Plans for Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building approved by Trustees

September 16, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa -- Final plans for a new chemical and biomedical engineering building at University Park at an estimated cost of $144 million were approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees during its Sept. 15 meeting. 

The new building, scheduled to open in 2019, will co-house the departments of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering on the current site of Fenske Laboratory, near the intersection of Curtin and Shortlidge roads. The building will be located near the hub of the life sciences, chemical sciences and materials sciences concentration on campus.

“Board approval of the chemical engineering and biomedical engineering building coincides with historically significant milestones for both departments,” said Amr S. Elnashai, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. “Both departments have seen tremendous expansion of the undergraduate student body. Moreover, the graduate program in the Department of Chemical Engineering has just been endowed in its entirety and we have hired five new professors in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The new state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories and collaboration spaces will not only underpin the expansion of the two departments, but also will stimulate synergies between them and among partners across Penn State.

"The consortia that will result from the planned synergistic activities will benefit U.S. communities through new discoveries and our students through enhanced learning opportunities,” he added.

Intended to meet the growing needs of the departments for years to come the new facility, designed by New York architectural firm HOK, will include 194,500 square feet of laboratory, classroom spaces, lecture halls, student commons areas and office spaces to support advancing research and teaching needs.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering, which currently resides in the Hallowell Building on University Park’s west campus, is one of the fastest growing sub-disciplines in engineering at Penn State. Over the next three years, the department seeks to double its current faculty count and increase annual acceptance of undergraduate students from 40 to 100 students—growth that cannot be accommodated in its current space.

The Hallowell Building, built in 1987, originally housed the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the late 1980s.

“This is a very exciting time for biomedical engineering at Penn State,” said department head, Cheng Dong. “We are rapidly adding new faculty members as part of a multi-year expansion plan and growing our graduate and undergraduate student counts significantly.”

The Department of Chemical Engineering is also experiencing rapid growth. This fall, the department welcomed record numbers of both graduate and undergraduate students.

The department is limited by space in Fenske Laboratory, which was built in 1960 and has not undergone any significant renovations since. The facility has become outdated and can no longer support the needs of the 21st century research being conducted within the department.

In addition to the expanded footprint that will be enjoyed by both departments, the building is set to include The Dow Chemical Knowledge Commons, a student space designed to foster peer-to-peer interactions, teamwork and engaged learning, and a variety of design attributes that will support the “engineering on display” concept. Many of the teaching and research laboratories will be situated along a main corridor with transparent glass walls to create a modern, open feel and allow visitors and prospective students to observe the interesting research and discovery taking place within the labs. 

Ground breaking for the project, which will include a complete demolition of Fenske Laboratory, will begin this semester and is set to be completed in a single phase with all occupants moved to other locations during construction.

Renderings of the new chemical engineering and biomedical engineering building are available at To learn more about supporting the facility, including naming opportunities and gift options, visit

Last Updated September 16, 2016