The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology officially broke ground on Thursday.
The $80 million center, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, will provide “a home for student-related activities relating to nanotechnology,” said Dawn Bonnell, director of the Nanotechnology Department.
Penn President Amy Gutmann joined Krishna Singh, who donated $20 million to fund the building, on site at 32nd and Walnut streets to mark the start of construction. Singh holds both a master’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering from Penn, received in 1969 and 1972, respectively.
Singh, who is the founder and chief executive officer of Holtec International Inc. — a company that develops technology to increase the amount of fuel rods that can be stored in nuclear power plants — made the largest-ever single gift to the School and Engineering and Applied Science.
“My vision has always been to help Penn and the local region develop a leadership role in one of the emergent technologies — nanotechnology,” Singh said. “It has an enormous future.”
The dynamic nature of the nanotechnology program attracts students from not only the Engineering School, but also the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The chance to study nanotechnology and especially to do research in the building is a wonderful opportunity for College students, just as it is for the engineers,” School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rebecca Bushnell said. “For College students, it underscores the great breadth of fields they can study at Penn.”
The nanotechnology building will be the first at Penn to integrate knowledge across two schools, Gutmann said.
“The building will enable all students to work in an exciting field in a state of the art facility,” Gutmann added.
The center will contain two large laboratories equipped with cutting-edge technology.
Of the two, A basement lab will be designed to limit external vibrations to increase the efficiency of microscope use in the nanoscale.
“There are many private labs, but those two entire rooms are the heart of the building. This is an area that is very facilities intensive,” Engineering School Dean Eduardo Glandt said. “You are only as good as your microscope.”
Associate Director of nanotechnology and professor in the School of Medicine Yale Goldman said the new lab equipment will help his research on the impact of molecular motors on neurological diseases.
Penn President Amy Gutmann (second from left) helps break ground at 32nd and Walnut streets to mark the start of construction of the $80 million nanotechnology center. (Alexandra Fleischman/DP Senior Photographer)
“Now, there will be specialized space that has been designed for my study. We need the low vibration environment,” Goldman said.
Harvard and Cornell universities are the only other Ivy League schools with buildings specifically for nanotechnology. Princeton is currently in the process of building one.
“The new building will allow more students to get involved in research as undergraduates, as well as continuing to make Penn Engineering stronger as a research school,” Engineering junior Michelle Sherrott said.
The building’s location was chosen strategically, Glandt said, since “building to the east is a big statement for Penn. We chose the location because we wanted to give a gateway to the campus.”
Engineering senior Jordan Zarrilli echoed Glandt’s sentiment.
“In my opinion, I think the nanotechnology building is the first tangible step to revitalizing that side of campus,” she said. “The building will be the first impression one will get upon arriving to Penn’s campus.”