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May 12, 2003

Engineering school celebrates progress in research and infrastructure

By Tim Stephens

In an unusual groundbreaking ceremony last week for the Engineering 2 Building, campus administrators wielded the symbolic shovels while construction crews worked in the background, erecting the first steel girders for the $62 million building.

Taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony are, from left, Martin Chemers, social sciences dean; Steve Kang, engineering dean; Peggy Downes Baskin, a senior lecturer in women's studies; Jack Baskin, UCSC Foundation trustee; Chancellor Greenwood; and John Simpson, executive vice chancellor and campus provost. Photo: Don Harris

As Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood explained in her remarks, there was no time for a groundbreaking ceremony before construction began last summer.

"In seizing an incredible opportunity to fast-track a publicly funded building, the ceremonial aspects of the project had to be placed on the back burner in favor of actually starting construction," Greenwood said.

The groundbreaking ceremony, followed by a hard-hat tour of the construction site, was part of a Research Review Day at the Baskin School of Engineering. Engineering faculty and researchers described their latest research projects to a crowd that included representatives of leading high-technology companies in Silicon Valley.

The research presentations covered a broad range of topics, among them computer storage systems, wireless communications, nanoscale devices for direct thermal to electric energy conversion, and the Human Genome Project. Wentai Liu, who joined the faculty this year as a professor of electrical engineering, described his work on a retinal prosthesis that promises to enable the blind to see.

"This is a very exciting time to be an engineer," said dean of engineering Steve Kang. "Engineers today are applying their talents to create innovations and make discoveries that will profoundly impact society and improve the quality of our life."

While the Engineering 2 Building is primarily an engineering facility, the Economics Department will also have a major presence in the building, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations between economics and engineering.

Steve Kang, Chancellor Greenwood, and Jack Baskin tour the construction site. Photo: Don Harris

"The intersection of these two academic disciplines holds significant promise for collaboration that will greatly benefit industry and, ultimately, society," Greenwood said.

The top floor of the new building will be devoted to research space for two of the California Institutes for Science and Innovation, multicampus research centers established in 2000 by Governor Gray Davis. UCSC's David Haussler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who holds a UC Presidential Chair in Computer Science, is codirector of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3), based at UC San Francisco.

UCSC's component of the Berkeley-based Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) is led by Patrick Mantey, the Baskin Professor of Computer Engineering.

"Having an entire floor of the building set aside exclusively for research will be extremely valuable," Mantey said.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Chancellor Greenwood emphasized the importance of the continued support the engineering school has received from UCSC Foundation trustee Jack Baskin and his wife, Peggy Downes Baskin, a senior lecturer in women's studies. "That we have come so far in such a short amount of time is due in large part to the tremendous boost Jack Baskin's original gift has provided us," Greenwood said.

The Baskins' latest gift of $1 million provides support for the new building and will fund an endowed chair in biomolecular engineering (see earlier Currents story).

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