Chemical and biomedical engineering to share a new home at Penn State

March 19, 2015

HERSHEY, Pa. — The Board of Trustees Architect Selection Subcommittee today (March 19) recommended HOK of New York as architect for the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building on the University Park campus. The new facility will enhance the national and international standing of both the chemical and biomedical engineering departments, as well as help them embrace future projected growth.

“Biomedical engineering at Penn State is experiencing unprecedented growth in faculty and students,” said Amr S. Elnashai, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. “In addition, chemical engineering is under new leadership and is ramping up to take full advantage of sharing the same space with biomedical engineering.”

The plans for the new facility, which will take the place of Fenske Laboratory located near the intersection of Shortlidge and Curtin roads, include a new 188,000-square-foot building to house classrooms, a large lecture hall and offices for the chemical and biomedical engineering departments. In addition, laboratory suites will support research clusters and a sharing of resources.

“The state-of-the-art facilities in the new building will propel chemical engineering to even greater heights of national and global recognition,” Elnashai said.

Chemical engineering and biomedical engineering currently reside in the Fenske Lab and the Hallowell Building, respectively. Neither are adequate facilities for the departments and their growing needs. Fenske has become outdated for teaching modern chemical engineering research and is too small for the current enrollment in the department. The chemical engineering undergraduate program is among the three largest in the U.S. and the graduate program is among the 10 largest. Of equal concern is that the United States accreditation body (ABET) singled out Fenske six years ago as sub-standard and a threat to the department’s continued accreditation. The two-story design does not make full use of its ideal site in the core of the scientific precinct of campus, and it was determined that upgrading and expanding Fenske through renovation was not possible.

The Hallowell Building also is too small for the biomedical engineering department, which is the fastest growing sub-discipline in engineering while also being the most interdisciplinary engineering field. It was not designed for biomedical research, and it also is remote from the other central life science and related engineering disciplines in the core of campus.

Replacing Fenske Laboratory with a building on the same site that can hold both the chemical and biomedical engineering departments was determined to be a viable solution. It allows room for future growth, optimizes usage of the space and lays the foundation for strengthening the two departments both in national and international standing and formal ranking. The two disciplines complement one another, and academic and research synergies will result through their co-location.

“We will make use of the natural relationship between chemical and biomedical engineering,” Elnashai said, “as well as the new alliances that have been built over the past year with the Eberly College of Science, Hershey College of Medicine, the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, the Materials Research Institute and the Institute for Cyberscience to address the world’s most pressing challenges and stimulate economic development within Pennsylvania.”

The project will be completed in a single phase, with all occupants of the Fenske Laboratory moved to other locations during construction. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 21, 2017