Georgia Tech Research Horizons

Would You Like to Be My Neighbor?

State-of-the-art research "neighborhood" complexes will promote
collaboration and foster economic development.

By Jane M. Sanders

Buildings, though inanimate, can actually foster interdisciplinary and private industry collaboration on a research university campus. And that is the goal at the Georgia Institute of Technology in building three new state-of-the-art research complexes.
photo by Stanley Leary

The $31.7 million Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience building opened 150,000 square feet of research space last summer. It is part of Georgia Tech's new Biotechnology-Environmental Science & Technology-Molecular & Materials Science (BEM) Complex.

"Many universities pay lip service to interdisciplinary endeavors," President Wayne Clough recently told the faculty and staff, "but Georgia Tech is actually becoming interdisciplinary from the ground up."

Three interdisciplinary research "neighborhood" complexes are under development or planned. Two complexes have new facilities already open or expected to open this spring. The flexible design of a research "neighborhood" encourages interaction, collaboration and the exchange of ideas among faculty and students from multiple disciplines. Its workspaces can be cross-assigned to accommodate changes in research direction.

An important part of the interdisciplinary effort is Georgia Tech's Biotechnology-Environmental Science & Technology-Molecular & Materials Science (BEM) Complex. It is a neighborhood of four state-of-the-art buildings that will house researchers from the schools of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and the College of Computing.

The first facility in the BEM Complex, the $31.7 million Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience building (IBB), opened with 150,000 gross square feet of research space last summer. (See campus map.) A second facility, the $58 million Environmental Science and Technology (EST) Building, will break ground this winter. Its 261,000 gross square feet will be used for a combination of research and educational uses.

Fundraising is under way for a third facility, the 70,000-gross-square-foot Biomedical Engineering building, which will be physically connected to IBB and will house the School of Biomedical Engineering and the joint Georgia Tech/Emory University biomedical academic and research program. A fourth research building, the 200,000- to 250,000-gross-square-foot Molecular and Materials Science and Engineering facility, is in the planning stages, with construction expected to begin in 2002.

These buildings are the most modern and most expensive buildings ever to be constructed at Georgia Tech. "The last building built for sciences on campus was finished about 30 years ago when Tech wasn't a major research institution," says Dr. Michael Thomas, provost and vice president of academic affairs. "Thus these buildings were not designed to support such efforts. In addition, the types of buildings needed to support scientific research have changed substantially in the last 30 years, even in the past five to 10 years. We are operating at a severe disadvantage with the current buildings in trying to recruit research-active faculty. These buildings will address that issue."

The second complex is devoted to manufacturing research. Two of the buildings in this neighborhood, the Manufacturing Research Center and the Manufacturing Related Disciplines Center I, have been in use for several years. The new element, the $27.3 million Manufacturing Related Disciplines Center II, is expected to open in April. The 151,000-gross-square-foot academic and research building will house the schools of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering. The building will also include several classrooms.

Georgia Tech's administration is also making plans for a third research neighborhood with the addition of a new building to facilitate interdisciplinary research between the College of Computing and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The new building will be constructed near the existing college and school facilities, reinforcing the notion of an "information technology complex." It will include research laboratories, classrooms and instructional facilities.

The three new research neighborhoods will not only benefit Georgia Tech's teaching and research programs, they will also contribute to economic development in the state and enhance student experiences, Thomas says. The EST building, for example, will provide incubator space for new high-tech businesses supported by the Advanced Technology Development Center. Some of the start-up companies there will certainly be the products of research done in the building, Thomas adds. As for students, they will be better prepared for the workplace by having access to modern research labs on their campus.

These facilities will help to strategically address the tremendous growth that Georgia Tech has experienced in the past several years, Clough explains. And they will provide the elbowroom needed for the overdue task of renovating the historic core of campus.

"We'd like to renovate all of these older buildings and put them to use in a new way," Clough says. "Our goal is to adapt them to offices and uses that fit their historic character."

In addition, an Executive and Continuing Education Center is planned to meet the growing demands of technical professionals who want to stay current in their fields, Clough says.

With all of this activity ongoing, Clough and his administration have great expectations for Georgia Tech's future research capabilities, educational opportunities and economic development influence.

For more information, you may contact Dr. Michael Thomas, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Carnegie Building, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0325. (Telephone: 404-894-5056) (E-mail:

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Last updated: February 10, 2000