The $120 million Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building – shown here in an architectural rendering – will accommodate more than 50 faculty members and hundreds of students. UCI Design & Construction Services

A new vision for large-scale, collaborative research focused on addressing today’s complex issues came into focus July 16 with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building.

Supported by a transformative $30 million gift from the Samueli Foundation, coupled with $50 million in state funds and $40 million in UCI funds, the innovative facility will be located near the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall, off East Peltason Drive and South Circle View Drive.

Slated to be one of the largest interdisciplinary research buildings west of the Rocky Mountains, it will bring together faculty, students and staff from UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, School of Physical Sciences and Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. They’ll be able to undertake transdisciplinary projects in line with two major themes: biomedicine for human health, and energy use and the environment.

“The overarching vision with this exciting facility is to provide spaces that foster the convergent integration of knowledge, tools, techniques and, most importantly, modes of thinking from faculty, students and staff across these disciplines,” said Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor of research at UCI. “Co-locating faculty and students from three schools in the same building is a major next step as we build on our rich tradition of interdisciplinary research.”

Construction of the $120 million edifice with 113,000 assignable square feet of room is scheduled to be completed by fall 2020. It will accommodate more than 50 faculty members – including high-profile new hires – and hundreds of students.

A commitment to finding solutions

The campus strategic plan focuses on “growth that makes a difference,” and this requires collaborative research across a multitude of disciplines, aligning with UCI’s fertile STEM ecosystem.

Besides expanding the scope of campus research and student education, the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building will enhance UCI’s ability to find solutions to complex global and regional problems.

Potential ideas include developing chemical and material sensors to better diagnose and treat cancers; using big data, environmental engineering and organic chemistry to improve water supply or solar energy; testing driverless vehicles; and having cybersecurity coders and mathematicians collaborate on military or medical challenges.

The engineering school will oversee about half the space, the physical sciences school about a third, and the ICS school about a sixth – with graduate students from all three working together in laboratories, offices and meeting rooms.