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Biology Building Formally Opens Today

By Jennifer Lane

The biology department's new 250,000-square-foot, $70 million building will be formally opened this afternoon with a dedication ceremony and dinner. On Saturday, a symposium will be held highlighting speakers who once worked or studied in the biology department at MIT.

The event is a time of "celebration of MIT's commitment to the future of biology," said Professor Phillip A. Sharp, head of the Department of Biology.

A few hundred people are expected to attend the event, said Mary L. Morrissey, director of special events.

Chairman of Corporation Paul E. Gray '54 will preside over today's dedication ceremonies.

Sharp, President Charles M. Vest, Professor Richard O. Hynes PhD '71, who is director of the Center for Cancer Research, and architect Joan Goody of Goody, Clancy & Associates, one of the designing firms for the building, will also speak at the event.

Several building tours, a reception, and a dinner in Walker Memorial will follow the ceremony, Sharp said. Bruce M. Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, will speak at the dinner. The biology community is invited to attend a band party following the dinner.

Tomorrow's symposium will give members of the biology community an opportunity to hear about current research and projects undertaken by alumni of the department, Sharp said.

Finishing touches

Minor work continued yesterday on the building, according to Francis A. Lawton, project manager for the building. The building is now basically completed but workers are "madly finishing site work such as planting sod and making sure the correct trees are in place," Lawton said.

These tasks will be completed in time for the dedication ceremonies, Lawton said. Alterations from painters and electricians will continue for about a month, Lawton said.

In addition to these minor alterations, several other facilities in the building must still be completed, Lawton said. The animal room in the sub-basement will not be moved in until they are sure "there are no glitches in the system," Lawton said.

Some of the laboratory facilities still need work, according to postdoctoral fellow Ellen V. Kearns. "One of our plant growth rooms is still not functioning properly," she said.

The building has not been named yet, though the Howard Hughes Institute has invested a significant amount of money in the project, Sharp said. According to official nomenclature, the building is called Building 68.

Building's atmosphere is pleasing

Along with being a "first-class research building," there are several features incorporated into the building to make it more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for faculty, Sharp said.

There are two atriums on every floor, with faculty offices around them. "Lots of light flows through the atriums," Sharp said, making the building a "warm, nice place to be."

The Bio Cafe has opened on the first floor, and there are two tea rooms on every floor with basic kitchen facilities, Lawton said. These eating areas are "essential to the building since eating is not allowed in the laboratories," he said.

Each floor has a lounge and seminar room with large windows allowing a "beautiful view of Ames Street and the Boston skyline," Lawton said.

Sharp called the building "a special home."

Two art installations have been placed on the first floor, one from artist Jim Sanborn and the other from artist Jim Melchert, Lawton said. Sanborn's work, which was donated by Emeritus Professor of Biology Boris Magasanik, consists of a wall of limestone with a band of sandstone, green quartz benches, and a petrified tree.

Sanborn has also set up a white marble circle on the floor, with a slide projector hung on the ceiling above it, Lawton said. Slides depicting current biology research will be projected onto the circle.

Melchert's work is a mural consisting of 2,259 Italian tiles that were glazed and fired in California, Lawton said. The tiles on the wall run three quarters of the length of the building, he said.