Groundbreaking ceremony celebrates biobehavioral health research

September 17, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- Ground was broken Friday (Sept. 17) for a new building on the University Park campus that will help Penn Staters expand knowledge of the factors that affect our health and the interventions necessary to promote a higher quality of life.

Construction on the new Biobehavioral Health Building, to be located south of Henderson Building between the Old Main Lawn and the HUB-Robeson Center Lawn, will begin in October and the building is scheduled to be occupied in November 2012. President Graham Spanier, Board of Trustees members and others were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony marking the kick off of the project.

"The Biobehavioral Health Building will be important to the College of Health and Human Development in so many ways," Ann Crouter, dean of the College of Health and Human Development, said. "It will help several parts of the college grow and become more productive, it will provide us new and better space for teaching and research and it will create exciting proximities that will encourage collaboration and discussion."

Penn State's programs in biobehavioral health enable students to explore all factors -- biological, behavioral, social/cultural and environmental -- that influence the health of individuals and groups throughout the lifespan. Researchers in biobehavioral health examine health and disease across the lifespan.

The new $48.1 million, 93,500-square-foot building will primarily house the Department of Biobehavioral Health, along with several research centers within the college, including the Gerontology Center, Center for Diverse Families and Communities, and the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development. The state has contributed $40 million toward the construction of this four-story facility that will include a 200-seat lecture hall and entrances from Henderson Mall, the HUB Lawn and from the south. The construction of the building also involves the demolition of the 52-year-old, 12,000-square-foot bridge joining Henderson and South Henderson, which is no longer useful.

In keeping with Penn State practice, the new structure will be LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), an internationally recognized green building certification system. The building’s design includes green roofs, emphasizing the importance of environmental sustainability.

"The new building will provide biobehavioral health with the visibility and space to strengthen and nurture a community of scholars who are committed to a transdisciplinary approach to research and training in health and behavior," Collins Airhihenbuwa, professor and head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health, said. "Having biobehavioral health and the other research centers in the same building will help foster a stronger synergy between research and the training of students in health behavior from genome to globe."

Established in 1991 as a Ph.D. program, the Department of Biobehavioral Health quickly grew and now offers undergraduate programs with more than 450 undergraduate students enrolled. Faculty research interests range from genetic and biological processes of behavior to health promotion, prevention science and more. Recent research projects by faculty are varied and include the first large-scale survey of both legal and illegal steroid use by teenagers; a look at global child health and human rights; and a study of how marriage and other social relationships can impact how people manage disease.

"Penn State is already a leader in biobehavioral health, and I cannot overstate the importance of having our faculty and students working together in close proximity in one building," said President Graham Spanier. "This is a program of great strength for the College of Health and Human Development, and it has contributed to the growth of Penn State's research enterprise. We expect that this new facility will increase the impact of biobehavioral health at Penn State and beyond."

For more information about Department of Biobehavioral Health, visit or

To see pictures from the groundbreaking ceremony, visit online.

  • An artist's rendering of the Biobehavioral Health Building. To see photos from the groundbreaking ceremony, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010