New science center receives $25 million gift

By Lokchi Lam

The Center for Integrated Sciences was renamed the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center at its official opening on Wednesday as a result of a $25 million gift.

The $200 million, 400,000-square-foot building is named for Ellen and Melvin Gordon, the president and the chairman of Tootsie Roll Industries, respectively. The building consists of three stories of offices above ground and two stories of laboratories underground, and it is divided into an east and a west wing.

The Center was built to provide a physical space to facilitate the growing need for cooperation between physical and biological sciences.

“It’s obvious that the boundaries between the physical and biological sciences is [sic] becoming more and more artificial,” said Robert Fefferman, dean of the Physical Sciences Division (PSD). “Many of the scientists are very interdisciplinary; it’s very important that they not be down the street from one another.”

The Gordon Center houses the Institute of Biophysical Dynamics, the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Ben May Cancer Research Institute, the Chemistry Department, and the James Franck Institute.

The building also contains a three-story atrium and a Plum cafe, which will hopefully facilitate the flow of ideas between scientists in the building, he added.

“We really want a special building,” Fefferman said, noting that many peer institutions have built similar facilities in recent years.

“You have to build new facilities because if you don’t, there are other Ivy Leagues,” Kumar said. “Trust me, it’s a very competitive market.”

Biological Sciences Division (BSD) faculty and researchers have already moved into the building. Scientists from the PSD, however, have not yet been able to move into the labs because of the stringent vibration requirements that have necessitated additional soundproofing work, according to Rakesh Kumar, project manager for the Center.

Scientists from the PSD met with the designers of the building and were asked to provide input for the design of their own laboratories.

At full capacity, the Gordon Center will house 100 senior scientists and 700 researchers and students.

The Gordon Center is the second-largest building on campus, second only to the Regenstein Library. It will, however, consume more electricity, mainly because of its exhaust system, which conditions 100 percent of the air to avoid possible contaminants.

Initial discussions for the building began in 1993, but construction did not begin until 2002.

“This generous gift will support research of a kind that reflects the core values of our University—innovative discovery crossing disciplinary boundaries and unmasking ideas of sufficient size and quality to create new paradigms of thought,” said James Madara, vice president for medical affairs, and dean of the BSD and the Pritzker School of Medicine, in a press release.