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Home > Press > Rice wins stimulus funding for physics building

Rice University today was awarded $11.1 million in federal stimulus funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for construction of the Brockman Hall for Physics, a new research facility.

Rice wins stimulus funding for physics building

Houston, TX | Posted on July 20th, 2009

"It's fantastic that NIST has recognized the tremendous opportunities in physics-related research at Rice, and this new facility will enable Rice to remain on the cutting edge of physical science research," said James Coleman, Rice's vice provost for research.

The 110,000-square-foot Brockman Hall for Physics will support research and education in fundamental and applied physics of direct relevance to the missions of the U.S. Department of Commerce and NIST. Research conducted there will encompass atomic/molecular/optical physics, biophysics, condensed-matter physics, nanomaterials and photonics. Faculty from Rice's Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will occupy the building, which is under construction and scheduled to open in spring 2011.

Barry Dunning, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said the facility brings together a research team that has been spread across as many as six buildings at Rice. The researchers have often had to conduct experiments in the dead of night to avoid traffic on nearby streets or even in the building that would skew results from highly sensitive instruments. "These are going to be absolutely state-of-the-art facilities, so we can do research and not be limited by the available space, vibration, humidity -- all the things we've had problems with in the past."

"This will really give us cutting-edge facilities -- the equal of any other in the world -- for the kind of high-precision measurements we want to do," said Douglas Natelson, a Rice associate professor of physics and astronomy and in electrical and computer engineering, who was named last year by Discover magazine as one of the nation's top 20 scientists under 40.

"We've been thinking from the very beginning of this process about what purpose this building will serve and how to get the most value for our investment," said Kathleen Matthews, the Stewart Memorial Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology who recently stepped down as dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences. "The contributions from the academic side -- from the faculty through the chair and the dean -- have been invaluable. The fact that NIST has given us this award is a wonderful validation of the hard work of the team that developed this proposal."

Dan Carson, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, said, "The NIST funding provides not only an impressive and tangible demonstration of the timeliness and importance of the Brockman Hall for Physics building project, but also the culmination of literally years of dedicated work by Dr. Matthews, (Rice project manager) Pat Dwyer and others.

"This highly significant award will provide the Wiess School and Rice University significantly more flexibility in planning and program development at a critical time. We are absolutely thrilled to have received this award and will move aggressively to ensure that we maximize its impact."

The building is expected to earn silver status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The architect is KieranTimberlake Associates in Philadelphia. External project management services are provided by Linbeck, and Gilbane Building Company is the construction contractor.

The building previously received a naming gift from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust.


About Rice University
Who Knew?
Located in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked one of America's best teaching and research universities. Known for its "unconventional wisdom," Rice is distinguished by its: size -- 3,102 undergraduates and 2,237 graduate students; selectivity -- 12 applicants for each place in the freshman class; resources -- an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 5-to-1; sixth largest endowment per student among American private research universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work.

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Jade Boyd
Associate Director and Science Editor
Office of Public Affairs/News & Media Relations
Rice University
(office) 713-348-6778
(cell) 713-302-2447

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