Bridging the Intersections of Science
For Columbian College Dean Peg Barratt, complex would foster cross-disciplinary efforts to tackle "big questions" and offer room to grow.
GW's proposed Science and Engineering Complex may still exist only on paper—for the next couple months, at least, by current plans—but that hasn't dampened the excitement of faculty members and administrators at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. For them, the proposed building is ripe with possibility.
The building promises to nearly double the space on campus available for science and engineering activities, and would bring under one roof an assortment of departments currently housed across a dozen buildings around the Foggy Bottom campus.
Columbian College Dean Peg Barratt will move four departments (biology, chemistry, hominid paleobiology and physics) into the new complex from buildings that date as far back as the 1920s and '30s. She took time recently to discuss her vision for the building's long-term impact on science at GW.
Q: How transformative would this building be for Columbian College?
It's absolutely going to be transformative.
Currently, we have a cadre of excellent researchers who are doing great science despite limited space. The new Science and Engineering Complex will provide our faculty and students with the facilities they need to do larger projects and work together across disciplines in new ways.
The answers to the big questions—like the environment and energy—require multidisciplinary approaches. The open layout of this new building, with its teaching and research "neighborhoods," will facilitate and encourage collaboration.
Also, GW is in the heart of the Washington metropolitan area, which has become a center for world science. With this new building, we have the opportunity to be a node and a convener for scientific research on a global scale.
Q: Is there one aspect of the building that you're particularly enthusiastic about?
With its high bay facing people who drive down 23rd Street and the façade visible to people who emerge from the Metro, the Science and Engineering Complex will be an iconic visual that announces, "This is GW."
I'm also excited about the building's main floor—it's designed to be a pathway across campus. With the glass walls on the main level, people passing through will witness the science and engineering that occurs in our classrooms and labs.
Q: How would the new building impact teaching and the student experience in the Columbian College?
The larger learning spaces, such as the scale-up labs—which embrace a new hands-on model for teaching large classes—coupled with the teaching and research "neighborhoods," will greatly enhance the way we teach. Also, we'll have the opportunity for new faculty hires, opening up additional avenues for learning and discovery.
It's also important to note that all Columbian College students are required to take a course that involves scientific reasoning: how to confront a problem, how to plan and conduct an experiment, and how to interpret results. Students who take these classes in the new building will be learning in a place where real science is being conducted.
On the Calendar: Zoning Commission Hearing This Week
GW's building plans for the Science and Engineering Complex are slated to come before the D.C. Zoning Commission this week, on Thursday, March 24.
GW Provost Steven Lerman will be among faculty members and students testifying in favor of the building. The public hearing will be held at 441 Fourth St., NW (near the Judiciary Square Metro station), in Room 220 South.
Anyone interested in joining the faculty members, staff and students already planning to attend should send an e-mail to email@example.com for more details.
- Square footage: Approximately 400,000 square feet above grade with 290,000 usable square feet, including teaching and research spaces, faculty offices and other support spaces.
- Floors: 14 (Eight floors above grade and two floors below for programming space; four floors below grade for parking)
- Parking: Approximately 370 spaces
- Completion: Late 2014
- Preliminary cost estimate: $275 million, funded primarily with lease payments from Square 54 (across from GW Hospital), indirect cost reimbursement from grants and contracts supporting faculty research, and philanthropic gifts from the GW community