$3 million UT lab renovation pulls researchers together, modernizes facilities

January 6, 2010 | News, UToday
By Jon Strunk

The University of Toledo will recognize the completion of a $3 million laboratory renovation designed to improve coordination and cooperation between researchers at a ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 6, at 11 a.m. in Health Education Building Room 259 on Health Science Campus.

Eight professors and about 30 students and staff in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology will ultimately occupy the 15,000-square-foot lab space.

Department Chairman Dr. Akira Takashima said the layout of the renovations was just as important as the new equipment and facilities.

“Traditionally, individual professors have pursued research projects independently in their own laboratories,” Takashima said.  “The new lab space has an ‘open lab’ concept where multiple professors with overlapping research interests share a large laboratory, as well as many research instruments and equipment.”

He explained the design was chosen to promote “accidental collaboration” — those casual conversations between researchers that have formed the basis for countless scientific breakthroughs.

“Scientific progress is not something you can plan. You may be wrestling with a challenge for years and suddenly one conversation with a colleague will enable you to see that challenge in a unique way,” Takashima said.

He said such an interaction already has occurred between two professors who just moved into the space and have joined together to study the role blood components play regarding immune responses to bacteria.

The renovations were paid for in part by a $1.5 million Third Frontier Grant from the Ohio Department of Development awarded to Takashima. UT matched the grant amount.

Additionally, Chuck Lehnert, vice president for facilities and construction, said the renovations created about 150 construction jobs.

The renovations, which began last May, are the first phase of an effort to modernize and open up laboratories across Health Science Campus to promote researcher collaboration.

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