Whoa: Yale Just Spent $130 Million to Improve a Historic Chemistry Lab

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Yale University just made their premiere chemistry lab even better by spending $130 million to renovate the 93-year-old building on Prospect Street.

Hundreds of faculty, staff and students gathered last week to witness the ribbon cutting unveiling the improved Sterling Chemistry Lab originally designed by architect Williams Adams Delano.

The three-year project transformed the inside of the Gothic building into a space for influential physicists, chemists and biologists to collaborate and create. Yale’s top researchers will be supported by renovations to 159,000 square feet and a 31,600 square-foot addition. This new space includes expanded teaching labs and stronger plumbing and electrical systems.

Dimeo Construction directed the construction process with CannonDesign forming the renovation plans. HBRA Architects designed the public corridor areas.

Construction and corridor closings over the last two years crowded the Prospect Street area as trucks, power saws, cranes and jackhammers filled the area.

With any new development at Yale, flexibility is crucial. That’s why the renovations put the physics and biology labs on the second floor and new chemistry spaces on the third floor to accommodate various instructions.

“We are at a moment here at Yale when we will take the excellent science, research and education we do on campus, especially Science Hill, and move it to a truly outstanding level,” President Peter Salovey said. “We should want nothing less for students and for faculty.”

Salovey said Yale has considered renovating the prominent space for over a decade, and that its construction helps move the center of campus north toward the new residential colleges opening in 2017.

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Photo by Michael Marsland

“Science is and must be a top priority for Yale,” provost Benjamin Polak said. “If we think about what great universities will do in the 21st century, they’re going to advance knowledge by their discoveries, they’re going to change the world and they’re going to move minds. That means science, and Yale has to be part of that — has to lead at that.”

This lab is home to Lars Onsager’s research on thermodynamics for irreversible systems, which earned him the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1968. Sterling is also home of the work from research titans Stuart Schreiber and emeritus professor Jerome Berson.

Now, the lab is better equipped to house the next generation of innovators.

“Laboratories are sacred places,” said chemistry professor Scott Miller. “Laboratories are the places where we try very hard to connect observation to explanation; where we try to make things on the basis of our theories and then when we can’t make them the way we’d like to we have to revise our theories. Laboratories are the places where we connect ‘mind to hand.’ These are truly profound things.”

Lead photo by Michael Marsland

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