Construction on Georgetown’s new science center, Regents Hall, is nearly complete (cheesy wall decorations in tow). The building opens to the general public on Monday, as scheduled. The opening of the center is a key part in the University’s long-term plan to improve science teaching and research.
The facility is about evenly split between research laboratories and teaching laboratories, with about a third of each floor housing professor office space. On the upper, research floors, the building is divided into thirds: the western third is professor office space, the middle third contains compartmentalized labs, lab infrastructure, and lab storage, and the eastern third houses open, interdisciplinary labs.
“You’ll see that there might be a physics research lab is next to a chemistry research lab next to a biology research lab so that interdisciplinary research can really be facilitated,” said Ali Whitmer, the College’s Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Strategic Planning. “It was a big goal of the building, to improve all of our facilities.”
Although Regents, as it stands now, holds few research capacities over Reiss, the structure of the building allows for installation of more advanced research space that Reiss could not have accommodated.
“We have added a couple of facilities that we didn’t have before,” Whitmer explained. “For example, on the first floor … Professor Barbara, who’s also in the physics department, has an interest in getting a piece of equipment that she could never have accommodated in Reiss, but we were able to construct a lab here specifically for her to get that piece of equipment in the future, so it provides a whole new capability for her lab that was not ever going to be possible there.”
Assistant Professor of Physics Daniel Blair opened up his lab during the tour, where a researcher was taking measurements using a confocal microscope (pictured below). Blair explained that, while he was able to perform the same research in Reiss, his lab in Regents gives him an ability to perform his research to its full potential.
“We weren’t necessarily waiting for the building to do new things. We were waiting on the building to do things better. As surprising as it may seem, being able to change the temperature and keep the temperature consistent in that room is a tremendous, tremendous—” “Leap forward!” Whitmer interjected. “Cause if you want to do a precision measurement and temperature goes [up and down] and the humidity goes [up and down] with the seasons, you just can’t repeat your measurements,” Blair continued.
The lack of sufficient office space for professors in Reiss has been a significant obstacle to improving Georgetown’s science program. The additional office space in Regents will largely remedy that problem, and the University will be able to accommodate a larger science program. “So we will be able to hire a small number of new scientists into the faculty that’ll be able to be housed in here,” Whitmer explained.
The long-term goal for Reiss is to become a “renovated” science building, while Regents will become the “new” science building. ”The combination together will allow us to grow the science faculty, grow the number of students we have, grow the number of graduate students we have,” she added.
Whitmer went on to explain that Reiss will be Georgetown’s center for computational science, which doesn’t require lab facilities. Renovation for Reiss will probably be a component of the 20-year campus plan, for the period beginning January 2018.
Photos: Kirill Makarenko