CIEMAS building scheduled to finish early

The impossible has happened. Believe it or not, this summer a Duke construction project will finish not only on time, but ahead of schedule.

  Researchers and other faculty will move into the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences beginning in June, and the whole facility will be complete by July, a month earlier than originally projected, Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering Kristina Johnson said. The project, which broke ground the summer of 2001 and was originally budgeted at $97.6 million, will also finish about $1 million under budget, she added.

  "The key principle of CIEMAS is that it is home to no one department and no one school," Johnson said, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary research. "The exciting things and the breakthroughs are happening at the boundaries of the disciplines."

  To facilitate this level of collaboration, CIEMAS's designers opted to organize the space into four areas of research--bioengineering, sensors and simulators, photonics and material science at the nanoscale--instead of housing the faculty from Pratt, the School of Medicine and Trinity College in separate wings.

  "The second guiding principle is that... you have to have researchers who are deep in their own areas but are interested in other areas, and you have to have them located in contiguous space," Johnson continued. "And the third thing is you've got to have a place that has good food and good coffee."

  With the opening of Twinny's, an Irish-themed cafe, CIEMAS should have this last requirement covered. The anonymous donor who funded the cafe named it for Johnson's mother, who earned the nickname because she was a twin.

  "It was designed like the famous pub where scholars came together in Ireland, an abstraction of Bewley's Cafe in Dublin," said Johnson, who designed the space herself. "For special occasions, we'll have our E-social in the cafe--maybe the cafe turns into an Irish pub." Engineers and other cross-disciplinary researchers will be able to discuss their findings over coffee, but the most valuable improvement at CIEMAS is almost certainly the brand-new research space.

  "We did a comparison to the amount of space Pratt had and the amount at other research universities and found in some cases we had one-third of the space of other schools' engineering departments," said Deborah Hill, Pratt's director of communications. "Now we have more research space, more room to house graduate students [and] more room to have undergraduate students come into the lab and get hands-on experience earlier in their careers."

  Planners were attentive to every detail, from the high-tech systems in the laboratories right down to the bathroom floor--literally.

  "In the bathrooms the tile pattern is the pattern of a gene discovered by researchers at Duke," Johnson noted with a laugh.

  After the ribbon is cut in November, Johnson and other Pratt officials hope to complement CIEMAS with their next construction project--renovations to Hudson Hall. Plans for that overhaul are already in the works, although no official committees have yet been set.

  "The Hudson renovation has been on everybody's mind for some time--I don't think anyone's going to be surprised--but we don't even have at this point a conceptual design for this space," said Tod Laursen, senior associate dean of education at Pratt. He added that the Hudson project will provide more space for the students not involved in the activities at CIEMAS that focus on first-year students.

  "Missing from [CIEMAS] is better prototype and design for sophomores, juniors and seniors," he said. "That's been available in Hudson for some time, but it's becoming increasingly squeezed and inadequate."

  Johnson said part of the motive for holding off on Hudson until the CIEMAS move is complete is that she does not want to distract her faculty team at the eleventh hour.

  "This has been an incredible team effort by Duke," she said. "It would not have happened without everyone coming together."


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