Space for collaboration | College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Illinois

Space for collaboration
New center is scheduled for completion by December 2017

Workers in Noyes Laboratory will begin constructing a new state-of-the-art Center for Theoretical Chemistry in June.
Occupants of Noyes Laboratory can expect plenty of construction on the third floor during the next 18 months—more noise at Noyes—but the result will be a more productive research environment for dozens of chemists.

Construction for the Center for Theoretical Chemistry, a new state-of-the-art hub for theoretical chemists at Illinois, will begin in June. The 10,600-square-foot center will be built on the third floor of Noyes with an estimated completion date of December 2017.

It will be an exciting addition inside one of the oldest buildings on campus. Noyes was opened in 1902.

Upon completion, the Center will accommodate four research groups in theoretical chemistry, including offices and collaborative work space for 40-50 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. Students and faculty in theoretical chemistry conduct a wide range of research, from calculating the properties of small molecules to simulations of large biological molecules and inquiries into the origins of life.

Bringing theoretical chemists together in one unified space is the key to the whole project, said Benjamin McCall, professor of chemistry and astronomy and associate head of buildings and services for the Department of Chemistry.

“It will be only natural to have all the graduate students in close proximity working side by side,” McCall said. “It will naturally spawn more discussions and, hopefully, collaborations where different research groups can come together to tackle a particular problem. Certainly, there will be more of a cross-fertilization of ideas.”

As of now, theoretical chemists are scattered across different floors of the Chemical Life Sciences Laboratory. McCall emphasized that this separation hasn’t hampered the productivity of the department, but building a common space will only bring added value to the research being done.

Once faculty and grad students make the move to the new space, McCall expects the freed-up offices at the Chemical Life Sciences Building to be utilized by experimental chemistry groups.

The Center for Theoretical Chemistry will be built in a currently unused space on the third floor of Noyes, so a blocked hallway and some construction sounds will be the only inconveniences faced by building occupants.

“We were able to take space that is very much underutilized and not effectively serving the campus and convert it into a state-of-the-art center,” McCall said. “Certainly, being at a strong, research-intensive university such as ours offers opportunities like this.”
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Joey Figueroa, LAS intern writer

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