Millennium Science Complex to facilitate cutting-edge research

University Park, Pa. — Penn State is working on the cutting edge of materials and life sciences, researching new technology that has the potential to revolutionize industries ranging from transportation and energy to medicine to agriculture. Now a new facility on the University Park campus will be a cornerstone in facilitating collaborative research in these critical areas.

The University's Board of Trustees on Friday (Sept. 19) approved final plans for the Millennium Science Complex, a new 275,600-square-foot building designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects that will bring together the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the Materials Research Institute.

"This new building will promote interdisciplinary collaboration between these two highly technical research programs," said Gary C. Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business/treasurer.

Initially planned as two separate buildings, the University decided to combine the planned projects into a single building early in the design process to take advantage of economies of scale, accelerate the projects and, most importantly, develop strong programmatic links among various disciplines.

The new L-shaped building will be bordered by the Life Sciences Building on the west, with Bigler Road to the east, Pollock Road to the south and the Student Health Services Building to the north.

Aligning with the University's environmental initiatives and aiding in achieving LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), green roofs will reduce stormwater runoff while enhancing energy efficiency and prolonging the life of the roofs.

The Millennium Science Complex will include a western wing for life sciences and a northern wing for materials sciences. The structure will cantilever over a new plaza and garden at the intersection of the wings, one of the building's signature features, according to Schultz. The main entrance will be at this intersection.

The cantilever will include an opening in its roof structure to allow sun to reach the plaza and garden and allow isolation of the building structure from the lower level where the most sensitive scientific spaces and equipment will be located, with strict control for vibration, noise, temperature and humidity.

At the Life Sciences wing, the building will be 77 feet tall at the top of the fourth floor, near the top of Eisenhower Parking Deck, and will step down to 52 feet adjacent to Pollock Road.

The Life Sciences wing will house laboratories including research on ecology and evolution, as well as smart prosthetics and new medical treatments with faculty from the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. The wing also will include office and support spaces.

The Materials Sciences wing also will include a variety of labs, that house research on nano-materials and surfaces and flexible, bendable and transparent plastic electronics.

Because of the complexity and size of the building, Schultz said construction will take longer than a more typical project, with completion anticipated in the summer of 2011.

Penn State has developed a reputation as a world leader in materials and life sciences.

The Huck Institutes was founded in 1996, as the Life Sciences Consortium, to encourage greater coordination and interdisciplinary collaboration in the life sciences at Penn State. In 2002, the Life Sciences Consortium was renamed as the Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences in recognition of the Hucks' leadership and generosity in support of the life sciences at Penn State. From the outset, it has aimed to promote interdisciplinary research, develop innovative graduate programs, enhance the quality and diversity of life sciences faculty and improve shared technology resources.

Penn State's Materials Research Institute (MRI) was created to coordinate the highly diverse and growing materials activities across Penn State.  With more than 200 faculty in 15 departments, four colleges, and two Department of Defense research laboratories, MRI was designed to break down the academic walls that traditionally divide disciplines and enable faculty to collaborate across departmental and college boundaries. It has become a model for this interdisciplinary approach to research, both within and outside the University. 

A pre-eminent force in materials science research and education, Penn State has been ranked first in the world for materials sciences faculty productivity by the Institute for Scientific Information. U.S. News & World Report this year ranked the University among the top 10 schools for graduate study in materials sciences.

Last Updated February 10, 2011