April 20, 2012

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USTAR Building Brings New Spirit of Collaboration

Di Lewis

April 20, 2012

As Miao Xu held out a tiny chip to people touring the lab, Ted McAleer said this “bomb-sniffing dog on a chip” is a perfect example of what the new Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) building on the University of Utah campus was built for.

The chip requires input both from chemists and those who design chips, and it’s this kind of collaborative research that the building is meant to foster.

The James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building, as it’s formally known, is designed to be the first building in an “intradisciplinary quadrangle,” said McAleer, USTAR executive director. This building, which was dedicated Thursday, connects the colleges of medicine, engineering and science, he said.

The building’s 200,000 square feet are devoted to state-of-the-art research and meeting spaces. Having places where people from different disciplines can get together is key to making breakthroughs, said Marc Porter, director of the Nano Institute of Utah and USTAR professor in the departments of analytical chemistry, chemical engineering, bioengineering and pathology.

“We’re trying to detect things at levels that have not been previously detectable,” Porter said.

Constructed at a cost of $130 million, the USTAR building is a space for research that wasn’t previously possible at the U. The building features magnetized walls, clean rooms, vibration controls, a microscopy suite, wet and dry labs, and nanofrabrication.

“There will be a level of work done in here that hasn’t been done before on campus,” McAleer said.

Ian Harvey, associate director of Utah Nanofab, said between people working in the lab, researchers and students doing coursework, more than 200 people will be using the building.

The building houses the U’s Department of Bioengineering, Brain Institute and Nano Institute.

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