Soon Tulane University will complete a sweeping $13.5 million renovation of laboratory spaces in the J. Bennett Johnston Health and Environmental Research Building, setting the stage for a vibrant hub of interdisciplinary research on Tulane Avenue.
Newly renovated “ballroom” labs in the J. Bennett Johnston Building represent the first major downtown research space to bring together the schools of Science and Engineering, Medicine, and Public Health and Tropical Medicine. (Photo by Keith Brannon)
The project transformed traditional, compartmentalized lab space on three floors of the building — roughly 37,500 square feet — into five large, open areas capable of accommodating multiple researchers from different schools into “ballroom labs.”
The milestone project is the first major downtown research space to bring together the schools of Medicine, Science and Engineering, and Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
The goal is to enhance the schools’ medical research output by involving investigators in the physical sciences, engineering and public health. With researchers from different schools and disciplines working close to each other, ideas can cross-pollinate between projects, sparking innovations, says Laura Levy
, Tulane vice president of research.
“This is really marvelous because the biomedical engineers clearly have a common vision with investigators in the schools of medicine and public health, but they have not have the opportunity to interact regularly. Now they will,” Levy says. “Strategically it makes sense because the solution to many of the most complex and intractable problems in medicine, science and engineering will be found at the interfaces of the disciplines.”
The new third-floor labs house researchers from the Tulane Cancer Center
and the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomics
; the fourth floor is home to biomedical engineering investigators (including new BioInnovation PhD
researchers) and a cluster focused in the area of infectious diseases; the sixth floor houses the Tulane Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine
Each lab connects to open “relaxation space” with chairs and benches near an open kitchen and coffee area so that people can easily congregate and have discussions. The labs are designed to be reconfigured based on research needs.
The project was made possible through a National Institutes of Health grant for interdisciplinary research secured by principal investigator Dr. John Clements, professor and chair of Microbiology & Immunology.