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UT Arlington dedicates ERB as new home for innovation

The scene during the Engineering Research Building dedication March 4.
The scene during the Engineering Research Building dedication March 4.

A new era in innovation and collaboration was celebrated Friday, March 4 with the formal dedication of the University’s new Engineering Research Building (ERB), a $126 million, 234,000-square-foot structure which will offer myriad opportunities for scientists, engineers and computer scientists to work together to create new technology and solve problems for decades to come.

Officials from the University and the UT System as well as members of the community were on hand for the dedication, which included comments, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and self-guided tours of the sprawling facility, which was completed in December and opened in January.

UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo said the building will stand as a testament to the University’s commitment to leading the way in discovery and innovation for years to come. He thanked those whose efforts made the building possible - many of whom were in attendance. He called the ERB part of the University’s “Tier I express” and noted the project came in on time and under budget.

“This building is an incredible resource that will fuel our research and allow us to take advantage of resources across disciplines,” Spaniolo said. “Already, we are seeing new, promising collaborations - research designed to make a difference in the lives of people and to solve real problems.”

Among the speakers at the dedication were state Sen. Chris Harris, who represents Senate District 9, and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, who represents the 6th District of Texas. Harris, who grew up in Arlington, said he has always looked at UT Arlington as “my university,” and he was instrumental in securing funding for the building, pushing for tuition revenue bonds in the Texas Legislature, which were allocated in 2005. Barton has repeatedly championed UT Arlington in Congress and helped secure federal funding for the project.

“More and more, we need answers from the scientific community to the problems we face,” Barton said. “This building will house faculty and students who will expand our knowledge and work to provide answers in the form of new technology for the next 50-60 years.”

Also delivering remarks were College of Science Dean Pamela Jansma and College of Engineering Dean Bill Carroll. Jansma thanked the faculty and legislators who made the project happen, recognizing Paul Paulus, her predecessor as science dean when the project was in its formative stages.

“From the moment I arrived on campus in August 2009, the Engineering Research Building has loomed large - large not only in its physical presence on campus, but also in its impact on the College of Science, its students and its faculty,” Jansma said. “Every day I heard conversations about the building and what it would mean. Not only did these discussions include descriptions such as ‘interdisciplinary’, ‘leading-edge,’ and ‘collaborative’, they focused on actions: ‘engage’, ‘facilitate,’ and ‘transform’.

“During the past year and a half, I’ve learned that these words embody the essence of what and who UT Arlington is: its commitment to education and the intellectual rigor that engages students, facilitates research, and transforms the community.”

College of Science Dean Pamela Jansma
College of Science Dean Pamela Jansma addresses guests at the dedication ceremony, as Provost Donald Bobbit, left, and President James D. Spaniolo listen.

Following remarks in the building’s courtyard, guests gathered for a ribbon-cutting at the facility’s main entrance, with Spaniolo, Harris, Barton, Jansma, Carroll and Donald Bobbitt, UT Arlington provost and vice president for academic affairs, doing the honors. The more than 200 in attendance then explored the building, with seven of the state-of-the-art labs open and researchers present to explain each lab’s function to visitors. The ERB houses the Departments of Computer Science and Engineering, Bioengineering as well as faculty from the College of Science involved in research in biology, biochemistry, genomics, math, neuroscience and physics. The close working environment between teams of scientists and engineers will foster an atmosphere of collaboration and facilitate the sharing of ideas across disciplines.

Among the research initiatives in the new building is the Optogenetics Lab, in which physics and bioengineering faculty use optical tweezers to trap and manipulate nanoparticles and determine how they interact with cells, with the goal of improving drug delivery systems in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Another is the Virus Detection Lab, in which biologists and electrical engineers use nanotechnology to improve detection of viruses present in food and air, with applications for the military and health care sectors. Another is the Mutant Gene Detection Lab, in which biologists and electrical engineers use nanoparticles to detect a gene mutation implicated in 90 percent of pancreatic cancers and that is a leading indicator of lung cancer.

The building is designed to meet LEED Silver standards for sustainability and incorporates several energy-saving features, including green and light-reflecting roofs, windows that make optimal use of natural light, and rain and condensate capture systems. Construction on the building began in the summer of 2008 and was completed in December.