Driving learning and discovery

(Edmonton) With the official opening ceremonies for the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science Sept. 23, the University of Alberta has put the finishing touch on a plan that has been long in development.

Greg Taylor, the dean of the Faculty of Science, says the centre provides the necessary environment for the university’s future. “Our goal here is to meet increasing demand for access to advanced education in science and to drive learning and discovery at the interface between traditional disciplines,” said Taylor.

From his corner office on the top floor of CCIS, Taylor says all the effort that went into thinking through the design of the building is paying off. “This building isn’t all that matters when it comes to driving interdisciplinary research, but certainly, as a vehicle for the people who occupy CCIS, the features of glass-walled laboratories, the common circulation patterns and the informal meeting areas are all meant to promote collaboration.”

U of A researcher Duane Froese, who moved to CCIS from the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Building says his new location is a beehive of activity.
“Already my proximity to people from geophysics and bioscience has meant more coffee and hallway interactions than during my previous eight years at the university,” said Froese. 

Froese’s research often involves analysis of ancient geology and soil chemistry in the Yukon region. He says his past projects have involved collaborators outside the U of A, but there could be much more internal co-operative work, thanks to the creation of CCIS. “Collaborations can be tricky because a lot depends on the personalities of the people involved,” said Froese. “But research connections are more likely to happen if you see someone on a regular basis and those short interactions can lead to collaborations. I’m excited to see how things develop.”

Earth and atmospheric sciences researcher Chris Herd doesn’t have an office in CCIS, but he says the building will add a lot of value to his work with meteorites. “We’re taking some of our meteorite collection in Earth and atmospheric sciences to the CCIS observatory and it will add a whole new level of outreach to U of A students, researchers and the public,” said Herd.

The three observation domes atop the fifth floor of CCIS are routinely open to non-astronomy students and the public for lunch-time observations of sun spots and for night-time star gazing. Herd says having meteorites on display just steps away from a telescope view of the solar system will generate a lot of interest in space-science studies.

Taylor and the others he worked with on the design of the building were confident they’d get positive feedback. Taylor remembers a moment during the four years of construction when he knew that they had hit their target. 

“Very near to the end of construction I was walking from the biological sciences building into CCIS and the atrium opened up in front of me,” said Taylor. “Faced with all the glass and transparency, I stopped and looked up and said, ‘Gosh, this is just what we had imagined.’”