Funds to subsidize laboratories Board of Trustees Chairperson Roy Vagelos will donate $10 million toward construction of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, he confirmed last night. The IAST laboratories will be renamed the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology following approval by the Board of Trustees, according to a Trustees agenda obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 1:45 p.m. tomorrow, and the Trustees are expected to approve the renaming at their meeting at 2:45 p.m. Vagelos's donation supplements approximately $27 million in funds from the United States Air Force. The Vagelos Laboratories will consist of a "center of excellence" in engineering and chemical engineering, and the new Institute for Medicine and Engineering, University President Judith Rodin said last night. The research conducted in the Vagelos Laboratories will range from "understanding of biological functions to bioengineering approaches to human injury and aging," Rodin added. The IAST will allow all the University's scientific branches to work together, she said. "The critical thing is that [the IAST] will have researchers from the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Medical School -- all leaders in their fields -- who will be collaborating on cutting-edge research," Rodin said. "It emphasizes Penn's strength in interdisciplinary research, and Penn's commitment to science and engineering." Vagelos said his donation was spurred by a long interest in scientific research that began when he was a chemistry major at the University. "My wife Diana and I thought that since I had such an interest in [research] throughout my career, and wanted to do things at the University, this would be a good place to start," he said. "I'm delighted and ecstatic that the University is going ahead with [the project] at this time." Rodin said about half of the Air Force funds will go toward the Vagelos Laboratories, which compose Phase One of the IAST construction. The other half will go toward Phase Two, which will focus on cognitive and computer science. Vagelos's donation comes at a critical time for the University, which has recently been trying to formulate a plan to pay for scientific research, according to Rodin. And Vagelos said in a time of cutbacks in federal funding of university research, any advantage Penn can muster will help guarantee it future research funds. "In the future, there will be fewer large research universities that can power the kind of research that is required for the 21st century," he said. "Not every university is going to be able to afford it. What is left in the federal pie is going to be competed for." He said the IAST and the Vagelos Laboratories will allow the University to attract the best faculty and students, leading to better research and more funding from outside sources. The IAST will also bolster crucial physical facilities for the University's researchers, Vagelos said. He added the newest scientific research building on campus was constructed over 20 years ago. "A research university can't produce the best work with outdated laboratories or equipment any more than it could with poorly trained scientists," Rodin said. Vagelos was chief executive officer of Merck & Co. -- the world's largest pharmaceuticals manufacturer -- for nine years before his retirement in 1994. Upon Vagelos's retirement from Merck, the corporation endowed a chair in the Chemistry Department in his name. Rodin said Vagelos's donation, coupled with the Merck endowment, marks the continuation of his long commitment to science at the University. "He sees his role as both intellectually and financially supporting, feeding and encouraging science and engineering at Penn," Rodin said. The IAST will be built on the former site of Smith Hall at 34th and Locust streets. Rodin said she could not estimate when the construction will be completed.Comments powered by Disqus
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