Adjoining biological imaging center also set to open soon
Faculty, staff and students this week began moving into the new $18 million, 50,000 square foot chemistry building on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus. The new building replaces the antiquated 40-year-old Dunning Hall building.
"The new building is going to be a significant improvement in the facilities for research available to the department," said Paul Dagdigian, professor and chair of chemistry. "I think it's a really beautiful building on the outside and the architecture is fabulous. I'm confident that the design of support systems will make it a very functional building as well."
Gary Ostrander, vice dean for research and graduate education in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said, "It's impossible to have a first-rate university without a strong chemistry department, and we really felt the need to support our chemistry department's continued ability to excel and expand."
In addition to the new building, which provides lab and office spaces for eight faculty members (one of whom the department anticipates hiring in the coming year) and their students, the completed construction site also included an adjoining underground structure that will house the multi-departmental Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center for Fundamental Studies of Biological Molecules.
"Large molecules are not static, and their behavior and their interactions with each other and with small molecules like inhibitors or drugs depend on the fact that they're not static -- they bend and stretch to interact. And NMR is a technique which allows you to measure these things in addition to getting structural information," explains Craig Townsend, professor of chemistry and a member of the committee that guided the center's creation.
The NMR center soon will house a 600 megahertz instrument and has room for installation of 2 or 3 more such instruments in the future. In October a top-of-the- line 800 megahertz NMR unit will be delivered. The high- field spectrometers will allow scientists to use NMR to study more complicated systems with greater sensitivity. The center is linked to lower levels of the new chemistry building and Mudd Hall, home of the Johns Hopkins Biology Department.
Several faculty members characterized the creation of the new building as a case of "all the stars coming into alignment." When officials set out to renovate Dunning Hall after the renovation of Hopkins' other major chemistry building, Remsen Hall, they determined that not only would it be impossible to renovate Dunning in phases, certain design characteristics of the building would also make the renovation cost as much as a new building.
The possibility of a new building was easily matched to a potential building site that had recently been identified in the new master plan for the campus, completed in 2000. This location was just a stone's throw away from Dunning, between the Johns Hopkins Club and Macaulay Hall. And the need for improved NMR facilities, which had been growing in urgency in recent years, could be met at the same time through an expansion of the construction site.
Dagdigian and Ostrander praised the work of the architect, Ballinger of Philadelphia, and the construction manager, Barton Mallow of Linthicum, Md. Dagidigian pointed out that integrating the new building into its spot on campus required extensive physical renovations around the building.
"It's not like just constructing a building out in the middle of an open field," Dagdigian commented. "Construction of a large new set of stairs, a loading dock, new parking to replace spaces knocked out by the new building, and new pedestrian pathways were all required."
Dagdigian also noted that construction managers were able to keep the building very close to schedule despite significant weather-related delays like the blizzard of February 2003 and extensive rains this spring and summer.
The lab wing in the new building is constructed in a modular style that lets researchers release and acquire lab space as their research staffs shrink and grow over time. A separate wing houses office space. Also included in the new building are several open or shared instrument labs.
The new chemistry building was funded in part by a $2.6 million grant from the state of Maryland. Johns Hopkins also continues to seek private donations supporting the construction of the new facility.
Acquisition of the 800 megahertz spectrometer was made possible in large part through a grant from the National Science Foundation and matching grants from the departments of Biophysics in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Pharmacology in the School of Medicine. Additional funding was supplied by the Krieger School. Townsend praised the interdepartmental cooperation that made the new center possible, and emphasized that the center will be kept open and accessible to researchers from all the departments in the university.
"This really has been a pleasant and extremely rewarding process because everyone has come together to create a first-class research facility," Ostrander said.
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