The sidewalk in front of the new MU Life Sciences Center is shaped like a DNA helix, an apt symbol of the university’s high hopes to meld scientific inquiry with technological innovation.
For Roger Mitchell, dean emeritus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, today’s dedication ceremony at the center is an event nearly a quarter-century in the making.
“I have been dreaming of this for a long time,” said Mitchell, describing the plans in place for a new plant sciences building when he returned to campus in 1981 after an earlier stint.
He joined forces with Lester Bryant, former dean of the medical school, to convince campus leaders to embrace a building that would meld agriculture, medicine, engineering and other seemingly disparate fields of inquiry into an interdisciplinary whole.
They managed to get campus space reserved for the project, but initial efforts to secure financial support from the state weren’t successful. The proposal was put on ice until then-Chancellor Richard Wallace revived the proposal in 1996.
With the support of U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and former Gov. Mel Carnahan-D, the campus garnered nearly $60 million in equal amounts of federal and state support to make Mitchell’s dream a reality.
Bond, Gov. Bob Holden, UM System President Elson Floyd and Sean O’Keefe, who heads NASA, are among the expected dignitaries at today’s ribbon cutting, dedication and open house. The free event begins at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
Bond and other Life Sciences Center boosters hope the new building will not only benefit the MU campus, but also serve as an engine of economic growth for the entire state, the hub of a biotech boom linking Kansas City and St. Louis via Interstate 70.
“Missouri is on its way to becoming the biotechnology corridor,” said Bond. “We have a real opportunity to be a source of hope and health for people around the world while growing new jobs right here in Missouri.”
Bond’s personal involvement in the project comes with its own reward. The Life Sciences Center will be dedicated in the senator’s name at a later occasion.
The Life Sciences Center will serve as a central base for researchers of all stripes, said Mike Chippendale, an entomology professor and the center’s senior associate director.
“Life sciences are the modern biology,” he said. “It integrates all branches of biology with information technology so we can harness information to improve food, diagnostic treatments and the environment.”
The MU Life Sciences Web site has information about the Life Sciences Center, as well as extensive features on campus research and the Missouri Life Sciences initiative.
Genetics Science Learning Center is
an educational Web site that helps people understand how genetics affect their lives and society.
BioTech is a Web site dedicated to teaching people about biology and chemistry. It features a comprehensive dictionary and links to other interesting sites.