Laboratory dedicated to learning in action
ON THE GREEN | A years-long dream was brought to life with the dedication and formal opening of the University’s innovative Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory (ISE Lab) on Oct. 17.
Scores of enthusiastic well-wishers—including faculty and staff, students, donors and friends of UD—turned out for the day’s events, which included an afternoon conversation with KR Sridhar, Bloom Energy founder and CEO, and ribbon-cutting ceremonies, followed by tours of ISE Lab.
“This is a day I’ve been waiting for since I first arrived at UD,” President Patrick Harker told those assembled for the occasion, “and I can look around this courtyard and see the faces of people who’ve held this dream even longer than that.”
He said the project was undertaken “as a vision for the future of research and learning,” with ISE Lab an important vehicle for student success, breakthrough science and institutional prominence. It not only promotes interdisciplinary learning on campus but also builds bonds between academia and private enterprise, serving as “an incubator for invention and innovation,” Harker said.
Further, he said, it represents the way forward and will help shape the future as “a training ground for generations of scientists and engineers equipped to tackle the solutions that still elude us.”
Provost Domenico Grasso described the building as a place that “nurtures great science,” adding: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it, and that’s what we are doing right here with this building.”
Also helping to dedicate the building, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell discussed the value of investment in the molding of students, who will become the workforce of the 21st century. “We cannot overstate the importance of this investment for our state’s future,” he said. “Companies have choices all over the world where they have access to a tremendous workforce. And the only way for us to compete and win in that world is to make investments like this.”
Following the ceremonial cutting of a large blue ribbon, those in attendance had an opportunity to tour the 194,000-square-foot building’s two wings—the instructional wing known as the DuPont Science Learning Laboratories and the research wing known as the Bob and Jane Gore Research Laboratories—and to speak with UD faculty members and students.
What they found were leading-edge laboratories, including an imaging and microscopy suite, a nanofabrication facility and a materials characterization lab in the Gore wing and learning centers featuring the latest in educational technology and mobile furniture, allowing for the flexibility to quickly and easily rearrange a classroom to move from individual to group work and back again, in the DuPont wing.
Interdisciplinary is the watchword and each weekday courses from various fields will meet in the building with the common thread among them experiential learning – a shift from traditional lectures to hands-on work in which students solve problems either on their own or in cooperation with classmates.
Alumni Joseph DeStefano, AS72PhD, and his wife, Judith Grandinette DeStefano, EH70, invested in ISE Lab, with their names adorning a plaque outside a first floor lab. The couple said they believe in the University’s commitment to experiential learning.
“The whole concept of problem-based learning is cutting edge, and it’s going to take us a long way,” Joseph DeStefano said.
The importance of ISE Lab has not been lost on UD students, who have expressed pride in the new structure.
“It’s just an amazing building. I think students will get a lot out of it, and the resources available are just phenomenal,” said Jessica Borcky, president of the Student Government Association, pointing in particular to the shared study spaces.
For freshman Margaret Mary Rilling, the place is magnetic. “This building is actually one of the reasons that I came here,” Rilling said. “It really represents there are going to be new and evolving things happening here.”
George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a pioneer in promoting problem-based learning methods at UD, recalled the years of planning that preceded ISE Lab’s construction.
“It took more than four years because, from the very beginning, we knew we were going to use this building to do something fundamentally different in undergraduate education at the University of Delaware,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to see students and instructors making use of this learner-centered environment. ISE Lab is our investment in how we think—how we know—that students learn best.”
Added Babatunde Ogunnaike, dean of the College of Engineering, “A world-class 21st century College of Engineering must have a vibrant culture of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Facilities like ISE Lab play a key role in giving students the tools, experience and unparalleled training that will allow them to develop scientific advances required to deal with the grand challenges of our time.”
For more information about ISE Lab and opportunities for giving, visit www.udel.edu/iselab/naming.