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New buildings could spur research

The UA may soon get the green light to start planning on two new buildings that will help the university reach its research goals.

The Arizona Board of Regents’ Capital & Project Finance Committee recommended approval for engineering and bioscience research facilities at its meeting on Sept. 1. The UA will submit its 2013 to 2015 Capital Improvement Plan for the approval of the full board at its next meeting later this month.

If approved, the UA will be able to use 2 percent of the building budget to begin initial planning, according to Lorenzo Martinez, assistant vice president for finance and administration for the Arizona Board of Regents. Construction could start after July if the rest of the approval process goes smoothly, Martinez said.

The buildings could boost research at the UA. The university is aiming to increase the number of doctoral research degrees awarded as well as research expenditures and invention disclosures, according to the five-year strategic plan it submitted to the regents.

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“People are sort of cramped to the gills in the space they have,” said Leslie Tolbert, senior vice president for research. “We need more space. But we need better space.”

The buildings will be similar to the current BIO5 Institute, with open labs that allow for collaboration between researchers as well as student involvement, Tolbert said. Specific programs to use the bioscience research building have not yet been chosen, though the UA seeks to attract new faculty and expand research in general.

“We could do more,” Tolbert said.

Both buildings are set to be constructed north of Speedway Boulevard, according to Bob Smith, senior associate vice president for Business Affairs. The Engineering Research Building will be located east of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering Building while the Bioscience Research Building will be next to the Keating BIO5 Institute.

Plans for the new engineering building include installing classroom space as well as research laboratories, according to Jeffrey Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering. The college’s current facilities are often in states of disrepair, he said.

“We’ve got some really old space,” Goldberg said. “It’s hard to do precise work with the space that we’ve got now.”

Increasing research grant funding is one way to compensate for other financial cuts, Smith wrote in an email. The two new research buildings will build on already strong programs to attract top research faculty, he wrote.

The building will cost $60 million and will be funded partly through donations. Lab space can cost between $400 and $500 per square foot and will benefit faculty as well as students, Goldberg said.

Programs including Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical and Environmental Engineering and part of the Biomedical Engineering graduate program could be housed in the engineering research building. Exact programs have yet to be determined, Goldberg said.

The bioscience research lab will promote collaborative research between scientists and physician researchers as well as increase the competitiveness of the university, according to the proposal. The building is estimated to cost $85 million.

Construction could be completed as early as the 2014 fiscal year, Tolbert said.


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