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$7 million to go towards Lederle research renovations

$7 million in federal stimulus money will help modernize the research facilities at the Lederle Graduate Research Center.

$7 million in federal stimulus money will help modernize the research facilities at the Lederle Graduate Research Center.

The federal government recently allocated $7 million in stimulus funds to the University of Massachusetts, which is planning to be used to transform 15,000 square feet of outdated research space into state-of-the-art laboratories for the Lederle Graduate Research Center.

With the addition of the $7 million, UMass has already been awarded over $33 million in grants in the fall semester so far.

UMass is one of many large public and private research universities that have recently been enjoying the federal stimulus. Schools like the University of Iowa, Washington State University and Johns Hopkins University have all been awarded large sums in past months.

UMass was able to win the competitive grants by acting quickly and often in the stimulus lobbying process. Chancellor Robert Holub said the university “moved aggressively, and the result has been outstanding.”

The newly acquired $7 million will be added to $4.7 million in campus funding to renovate and redesign the third, seventh, and eighth floors of Lederle. The labs will be opened up to allow more space “to be as cross-disciplinary as possible,” according to molecular biology and biochemistry professor Jennifer Normanly, head of the Committee to Improve LGRC.

Vice-chancellor of Research and Engagement Michael Malone also commented on the interdisciplinary possibilities in the new space. Malone said that UMass’ infrastructure projects will help the university perform better research and garner more grants.

“These infrastructure projects have a very large and sustained impact because modern facilities will enable much more effective research and increase our capacity for extramural funding,” said Malone.

Other than the three floors that will be worked on, the basement will be fitted with a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy instrument and the abutting Grossman Laboratories will be outfitted to support the researchers while renovations are going on.

“The improvements should make [Lederle] much nicer,” said freshman neuroscience major Kevin McGrath, 18. McGrath went on to add that “changing the old chalkboards to whiteboards” would be a switch he would welcome in the building.

This is not the first time Lederle has been worked on by the university. In June 2007, UMass had to clean-up the research tower.

The building had “PCB-contaminated materials that exceed the allowable PCB levels under the federal regulations,” according to a letter from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to Director of Environmental Health and Safety Dr. Donald A Robinson.

PCB is a toxic chemical linked to cases of liver cancer which was outlawed by Congress in 1976. Caulk, air, dust and panel wipe samples were tested for PCB from Lederle and the low-rise library a few years ago, and PCB was ultimately found in window glazing.

Since 2007, when initial steps were taken to test the soil surrounding the building for toxicity, the building was approved to be cleaned by the EPA in March of 2009, and several cleanup methods were used in the following months.

Other grant money has been used for scientific endeavors. $16 million was given from the Department of Energy to create an Energy Frontier Research Center. This funding aims to create efficient non-silicon polymer materials for solar paneling. Another $1.9 million was allotted to biofuels researcher George Huber, and $7.1 million was given to a large group of 20 different researchers.

Sam Hayes can be reached at sdhayes@student.umass.edu.
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