The newly completed third phase of the eight-year Integrated Science Center building project (ISC) is a metaphor for the project itself: ISC3 connects to its predecessors as if it had been there all along. Skybridges link ISC1 to its new neighbor, which is in turn attached seamlessly to ISC2. The idea — now more of a reality than ever — is to house four of William & Mary’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) departments in a cutting-edge facility designed for collaboration. The buildings, like the research they house, are inextricably linked and stronger as a result.
“Right off the bat, you have this synergy,” says Eric Bradley, professor and chair of the university’s biology department. “Everyone working together and sharing ideas and tools in the same complex of buildings — there’s just an inherent value in that proximity and adjacency.”
ISC3 is four stories and 113,000 square feet of brand-new laboratories, classrooms, offices, shared workspaces and a café, directly across the street from Landrum Hall on New Campus. Construction also added a modern greenhouse to the top of ISC 2 (old Rogers Hall), replacing the 1968 facility atop Millington Hall. Classes, labs and 84 faculty that were scattered between Millington, Tucker, Washington and elsewhere are finally coming together under one roof.
“For us, the nicest thing is being in a customized workspace that’s more tailored to what we do, instead of having to make do in an old chemistry lab,” says Andrew Kottick Ph.D. ’16, a fifth-year applied science graduate student working in ISC3’s Element Cafe.
The shared space also produces significant cost-savings. It’s far more efficient, Bradley says, to co-locate four departments that can share staff who maintain intricate equipment or coordinate interdisciplinary programs.
In the new ISC complex, it’s easier for several faculty members to teach and collaborate on research with students working in an interdisciplinary field like neuroscience. Now one of the university’s most popular majors, neuroscience includes faculty from biology, psychology, chemistry, applied science, kinesiology and health sciences and computer science. Housing neuroscience research labs and classrooms in a single structure means students are better positioned to learn from many faculty and from each other.
“We made sure to create flexible spaces so that all of the departments and interdisciplinary programs can continue to flourish well into the future,” Bradley says. “From individual labs to teaching spaces to efficient offices for program coordinators, it’s all important and carefully designed.”
ISC3 will include a core facility for imaging, which will enable chemistry, biology, psychology and applied science faculty to share their discoveries drawn from research involving the smallest components in nature: cells, molecules and atoms. Collaborating with the Jefferson Lab in Newport News, as well as fellow faculty members from physics and computer science, Bradley and his ISC colleagues have used William & Mary’s imaging capability in thousands of research projects, including efforts to understand the birth of mammary cancer cells and examine the development of type II diabetes.
But modern science equipment must be updated with new technologies in order to prepare students for success in their chosen fields. Some of the equipment that left Millington for the new ISC complex was purchased when the older building opened in 1968. A recent grant from the Cabell Foundation and matching funds are providing a necessary $1.5 million infusion to upgrade essential instrumentation.
“A really good microscope can continue to function for 40 years, but it cannot provide the digital images required for publishing our research in peer-reviewed journals,” Bradley says.
True to form, the two confocal microscopes that were installed in ISC1 in 2008 were joined by new, more advanced technology in ISC3 as the building came online in late August. The microscopes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each, but that’s the cost of doing business in the quick-moving field of molecular and cellular imaging. Other pieces of equipment like a gene sequencer are similarly costly. Now, in the ISC complex the costs can be more easily shared between departments. This ability to share resources is critical to William & Mary’s growing commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching.
“A primary objective is to strengthen William & Mary’s top ranking as a high-quality undergraduate program,” Bradley says. “The objective is not to make us into a Stanford research institute. We are making it possible for exceptional faculty to do the kind of research that will be published and grant-supported, and to be highly effective teachers. That’s a very hard thing to do, and something we do extremely well.”
That commitment is noted by members of the newest cohort of William & Mary students, too. On the second day of the semester, Chi Chi Ugochukwu ’20 was relaxing by a floor-to-ceiling window between classes as two prospective student tour groups walked by. It’s early, but she’s planning on declaring a biology major.
“Since science is always changing, updated facilities can provide exciting research opportunities for students,” Ugochukwu says. “Because the building is so nice, you want to spend time here. That’s the first step in getting students interested in the sciences.”
And as for old Millington Hall, scheduled for demolition this semester? The site is in the campus master plan — as the future location of ISC4.