Although the actual building is currently, as Jack Dixon said, “a very large hole in the ground,” he and fellow Life Sciences Institute Director Scott Emr are clearly thrilled about the potential for the huge facility that will anchor the northeastern corner of Central Campus.
“We”ve spent countless hours planning this,” Dixon said before the University”s official LSI kickoff ceremony yesterday at Rackham Auditorium. “We”re still tweaking the details of the laboratories, but we”re pretty much on schedule. So far, we haven”t hit many glitches.”
The centerpiece of the University”s Life Science Initiative, the institute is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2003.
“This is a very important moment in a very long project,” said University President Lee Bollinger. “We”re off to a tremendous start.”
In his opening remarks, Bollinger stressed that undergraduates would be a key component in the initiative and that one of the goals of the institute would be to provide undergraduates the opportunity to perform laboratory research.
Bollinger was joined on the podium by two students who have had the chance to do research through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Meredith Miller, an LSA sophomore, and Nakia Williams, an LSA senior, applauded the initiative”s efforts to expand opportunities for aspiring researchers.
Members of the University Board of Regents were also on hand to accept a series of murals painted by 21 Ypsilanti High School students that will be used to decorate the construction site of the Life Sciences Institute.
Dixon took the audience through a virtual tour of the building, which will house 25 to 30 new faculty members and form an “intellectual and physical bridge between the main campus and the Medical School.”
Outside Rackham, however, a group of about 15 protesters picketed before the ceremony began, handing out fake money imprinted with Bollinger”s face and the slogan “In Corporations We Trust?”
Claiming that the Life Sciences Initiative will open the University to relationships with pharmaceutical companies interested only in profits, biology Prof. John Vandermeer said the initiative will also transform the research culture of the University.
“I challenge them to think of what the world really needs, which is not more profits for the drug companies,” Vandermeer said.
The initiative “is going to be for the corporate profit and not for the public good,” said University alum and Ann Arbor resident Jessica Stanton.
Law Prof. Rick Lempert, who will direct the Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, said he hoped there will be an open forum on the “issues of commercialization of research and the intellectual property issues.”
“This is something being confronted nationally now,” Lempert said. “It”s a perfectly legitimate issue and one the University must confront.”
The Life Sciences Initiative was launched in 1999 as part of the state”s Life Sciences Corridor, a $1 billion project to promote and invest in life sciences research at Michigan colleges and universities. The state has pledged $50 million per year for the next 20 years to aid the initiative.