News Story

A New Place for Science at Georgetown

October 1, 2012—This week, the university will dedicate Regents Hall, a new state-of-the-art facility for the biology, chemistry, and physics departments.

“With Regents Hall, which was more than a decade in the making, we now have a facility that meets the research requirements of our faculty and the educational needs of our students,” College Dean Chester Gillis said. The 154,000-square-foot building includes 3 lecture classrooms, 12 teaching labs, 15 research laboratories, the Royden B. Davis teaching garden, and the university’s new Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology. In addition to updated and new equipment, the facility provides researchers with a well-controlled environment so fluctuations in the building’s humidity and temperature do not affect experiments.

Named for the Georgetown University Board of Regents, the environmentally friendly Regents Hall is seeking LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Water-based technology of chilled beams heats and cools the building, reducing the size of the overall ventilation system. It is the first time this kind of system has been used on Georgetown’s campus. The slats on the windows allow daylight but reflect glare and heat. Most of the cabinets, doors, and furniture are made from renewable or recycled materials.

The design of the building—by Payette Architects with consultation from education specialists and Georgetown professors—fosters collaboration and interdisciplinary research. Departments are no longer separated by discipline, with physics, chemistry, and biology professors on each floor. “The ability to have colleagues from other departments close by is really critical,” Associate Professor of Biology Ronda Rolfes said. “We can share equipment, and we can share expertise,” she continued.

Students can also share in that same spirit of collaboration. Interdisciplinary Chair in Science and Professor of Physics Jeff Urbach notes that the opportunity for informal interaction is essential for students. Whether it’s in the student lounges or in the building’s café, “We’ll have researchers from different departments sitting at the same tables,” Urbach said. Many of Urbach’s own research collaborations—such as those with Associate Professor of Biology Heidi Elmendorf and Professor of Chemistry Paul Roepe—started out of these informal conversations.

The building’s wide corridors and large windows allow passers-by to see into many of the laboratories and classrooms. According to Urbach, this is another important aspect for undergraduates considering their future in science. “They will see a range of research environments,” he said.

Regents Hall also strengthens the College’s commitment to undergraduate research and individualized education. “At Georgetown we’re positioned between a small college environment and a large research institution,” Rolfes said. Small colleges can offer direct attention from faculty, while large universities with excellent facilities often focus on graduate students “at the expense of undergraduates.” Georgetown College seeks both. “Georgetown is positioning itself right at the intersection between those,” she explained.

Whether students are learning about neurobiology, soft matter, or nanoparticles, Regents Hall will be a center to explore the connections between cutting-edge research, education, and public policy—all under the mentorship of dedicated faculty. “You’ll hear a lot of optimism from talking to faculty in this moment,” Associate Professor of Chemistry Sarah Stoll said. “I think it’s an exciting time to be at Georgetown,” she continued.

The new facilities are, however, just one component of the College’s initiative for leadership in the sciences. “Although we have this brand-new, state-of-the-art science building, we did not just discover science at Georgetown. Our science faculty have been doing important research for decades,” Gillis said.

“What’s new is that this building will help shine a light on the groundbreaking work and teaching happening here,” he said.

—Elizabeth Wilson

More on Regents Hall 

Learn more about Regents Hall and take a virtual tour of the building.