Oct. 25-Nov. 7, 2002
Back Issues
Garry Wills takes his turn at writing U.Va. history
Headlines @ U.Va.
Lampkin named new VP

Wanted: Minority grad students

Faculty Actions -- from the October BOV meeting
New director has familiar face
The struggle to create the University -- excerpt from Mr. Jefferson’s University
Grounds Keeper
Nursing enrollment, ranking on the rise
Opportunity key to library’s outlook
‘With Good Reason’ turns 10
Talk maps out path of early explorations
Dove’s play debuts in C’ville
America’s global stature Levinson Lecture focus
Tears for the Earth
Bond package to spur research

A decade ago, the citizens of Virginia turned out in record numbers to endorse a higher education bond issue by a 3-to-1 margin. This fall, citizens are being asked to make another investment in the future of higher education.

Bond package to spur research

MR-6 is slated to cure lack of laboratory space

This is the last in a series.

By Elizabeth Kiem

researchTechnicians have only just hung their nameplates and become familiar with the corridors of the Medical Research 5 facility, and already the ink is dry on plans for a companion building on the grounds of U.Va. Health System.

Designs for MR-6 envision a multi-story building housing 60 lead researchers and 240 of their colleagues in biomedical research programs focusing on cancer, infectious diseases, allergy and immunology.

The building would provide an additional 183,000 square feet for University medical researchers, space that administrators say will allow U.Va to recruit leading scientists and secure more government funding.

U.Va. bond projects

• MR-6, a new structure for advances in immunology, infectious diseases and cancer research: $24.2 million (total: $50 million)

• $14.3 million for a new Arts & Sciences building. Part of the $125 million South Lawn Project, the building will house eight of the College’s 26 departments and contain digitally equipped classrooms serving the entire University.

• A nanotechnology and materials science and engineering building to foster technological innovations: $7 million (total: $34 million)

• Renovation of teaching labs in Gilmer Hall to support instruction in biology and psychology: $5.7 million

• Renovation of Fayerweather Hall, a 19th-century gym now housing the McIntire Department of Art: $4.6 million

• A new science/engineering chiller plant to provide cooling for new construction and replace outdated CFC-based technology: $4.8 million

• Replacing the Campbell Hall chiller to increase capacity for new construction and replace chronically malfunctioning equipment: $1.6 million

• Upgrading the Cavalier substation to increase U.Va.’s electrical capacity: $4.7 million

• Constructing a regional storm-water management system for McCormick and North Grounds, including restoring Meadow Creek and building a pond near the arena: $1.4 million.
Voter’s ballot
The higher education bond referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot reads:
Shall Chapter 859, Acts of the General Assembly of 2002, authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the maximum amount of $900,488,645 pursuant to Article X, Section 9(b) of the Constitution of Virginia for capital projects for educational facilities, take effect?

“Laboratory space is one of the main currencies in academic medicine — to many, more valuable than money,” said Dr. Arthur “Tim” Garson Jr., vice president and dean of the Medical School. “We are stretched here at U.Va. beyond reasonable bounds, with individual researchers having about half as much space as in other fine institutions nationally.”

But before the plans turn to brick and mortar, Virginia voters must turn out on Nov. 5 and approve a $900 million bond issue that contains $846 million for higher education. The amount includes $68.3 million for U.Va. projects, $24.2 million of which is earmarked for MR-6. An additional $25 million in non-governmental funds is committed to the project but not yet secured.

Development officers describe MR-6 as “the first step in a chain reaction” leading to new preventions, treatments and cures for disease. But researchers are impeded by a shortage of quality space.

Recently, grants from the National Institutes of Health have had to be turned down because of lack of space.

“We are bursting at the seams,” said Gary K. Owens, associate dean of graduate and medical scientist programs. “There is no place to expand to hold clinical trials on the ground-breaking work that is being done here. U.Va. is poised to make a difference, but if the bond is not passed, the building will not get built, the clinical trials will not happen, and people will die who did not need to die.”

In addition to health benefits, the rewards of investing in infrastructure can be seen in the many local biotech firms born of U.Va. research programs. Studies show that for every $1 million in federal grants to the University, 36 new jobs are created.

“If the state makes a wise investment with us, we'll fill the building to advance the human condition and to solve health problems that plague the world,” said Barry M. Gumbiner, chair of the Department of Cell Biology in the Medical School. “MR-6 is the key to our moving forward, but it is just the beginning.”

Investment in research fits the University's goals

By Fariss Samarrai

If Virginia is to compete in the nation’s information technology and biotechnology economies, its universities will need greater state support and closer ties to industry, said Gene D. Block, vice president and provost.

“We cannot grow a strong technology economy without the anchors of universities that are strong in the sciences and technology,” he said. “We will need clear support from the citizens and the state government to do that.”

Block said passage of the Nov. 5 referendum, which includes funds for the MR-6 facility and the Materials Science Engineering and Nanotechnology Building, is crucial to alleviating lab space shortages and, ultimately, to growing a solid high-tech economy around a strong research university.

The bond package includes $24.2 million for MR-6 and $7 million toward the nanotechnology building, which will provide 100,000 square feet of new classroom, laboratory and support space for teaching and research in the understanding, design and development of unique materials.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of extremely small and complex devices for a variety of uses, from computers to biomedicine. Nanoscale devices are measured at the atomic level, the nanoscale – about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The two new research buildings will add nearly 300,000 feet of space.

“The bond package is the only remedy available to help us grow, to allow us to construct the lab space needed to be fully competitive for research grants,” Block said. “We have a $1.2 billion endowment, but much of that is foundation money for specific purposes. Only a small portion is for unrestricted use.”

Block said that state support through the bond package sends a message to donors, students, their parents, industry and federal funding agencies that the state is committed to higher education research. “The Virginia 2020 Science and Technology Planning Commission recommended that nanotechnology and biomedical research should be focus areas. The new buildings will be a first step toward realizing our goals.”

Block is concerned, however, that if the bond package does not pass, it would send a bad message to constituents.

“There will be some demoralization, some faculty members and donors may lose faith in the citizens’ commitment to research and higher education,” he said.

He noted that the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia emphasized in a recent report that the state should invest in research facilities and start-up funds, and increase faculty salaries.

Virginia has a tradition of excellence in the humanities, Block said, and a tradition of excellence in science and technology is the next step. “We want to protect areas of excellence, such as the humanities, while we continue to build our strength in the sciences and engineering.”



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