faculty: 15 laboratories and offices for scientists in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, or about half of the EEB faculty, and laboratories for all 12 faculty in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology. The rest of the EEB faculty will remain in the Torrey Life Sciences Building. There are 38 faculty in the pharmacy school.

In the pharmacy wing of the building there are labs, offices, classrooms, conference rooms, and a library. Pharmaceutical artifacts, some of them centuries old, are on display in the first-floor lounge and on the upper floors.

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