The Lewis Integrative Science Building: A High-Performance Hub For the Sciences

Building on a proud tradition of interdisciplinary research at the University of Oregon, the Robert and Beverly Lewis Integrative Science Building (LISB) brings world-class researchers together under one roof from a range of different disciplines. UO biologists, chemists, psychologists and other researchers are working alongside one another to tackle society’s grand challenges — from cellular processes to improving communities.

The $65 million facility, which opened on Oct. 26, 2012, is home to strategic research clusters centered around interdisciplinary and integrative research missions that are not defined by departmental boundaries. Part of the UO’s Lorry I. Lokey Science Complex, the 103,000-square-foot facility literally unites the sciences by connecting the adjacent Lokey Laboratories, Huestis Hall, Streisinger Hall and Klamath Hall science buildings.

“The University of Oregon is one of the few places where this kind of mixing of different disciplines could happen,” said Dave Johnson, the Rosaria P. Haugland Foundation Chair in Pure and Applied Chemistry. “Because of the culture that exists on this campus, there is a great opportunity to innovate here and I think the synergies that result are going to surprise people.”

The ambitious goals of the Lewis Building are reflected in its forward-thinking design. The building makes abundant use of natural light and the open layout of the labs and spaces feeds the notion that science should be a transparent process. A glass atrium with stadium seating provides a place for faculty and students to congregate, and glass walls and doors put scientific instruments on display — a three-story whiteboard invites participation and encourages open thinking and cross-pollination.

“The Lewis Building design is so important because many of these connections don’t happen on their own,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school. “You need a specially designed building with uniquely configured spaces with advanced laboratory set-ups, large-scale scientific equipment, high-capacity computational backbone and other powerful tools as a framework to unite scientists.”

Wet labs, dry labs and other primary use spaces in the Lewis Building can be accessed by faculty and students from across the scientific spectrum, and shared high-performance tools and technologies are available both to researchers on campus and partners from the private sector.

Creating a science building with sustainable features was an imperative in designing the Lewis Building. Temperature-controlled windows, a waste heat recovery system and the use of solar power and reclaimed water put the facility on track to earn Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Additionally, majestic Red Oak trees on the building site were saved through the UO’s innovative tree protection strategies, and bamboo paneling — a rapidly renewable product — was used throughout the building as a finishing material.

“Science has changed over the last 30 years and we need new facilities like the Lewis Building that reflect those changes,”said Cris Niell, an assistant professor in the UO Department of Biology and Institute of Neuroscience. “I think the research that comes out of the Lewis Building will lead to real scientific breakthroughs.”

Niell, who previously studied physics before turning to biology, knows a thing or two about so called “integrative science,” which seeks to create new synergies across diverse academic disciplines. Ranging from curiosity-driven basic research to commercialization of new technologies, the approach aims to create new knowledge and new partnerships between academic research and private industry, government agencies and the larger community.

The Support Network for Research and Innovation in Solar Energy (SuNRISE) photovoltaic laboratory, is one such facility inside the Lewis Building that is open to industrial and academic clients on a fee-for-use basis. It makes up part of the high-tech extension service CAMCOR, which also operates in the adjacent Lokey Laboratories.

Another high-performance facility is the Robert and Beverly Lewis Center for NeuroImaging. The center houses a new MRI that supports interdisciplinary, multifaceted research in cognitive neuroscience and biological imaging.

The Lewis Building was funded partly through private donations. Donors included Robert and Beverly Lewis and Lorry I. Lokey, along with William Swindells, the James R. Kuse Family Foundation and Rosaria Haugland.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Lewis family and to Lorry I. Lokey for their generous support, as well as all of the donors and friends who made this day possible,” Espy said.

The Lewis building was also financed with federal and state grants and state bonds. The 2007 Oregon Legislature authorized $30 million in Article XI-G bonds for the Lewis Integrative Science Building, the largest G-bond investment in academic buildings in UO’s history and the first major construction investment in the sciences to be completed since 1990.

“This facility increases the state’s capacity to attract research grants and generate economic benefits that serve Oregonians,” said Gov. John Kitzhaber in a statement. “I’m proud of the University of Oregon’s track record of turning research into jobs.”

Because $120 million in annual sponsored research dollars primarily comes from sources outside the state, research funding is good for Oregon, Espy stressed. UO is one of the top research universities in the nation for translating basic research discoveries into practical applications. UO research innovations generated nearly $7.9 million in licensing revenue for the Oregon economy in 2011-2012.

“The Lewis Building will enable us to take our research programs to a higher level,” said Jennifer Pfeifer, assistant professor of psychology. “It will also allow us to increase the truly interdisciplinary training that is available to graduate students, which is important for future generations of scientists.”

The Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry is housed on the subterranean level of the Lewis Building and on the fourth floor as well. It provides a focal point for the UO’s pioneering green chemistry programs, and will enable the UO to continue to be a leader in the field and play a key role in the governor’s Green Chemistry Innovation Initiative.

Just as green chemistry didn’t exist 20 years ago, new knowledge awaits researchers working inside the Lewis Building. The facility represents a grand experiment that promises to yield unforeseen new connections, fresh approaches and innovative solutions.

“We don’t really know everything that is going to happen here,” said Phil Fisher, a professor of psychology whose research focuses on childhood trauma and maltreatment,“But we can be sure it will lead to great discoveries.”