Mast Winter 2003
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  • Unlocking life's mysteries

    Life sciences researchers at Ohio University have been overcoming obstacles for years. Those hurdles -- lugging equipment across campus to collaborate with colleagues in any of four buildings and dealing with the shortcomings of labs in renovated residence halls, to name just two -- were removed this academic year with the opening of the Athens campus' new $19.3 million Life Sciences Building.

    The 73,000-square-foot research facility adjacent to West Green houses the labs and offices of 21 scientists: 11 from the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biological Sciences and 10 from the College of Osteopathic Medicine's Department of Biomedical Sciences. Those investigators' research interests, from the facial features of dinosaurs to the mating habits of swordtail fish, were taken into account in the planning of every facet of the project. The result, says Robert Rakowski, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, is "a world-class facility -- as good as any I've ever seen."

    "From the very outset, in the initial concept of the building, the researchers worked very closely with the architects to specify their needs," Rakowski says. "They participated in every aspect of the design."

    Ronald Portanova, Rakowski's counterpart in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, says the outcome is high-quality research space that fosters collaboration among scientists with similar focuses.

    "Faculty had been housed in laboratories constructed in buildings originally built as dormitories with inadequacies in the amount and layout of space; the heating, ventilation and overall mechanical systems; security; and susceptibility to vibration," Portanova says. "The new Life Sciences Building eliminated those inadequacies."

    Funded by state capital improvement dollars, the facility includes special tissue culture rooms, a large biomechanics room, a shop for building research equipment and a functional morphology lab with ceilings high enough to observe birds in flight.

    Those and other features, says Rakowski and Portanova, will make recruiting and retaining top researchers less challenging.

    "I've been able to attract four new faculty members because of the facility," Rakowski says. "Being able to offer those individuals space in this facility was key."

    On the pages that follow, we introduce you to four individuals whose research endeavors in the new Life Sciences Building are raising Ohio University's profile.

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