April 13, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 14

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    CIS officially welcomes scientists who will ‘lay foundation for tomorrow’s breakthroughs’

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    The Center for Integrative Science

    Tours, scientific seminars, donor recognition and a keynote speech by Nobel laureate Thomas Cech will highlight dedication events for the University’s $200 million Center for Integrative Science building on Wednesday, April 26.

    The festivities will begin with a ribbon-cutting at 1:30 p.m. outside the building at 929 E. 57th St. followed by tours and seminars conducted by CIS scientists who are pursuing research that blurs the boundaries between biology, chemistry and physics. The day’s events will conclude with a dinner for invited guests, where Cech will be the keynote speaker. His topic will be “Small Science, Big Science: Laying the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Medicine.”

    “Work in the Center for Integrative Science will produce unexpected discoveries that will enrich our understanding of both the biological and the physical sciences, but, most importantly, revolutionize how we think about the space in between and what this means to the citizens of our nation,” said James Madara, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine.

    Said Robert Fefferman, Dean of the Physical Sciences: “The researchers working in this impressive new building will write the next chapter in the University’s long tradition of scientific interdisciplinary research. Here they will help train the next generation of leading scientists, and lay the foundation for tomorrow’s medical and technological breakthroughs.”

    Cech, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA, is president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A Chicago native, he received an honorary doctoral degree from the University in 1991.

    As president of HHMI, Cech presides over one of the largest philanthropies of the world, with an endowment of approximately $13 billion. A not-for-profit medical research organization, the HHMI was established in 1953 by aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes. The Institute, headquartered in Chevy Chase, Md., has contributed $17.6 million toward the construction of the CIS, and also supports the University’s eight HHMI investigators, who are housed in the building.

    Also at the dinner, the University will honor some of the largest donors to the CIS: the HHMI, the State of Illinois, the Ben May Trust, Gwendolen Stoughton, and Priscilla and Steven Kersten.

    The Ben May Trust and the Ben May family support the Ben May Institute for Cancer Research, which moved into the CIS last year. The Institute was formally established in 1951 with funds provided by Alabama businessman and philanthropist Ben May. Since then, the Trust has donated nearly $4 million to the Ben May Institute to encourage research innovations and breakthroughs. In 1999, the trust estate of Ben May Jr. donated $10 million to equip the Ben May Cancer Institute’s new space in the CIS.

    The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity contributed $5 million toward construction of the CIS. As the state’s leading economic development agency, the DCEO works to capitalize on Illinois’ strengths as a center of transportation, manufacturing and technology development.

    The Kerstens are long-time supporters of the Physical Sciences Division, having endowed a professorship in the physics department and a scholarship in the Physical Sciences Collegiate Division. Most recently, the Kerstens donated $5 million to name the CIS Kersten Family Atrium. The name honors Steven Kersten’s parents, Elaine and Samuel Kersten. The Kersten Physics Teaching Center, which connects with the CIS, also is named for Elaine and Samuel Kersten.

    Stoughton graduated from the University High School in 1944, and then earned three degrees from Chicago: a Ph.B. in 1945, an S.B., biology, in 1947, and a Ph.D., psychology, in 1954. Her late husband, dermatologist Richard Stoughton, was a Chicago alumnus (S.B., 1945, biology, M.D., 1947), and a former instructor in the Medical School.

    Second in size only to the University’s Regenstein Library, the CIS encompasses 400,000 square feet at 57th Street and Drexel Avenue. The building was designed according to strict specifications to control cleanliness, temperature, sound and other environmental factors needed to do cutting-edge experimental science in the 21st century.

    Once fully occupied, the building will bring together 100 senior scientists, along with 700 additional researchers and students. Scientists began moving into the building last June.

    Much of the research done at the CIS will occur at the nanoscale, the scale of atoms and molecules. At this scale, many problems in biology, physics and chemistry all merge. Occupying the heart of the building to tackle these problems will be the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, which was jointly founded in 1998 by the Divisions of Biological and Physical Sciences.

    Work within the institute could influence developments as diverse as molecular-based computing techniques to more effective cancer treatments.

    Also gaining laboratory and office space in the CIS and pursuing similar sorts of often-converging lines of research will be the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Ben May Cancer Research Institute, the Chemistry Department, and the James Franck Institute.