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Engineers anticipate new hall

John-Paul Witt | Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The $69.4 million Stinson-Remick Hall will house some of the most sophisticated equipment known to Notre Dame, College of Engineering officials said Tuesday.

The new facilities, to be completed in the next three years where the University Club currently stands, will allow for pioneering work in circuitry, particularly in the “clean room” – an advanced lab for constructing complex circuits, said Thomas Fuja, the chair of the department of electrical engineering.

The clean room will contain air 20,000 times more pure than normal air, electrical engineering professor Gregory Snider said.

“This will allow us to do computations with individual electrons, and construct at the nano level,” Snider said. “This is research which will greatly increase the speed and efficiency of computers.”

But this type of research has the potential to create an impact beyond the performance of computers, engineering Ph.D. student Trevor Cickovski said.

“I’m excited to use these facilities for research that has significant contributions to society,” Cickovski said. “We’ll potentially be able to work with nanotechnology as small as human cells, which has countless medical applications.”

This level of research is not possible in the College of Engineering’s current home, Fitzpatrick Hall, interim College of Engineering Dean James Merz said.

“Our clean room now isn’t much cleaner than the hallway, because we don’t have the proper ventilation technology in Fitzpatrick.” Merz said. “Our current building wasn’t designed to do the latest engineering research.”

But Stinson-Remick Hall will be able to serve these needs as it is set to include architectural features especially designed for an engineering facility, said Mark McCready, the chair of the chemical engineering department.

“The structure will be built stiffer to minimize the vibration of the building, which affects our work on the nano level,” McCready said. “The site will also be grounded against electromagnetic interference, which could interfere with our instruments.”

He said experiments that don’t require cutting-edge facilities will still be conducted in Fitzpatrick Hall.

The new building will also contain practical features for students – including a 24-hour discussion lounge, a small cafeteria and a chapel – which the College of Engineering currently lacks, McCready said.

The facility will provide new lab spaces for graduate students and faculty members – but with the new Engineering Learning Center, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering department chair Stephen Batil said the building will be geared toward undergraduates.

The learning center will occupy four times the instructional space currently available to undergraduate students.

Stinson-Remick will also contain more labs than there are current engineering faculty members, but the department chairs said they expected the new infrastructure additions would attract new scholars and professors to Notre Dame.

“We’re 20 years behind where we need to be on buildings,” Batil said. “Every other major research university has had 10 times the building construction we’ve had in engineering.”

New facilities are necessary for Notre Dame’s undergraduate and research engineering programs to remain competitive against rivals like Princeton and Purdue, he said.

“If we want an engineering program like Princeton, for example, we need to invest like they do,” Batil said.

The new addition will also play an important role in the advancement of the University’s national prestige, Merz said.

“Students in all Colleges want to graduate from a top-ranked university and this new building will contribute to that,” Merz said.

Planning for Stinson-Remick Hall began in 1994, and fundraising has gone on for the past five years. Construction is expected to begin in November 2007, Batil said.