Sept. 26-Oct. 9, 2003
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Work begins on new engineering building

By Charlotte Crystal

The University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science broke ground on Sept. 25 for Wilsdorf Hall, a building that will bring researchers in materials science, chemical engineering and nanotechnology under one roof.

The building — a $38.9 million, 99,000 gross-square-foot, five-story structure that will link the University’s materials science and chemical engineering buildings — will contain research laboratories, faculty offices, conference rooms, computational facilities and work-study areas.

“By bringing together researchers from different disciplines, this building should encourage interdisciplinary research, especially in the field of nanotechnology, one of the thrust areas outlined in the University’s Virginia 2020 planning initiatives,” said Richard Miksad, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “We expect these state-of-the-art facilities to encourage new research initiatives that have been limited in the past by the unavailability of laboratory space.”

The building will be named in honor of the late Heinz Wilsdorf, first chairman of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and his wife, Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, University professor of applied science.

The drive to build Wilsdorf Hall gained momentum with a lead gift from alumnus Gregory H. Olsen, who received his doctorate in materials science from U.Va. Olsen is president and chief executive officer of Sensors Unlimited Inc., a manufacturer of remote-sensing equipment based in Princeton, N.J.

Olsen’s $15 million gift is the largest ever received by U.Va.’s Engineering School.
“Greg’s vision and generosity will allow U.Va. to move forward in these exciting and path-breaking fields of research,” said William A. Jesser, professor of materials science.

Olsen was Jesser’s first Ph.D. candidate, and his 1970 dissertation on thin films of iron still sits on a shelf in Jesser’s office. Olsen worked with RCA in Princeton before founding his own companies, Epitaxx in 1984 and Sensors Unlimited in 1991.

The family of singer Dave Matthews has contributed funds in honor of the late John Matthews, Dave Matthews’ father, who pursued postdoctoral research here with Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf.

Additional funding was provided by the state bond issue, the Engineering School and the University. A National Science Foundation grant provided support for the Center for Nanoscopic Materials Design to be housed in the building.

The new building will be located directly to the west of the University’s materials science and chemical engineering buildings on McCormick Road.

Construction workers are currently moving underground utilities lines and plan to begin building in February 2004. Construction is expected to be finished in late fall 2005, with occupancy beginning in 2006.


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