Construction of new Science and Engineering Complex to be completed this summer

Construction on the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), which began in April 2013, will be completed this summer, and the building will be in use by fall 2017, according to Vice President of Operations Linda Snyder.

The complex, which will include existing buildings Anderson Hall and Robinson Hall, will also feature an addition, Snyder said. The new complex will house facilities for the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, according to the Tufts Construction website.

The SEC will include improved laboratory resources and greater space for interdisciplinary interaction, according to Director of Capital Programs Barbara Stein. The Department of Biology will be moving from its current location at Barnum Hall, where the laboratories are outdated, to the new SEC, Stein said.

“The labs in Barnum, where a lot of the faculty are moving from, are very old and antiquated labs,” she said. “So what [the SEC project] does is it creates not only the state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure, but it puts them in a configuration that creates an energetic center of activity.”

In turn, Barnum Hall will be used for different purposes still being determined by the Project Sponsor Group, a governance body appointed by University President Anthony Monaco, Stein added.

Research at Tufts will benefit from the new infrastructure and equipment that will be added to the SEC, according to Biology Department Chair Sergei Mirkin.

“This is the first new research building built on campus in a few decades, so it’s really paramount for the development of experimental research on campus,” he said.

The SEC will also bring together graduate students and undergraduate students in those departments, both for research and instruction, according to Snyder.

“Students will be able to come into this building, go into the introductory teaching labs, study there, and look up and see the most cutting edge research being done in the United States,” she said.

Stein agreed that the combination of research and educational space is an important part of the project.

“It creates a center of informal learning and interaction,” Stein said. “It puts research and undergraduate teaching in the same building in a way that they are visible to each other.”

The SEC will also include a number of informal spaces, including a large atrium, a café and a community space, according to Snyder.

“We really work hard at creating collaborative space in buildings that is informal, that people can just meet up and work together, have a conversation, grab a coffee, because we know that a lot of great ideas come from that kind of interaction,” she said.

Mirkin also noted the importance of collaborative space in the SEC.

“I think it is very enriching for scientists to interact with scientists from other subjects,” he said.

One of the challenges of this construction project was to integrate Anderson Hall, Robinson Hall and the new addition, which are buildings from three different eras, according to Snyder.

“We knew going into the project that that would be a challenge. It had certainly not been any worse than we expected it to be, but it has taken a lot of care and effort to integrate the buildings of the three generations,” Snyder said.

The SEC project’s budget has increased since 2015 to integrate the new Allen Discovery Center into the complex, according to Stein.

The Allen Discovery Center, a biology research center funded by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, includes the work of labs at Tufts and other universities, according to Michael Levin, a biology professor and the director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University. The SEC will provide space for the Allen Discovery Center to grow, he said.

“It’s going to enable us to have state-of-the-art space in which to perform the work of the Allen Center. Right now, I have [a] very nice space at 200 Boston Ave., but we are completely full. There’s no room for expansion,” Levin said.

The expansion of the Allen Discovery Center at the SEC will also help Tufts to attract new scientific talent, according to Mirkin.

“We are recruiting a new faculty [member] for the [Allen Center], and hopefully we will recruit another one next year, so these new people will be located in the SEC,” Mirkin said.

Stein also noted that the SEC will help with faculty recruitment by modernizing the school’s research facilities.

“[The SEC] really brings our ability to do laboratory research into the future, advancing us into the next generation of attracting grants and faculty for state-of-the-art research in the future,” Stein said.