Robert W. Gore and Jane Gore learn about the leading-edge laboratories in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory. Their generous commitment of $10 million supports the Bob and Jane Gore Research Laboratories in the new building.

ISE Lab opens

Campus community celebrates official ISE Lab grand opening

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4:18 p.m., Oct. 21, 2013--Sophomore Tyler Bryan is jealous. 

As he walked the halls of the University of Delaware’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory Thursday, the international relations major wished he could swap course schedules with his computer science major friends to score a coveted seat inside ISE Lab. 

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“It’s really amazing how we’ve changed from our old buildings that still have so much character to them to a modern version,” he said. “I just love it.”

Bryan joined the crowd of students, faculty, staff, donors and government officials gathered to celebrate the official grand opening of ISE Lab. Together they chanted “hydrogen, helium, lithium,” reciting the first three elements of the periodic table in place of “one, two, three” as dignitaries prepared to cut a ribbon.

President Patrick Harker suggested the new scientific countdown to officially christen not just a new building but also a new future for learning and research at UD. That future, he said, is focused on students experiencing education in action.

“This building is an investment in them, in you, in this incredible community of people, everyone here right now and many more who aren’t, who’ve signed on to change the world with us,” Harker said.

Each weekday, courses from varied disciplines are held inside ISE Lab. The common thread among them is experiential learning. The classrooms are not large; the maximum capacity of the largest ones is 48 students. The desks are on wheels so students can transition from lecture to group work seamlessly. The 194,000-square-foot facility’s research laboratories house teams from the colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Earth, Ocean, and Environment, often inside the same shared space. 

In his remarks at the event, Provost Domenico Grasso described the building as a place that “nurtures great science.” 

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it and that's what we are doing right here with this building,” he said. 

Joseph DeStefano and his wife, Judith Grandinette DeStefano, both UD alumni, invested in that future, donating money to its construction. In recognition of their gift, their names adorn a plaque outside a first floor lab. The couple said they too 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.

Gov. Jack Markell also spoke of investment in molding students, 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.”

Speaking different languages

The day’s celebration included the ribbon-cutting ceremony book-ended by a reception and a keynote speech by the CEO of Bloom Energy, KR Sridhar. In his talk -- a sit down conversation with Nancy Karibjanian, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Communication -- the Silicon Valley entrepreneur contradicted the notion, built on famous tales of inventors starting successful businesses in garages and basements, that bricks and mortar play no role in education. “Spaces make a huge difference,” he said. 

Sridhar commended UD on building an environment for collaboration.  Scientists and engineers, such as himself, he said, are not trained to be team players. Biologists, chemists, engineers and other scientists all “speak different languages” filled with jargon specific to their field. ISE Lab’s interdisciplinary environment will help them communicate.

“It’s an enabler for like-minded people to be together,” Sridhar said. “Through those interactions they learn without being told that one plus one plus one is greater than three.”

Since the beginning of the semester and the start of classes inside ISE Lab, each day 1,200 students sit down to learn in its classrooms.  Hundreds more flow through the study lounges on each floor or pop into the lobby to grab coffee at the Einstein Bros. Bagel shop. Many give ISE Lab rave reviews.

“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 Borcky’s fellow SGA member, 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.” 

The freshman chemistry major does feel the all too familiar envy in the air. She has no classes in ISE Lab this fall.

Maybe next semester, she said.

Article by Andrea Boyle Tippett

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson, Evan Krape, Kevin Quinlan and Ambre Alexander

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