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11 July 2013

Campus adds research facility

The year 2013 will not only welcome the new Student Activities Center but also a new research facility called the Neuroscience and Health Annex.

Also called the Neuroscience Building, it will serve as an addition to the Cox Science Center near the Ungar Building. The 40,000 square feet facility will feature three floors with state of the art technology and laboratories. The annex was funded by a $14.8 million grant awarded from the National Institute of Health coupled with aid from the Executive Vice-President and Provost Thomas LeBlanc’s office.

The new forms of technology will include a human functional magnetic resonance imaging laboratory (HFMRI) on the first floor and the latest in molecular imaging on the second. According to Associate Chairman for the Department of Psychology Philip McCabe, the building will mark the first introduction of these imaging techniques in the Coral Gables campus.

“I am pretty excited because these facilities with high-tech biological imaging don’t exist on campus,” he said.

The HFMRI will help researchers understand how to map brain activity and not just study anatomy.

The second floor will be biology-centered with applications such as being able to model protein interactions. Advanced microscopes will also be available throughout this floor.

Kathryn Tosney, chair of the Biology Department, hopes that these instruments become integrated into more courses. One course on molecular ecology is already being developed for the building’s inauguration.

“It will make an impact on undergraduate courses,” she said.

These applications will rely on a collaboration among various on-campus departments that engage in neuroscience research, such as biology and health psychology, and with researchers at the Miller School of Medicine.

“One of the goals of the project was a building described as a transformational facility that would bring people from different schools together,” Chairman for the Department of Psychology Rod Wellens said.

Tosney feels similarly about the facility’s future in collaborating research from different disciplines.

“It’s a fostering of the collaborative enterprises,” she said.

Though focused on neuroscience and the work of specific researchers who will have permanent labs there, the facility will be accessible to all researchers and students who may require brain imaging as part of studies in fields as broad as marketing and advertising.

In addition to research, the Neuroscience Building will offer graduate programs that will train future neuroscientists and health psychologists. Undergraduates interested in working with a faculty member’s research will also have opportunities to use these technologies, according to McCabe.

Students like sophomore and neuroscience major Kinjal Thakor feel that an on-campus research lab will lead to more undergraduates engaging in scientific inquiry.

“It being right next to Cox is great,” she said. “Having the Neuroscience Building so accessible will cause a lot of students to take advantage of it.

Wellens also believes that the distance will play a major role.

“Have cutting edge facilities within walking distance is a major step for the university,” he said.

While the building will be new, the process to apply to work in a faculty member’s lab has not changed. Students should directly contact the faculty member or visit the Office of Undergraduate Research in the Cox Science Center for more information.