Renovated Steidle Building dedication ceremony set for Sept. 30

Liam Jackson
September 26, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A complete renovation to Steidle Building, one of the most iconic buildings on Penn State’s University Park campus, is helping researchers advance the field of materials science and engineering and is providing enhanced learning experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.

On Sept. 30, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will be hosting tours of the renovated building throughout the day, as well as a dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. that will feature remarks from Eric Barron, Penn State president; Ira Lubert, chairman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees; William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Susan Sinnott, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Steidle Building Dedication

In 2016, the newly renovated Steidle Building on Penn State's University Park campus opened its doors. Home to Penn State's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the building contains collaborative work spaces, state-of-the-art laboratories, cutting-edge equipment and innovative learning spaces. View this video to learn about the renovation project and see how the new facilities will help researchers conduct groundbreaking materials research.

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Marketing and Communications

The ‘camouflaged’ touches of materials science and engineering

The unit that will benefit the most from this renovation is the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, which is a leader in a field that widely impacts society but is generally not well known to the public, said John Hellmann, associate dean for graduate education and research in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

"Materials science and engineering is a highly camouflaged field," he said. "To a certain degree, we know what an electrical engineer does, what a civil engineer does, and what other engineers do. But very few people know what a materials engineer does. The fact of the matter is that nearly every one of our engineering fields and our manufacturing entities today rely on materials scientists to not only create the materials for them but to investigate how to use the materials and how to make new materials in the future."

Historically, Penn State researchers have helped to revolutionize areas of the discipline such as polymers, ceramics, metallurgy, electronic materials, 2D materials, 3D printing, medicine and computational design.  

"Our department has historically been ranked in the top 10 for both our undergraduate and graduate programs, and we believe that having wonderful facilities such as Steidle Building will allow us to maintain and exceed our ranking," Sinnott said.

The renovated Steidle Building, said Sinnott, will ensure that Penn State maintains its status as a leader.

A home for undergraduate students

The rapid growth of the department's undergraduate program — it has grown more than 150 percent since 2007 — played a significant role in the design of the renovated Steidle Building. The majority of the building's first floor was designed exclusively for undergraduate students and includes:

  • Seven laboratories where they can use cutting-edge equipment for sample processing and preparation for analysis (advanced materials processing lab, furnace lab, metallography and undergraduate research lab), as well as analysis (optical and scanning electron microscopes, thermal analysis, x-ray diffraction, atomic force microscopy and rheology)
  • Three student lounges, a genius bar, gathering spaces and a 48-seat computer lab, many of which have white board walls that encourage and facilitate group study

All of these spaces enhance the quality of MatSE lab courses, undergraduate research facilities, as well as individual and group study experiences.

"This equipment and this space really helps undergraduate students," said Sinnott. "Having that hands-on experience is critical and provides a much richer learning experience than just watching someone else make measurements and have the students only analyze the data."

In addition, students can visit with staff and faculty devoted to providing undergraduate student support. This was all designed to help students "feel at home in Steidle Building," said Sinnott.

Science on display

Part of the renovation included demolishing Steidle's central wing and in-filling that space with more building space. This use of space allowed the department to maximize a type of space it needed most: shared laboratories.

"We couldn't just rearrange the laboratories — we needed to come up with a new concept," said Gary Messing, former head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who played a major role in leading the design of the building. "Working with EYP Architecture and Engineering, we came up with a concept that allowed us to build laboratories across the whole width of the building. Doing this, we were able to increase the amount of laboratory space roughly 25 percent."

Steidle Building

The south side of Steidle Building now has floor-to-ceiling windows that display the shared laboratory space on the building's second, third, and fourth floors. 

IMAGE: Penn State

With more than 22,350 square feet of shared laboratory space on the second, third and fourth floors, researchers can collaborate with one another and also teach undergraduate students the fundamentals of conducting research, including how to integrate proper lab safety protocols and how to use high-tech, cutting-edge equipment to study materials.

While researchers work, visitors can watch, thanks to the laboratories' floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

"The new shared, highly visible laboratory space will enable researchers to collaborate on important problems that materials can help address," said Easterling. "As an added benefit, the visibility of the space will help with the department's recruiting efforts and will help us secure more research funding, keeping Penn State at the forefront of this important discipline."

Preserving an iconic landmark

The renovations help to breathe new life into a building, originally called the Mineral Industries Building, which was first constructed in 1929. Edward Steidle, dean of the School of Mineral Industries (a predecessor to EMS), led the construction and believed the building would help the school attain a goal of collaboration among different — yet related — research disciplines. In 1978, the building was renamed in honor of Steidle, whose visionary approach to education and research laid the groundwork for today’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

The Mineral Industries Building was designed by the architect Charles Klauder, who designed numerous buildings on campus, including Rec Hall, Old Main, The Nittany Lion Inn and Pattee Library. To preserve a connection to the college's past, and also maintain one of the most iconic features of a building on west campus, one primary design goal was to retain the exterior of the building while revamping the inside.

"We wanted to retain what Charles Klauder had brought to this University so many years ago, but at the same time build a state-of-the-art laboratory," said Messing, distinguished professor of ceramic science and engineering. "We retained the building façade and still have the rotunda and pillars that fit with the campus. From the outside, the only way you would know something is different is by looking at the all-glass entryway in the back of the building."

Now, the same architecture remains but the space is now being used by researchers to advance one of the most impactful fields of science today.

Juxtaposition of 1931 portion and new atrium of the renovated Steidle Building

Juxtaposition of 1931 portion and new atrium of the renovated Steidle Building

IMAGE: Jude Larkin

Sustainability also played a large role in the design.

"Energy conservation and daylight harvesting were priorities with this design," said Dwayne Rush, facilities project manager with Penn State's Office of Physical Plant. "For example, the mechanical systems run off of occupancy sensors to set-back systems during the night. We also used materials sourced from within 500 miles of the project and we were incredibly responsible with how we handled construction debris."

The University is applying for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for Steidle Building.

Support from loyal alumni and industry partners

The construction portion of the renovation project was funded by Penn State. Alumni, friends and industry partners have also been invaluable through donations that have helped to furnish new laboratory equipment that students and researchers will use daily.

"When I walk through the building, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and I think just how lucky I am to be part of this building," said Sinnott. "To be able to work in this amazing space and to be able to be part of a department that works and benefits from it is truly a privilege."

More opportunities to name laboratories, study lounges and other rooms in the building exist. Any alumni or friends interested in naming one of these spaces should contact Carol Packard, director of development and alumni relations for EMS, at or 814-863-4673.

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Last Updated October 11, 2016