The University of Miami Frost Institute for Chemistry and Molecular Science (FICMS) is expected to open its doors to the public for Fall 2022. The $60 million project will serve as the first of multiple planned interdisciplinary research centers under the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering.
According to Allison Nichols, UM’s director of design and construction, the completion of the exterior envelope and the start-up of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) for the building complex is scheduled for December 2021. The interior finishes are scheduled to begin in January 2022.
“The concerted team work effort exhibited by all parties at all levels, from leadership to laborers, chemists to contractors and everyone in between, working through the complexities of this particular site, building these particular labs and incorporating items for the new state of the art equipment needs, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 situation, will continue to make this project an unprecedented accomplishment,” Nichols said.
The project is being designed to be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building program with a minimum silver standard. However, the university’s design team aims to earn a LEED gold designation to improve the sustainability of the campus.
The development of this transformational network of research organizations became possible after a $100 million donation from Phillip and Patricia Frost, who also endowed UM’s Frost School of Music. FICMS establishes an area to develop knowledge and technologies in chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and engineering.
The building serves to merge different biochemical disciplines as many ideas in research are thought to be sparked from interactions between different fields. Notably, the institute will have a core facility for a cryo-electron microscopy machine, which the university has never had before.
“It is going to be a great opportunity for doing undergraduate research. It is also going to bring in a great amount of infrastructure and it will be very important to expand the scientific research that we can do,” said Marc Knecht, a chair and professor in UM’s Department of Chemistry.
The first floor of the building will mainly contain public spaces, including a great hall and seminar rooms. It will also include microscopy imaging suites and a materials characterization suite to examine and determine the suitability of biological materials. The building will have indoor spaces for students to study, work together and collaborate on group projects.
“I am really excited for the new building,” freshman Erika Del Valle said. “As a pre-med student, it seems like it will give me opportunities to collaborate with other STEM students and get involved in interdisciplinary research with the faculty on campus while benefiting our science departments.”
The second and third floors will contain laboratories and faculty offices. The spaces will mainly be open laboratories rather than separate rooms so people of different fields can walk, collaborate and share instruments.
“The more collisions you have, the more reactions happen, therefore by analogy, the more reactions that take place among students and faculty, the more new ideas will be created,” said Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It will be easier to create an environment where people can work together. The building and what will follow is an indicator that sciences are interdisciplinary.”
The fourth and fifth floors will remain open for future development when new faculty and researchers are hired.
“It is going to be a phenomenal addition to the university,” Knecht said.“It is going to bring in world class leading experts in the field that will be allowing us to collaborate and interact much more extensively for new directions and new research areas.”