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CBEC building officially opens with ceremony

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The grand opening celebration of the new Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building formed a bond between two Ohio State departments, and caused a strong reaction from those who want to facilitate future learning and research collaboration.

The opening was held Friday at the CBEC building, located at 151 W. Woodruff Ave., which serves as the home of both the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

More than 400 faculty, staff and student scientists and engineers have the opportunity to study and work in the two-building facility, which consists of one four-story building designated for experimental research and learning spaces connected by bridges to a six-story building designated for theoretical research and offices.

The 235,000-square-foot, glass-exterior facility houses the new Koffolt Laboratories, as well as the unit operations lab, a nuclear magnetic resonance laboratory, conference rooms, student offices, lounges and other open spaces meant to help foster a collaborative atmosphere.

The new facility’s construction costs totaled $126 million, with $70 million provided by state funding, according to the College of Arts and Sciences’ website.

OSU President Michael Drake spoke during the official opening event about the facility’s capacity to bring together the two departments and the potential to enhance interdisciplinary research.

“We teach for Ohio, but we do research for the world,” Drake said. “The ideas and the solutions that are developed in this particular building will really be important to us, here, in Central Ohio (and) really all around the world.”

Elena Chung, a graduate student in chemical engineering and one of the event’s opening speakers, said bringing the two departments together will help bridge the gap between chemistry and chemical engineering, benefiting both disciplines with shared materials and resources.

“By bringing us together, we can share and collaborate, and I think that’s key,” Chung said. “It will help benefit research in the future.”

Zech Thompson, a fifth-year in chemical engineering, said he is looking forward to using CBEC’s basement lab space, which houses some of the facility’s core laboratories under a 20-foot ceiling.

“The facilities for research are just awesome,” Thompson said. “I’m consequently going to grad school here for chemistry, and the facility is a big factor.”

Andre Palmer, chemical and biomolecular engineering interim chair and a professor in the College of Engineering, said he is excited about the new space and collaborative opportunities between the departments.

“I think we are going to make a lot of great discoveries,” he said. “The fact that we are so close together — faculty can just go down the hall and start conversations and start collaborations. That was impossible before.”

Rep. Joyce Beatty, who represents Ohio’s third congressional district, spoke as well, referring to the new facility as “being the Horseshoe of innovation,” while sporting a bright red CBEC long-sleeved shirt.

“One might say, ‘Why do you have a congresswoman standing here wrapped in CBEC?’ Well, Dr. Drake, it took the chill off,” she said to audience laughter. “But the real answer is, it’s about partnership. I wear this T-shirt proudly because it sends a strong message that when you put people together in government — whether that is state government, whether that is education or whether that is the federal government — we not only make news, we make history.”

Beatty added that she viewed CBEC as a critical investment in an “innovation economy.”

“I look forward to seeing the amazing breakthroughs that will occur in this new facility that will save lives, cure diseases and solve the currently unsolvable,” she said. “While this is only a building, it is a building that will allow our best and brightest to explore their ideas and create a better and brighter world for all Americans.”

In place of a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the celebration ended with a science experiment. Drake, Beatty and Brutus Buckeye strapped on their safety goggles and helped combine hydrogen peroxide, potassium iodide and other chemicals to create an exothermic reaction known as “elephant toothpaste,” which resulted in four foamy eruptions and a hearty applause from attendees.

The ceremony focused on several aspects of the CBEC building, including its design, which incorporates both environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing features.

CBEC is the Columbus campus’ first laboratory building that is LEED-certified, a building certification of environmental responsibility granted by the Green Building Certification Institute.

The facility’s first floor also features a 71-foot long, 9-foot tall LED light installation, designed by artist Leo Villareal, according to the College of Arts and Sciences’ website. The art display was funded by the Ohio Arts Council’s Percent for Art program, a source of funding for the “acquisition, commissioning and installation of works of art for new or renovated public buildings with appropriations of more than $4 million,” according to the Ohio Arts Council website.

After the ceremony, Drake said attending the opening was a privilege and a great time, adding that the facility “represents several aspects of the university coming together at its best.”

“I’m really proud of this building,” Drake said. “It’s a LEED-certified building, so it shows that we can build modern, state-of-the-art laboratory research buildings, and do it in a way that is environmentally friendly, and is also beautiful and adds to the neighborhood.”

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