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|The spacious new chemistry labs contain state-of-the-art instrumentation and glass hoods.|
Their new proximity in the STEPS building, researchers say, will make it possible to join forces on other areas of common interest. These include climate change, alternative energies, carbon capture and sequestration, and resource development. Graduate students in the Energy Systems Engineering Institute, which has also moved into the STEPS building, conduct research in these areas under the guidance of industry sponsors.
Proximity will also make it easier to address multifaceted topics. a case in point, says Frank Pazzaglia, is the management of carbon dioxide. as much as half the CO2 emitted as a result of human activity is absorbed by oceans and land surface. The myriad factors governing carbon cycling are not fully understood but are affected by forest and watershed management policies. Meanwhile, engineers are developing new technologies to capture CO2 from power plants and sequester it in underground reservoirs, while geologists are probing the behavior of those subterranean traps.
“STEPS will help us develop overarching research programs that tie together the science, technology and policy issues that underlie virtually all modern environmental issues,” says Pazzaglia, who is EI codirector and department chair of earth and environmental sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Often, the most interesting research problems lie where disciplines overlap. At these boundaries, researchers need to rely on each other’s expertise to push knowledge forward.”
A flow of people and ideas
With 50 research and teaching laboratories, STEPS represents Lehigh’s largest investment in a decade in undergraduate science and engineering education. Ten teaching labs are dedicated to undergraduate courses in biological sciences and chemistry, including cell and molecular biology, genetics, integrative biology and vertebrate anatomy, as well as chemical principles and organic chemistry. The introductory courses are required of all engineering majors, and the advanced courses are required in bioengineering, chemical engineering, environmental engineering, and materials science and engineering.
The new teaching labs contain state-of-the-art instrumentation and sterilization and incubation facilities, and more seats, hood space and preparation rooms. as a result, students work in smaller teams and use more analytical methods. The hoods in the chemistry labs are made of glass, and the organic chemistry labs are equipped to do gas, liquid and infrared chromatography and mass spectrometry.
“STEPS is creating a vibrant atmosphere for interdisciplinary research and education. There’s a high level of excitement and activity in the new building.” —Derick Brown
A faculty committee worked five years with Lehigh’s office of facilities services and campus planning and with two architectural firms to plan the STEPS building. Their aspiration was to design a new model for multidisciplinary collaboration in research and education, and they are confident that STEPS’ final design, by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Philadelphia, has succeeded.