Innovation Catalyst by Stephen Sharpe
In October 2000, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board adopted a report that outlined steps for the state to foster scientific and engineering research in its public universities, steps that the Texas Legislature deemed critical for strengthening the state’s economic base in the coming years. That report, “Closing the Gaps by 2015,” identified the need for generating more research funding from federal and private sources, attracting innovative faculty to lead research teams, and expanding collaboration between businesses and universities in the pursuit of breakthroughs in the multi-faceted fields of science and engineering. As a direct result of “Closing the Gaps,” several research facilities opened last year on campuses across the state. Featured on the following pages are recently completed projects representing a new breed of research laboratory. The watchword is “interdisciplinary,” which corresponds with today’s pedagogic ideal of bringing together disparate branches of knowledge under the same roof and creating opportunities for interaction. The expected result is the spontaneous exchange of ideas that holds great potential for discoveries unforeseen within the narrow scope of a solitary field of study. UT Dallas’ Natural Science and Engineering Research Building, shown below and profiled on page 32, exemplifies this new interdisciplinary lab, which in this case is designed as a series of highly flexible spaces supporting research in the areas of physics, biology, chemistry, electrical engineering, and neuroscience, with much of the activity being conducted at the nano-level scale.
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