“The Wonders and Possibilities of Interdisciplinary Science”
October 16, 2007
The National Science Foundation, which is the principal funder of basic, scientific research in the United States, has clearly recognized the vital importance of interdisciplinary science. The Foundation’s most recent strategic plan notes that: “Discovery increasingly requires the expertise of individuals with different perspectives—from different disciplines and often from different nations—working together to accommodate the extraordinary complexity of today’s science and engineering challenges. The convergence of disciplines and the cross-fertilization that characterizes contemporary science . . .have made collaboration a centerpiece of the [scientific enterprise].”
We have gathered here this afternoon to dedicate Simon Hall, the first science-only building constructed at Indiana University Bloomington in more than 40 years. This new building is a dynamic monument to the grand possibilities of interdisciplinary science.
In the years to come, it will foster major collaborations among researchers working at the convergence of such fields as microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, and biocomplexity. The discoveries these collaborations foster will advance our understanding of the nature of life itself.
The Difference Generosity Can Make
On behalf of the entire IU community I extend our deepest gratitude to those whose generosity supported this magnificent new center for life sciences research. We thank Jack and Linda Gill for their amazing foresight in spearheading multi-disciplinary basic science research at IU Bloomington. We thank Dick and Ruth Johnson for their vision and generosity in supporting entrepreneurship among our researchers. We thank Bob Mann for his sustained philanthropy to the Department of Chemistry, which will play such an important role in this building.
To all of the contributors who are here today to help us dedicate this facility, we extend our deepest gratitude. There are two other contributors that I want to mention.
First among these is the Simon family, three generations of whom are present today. The Simon family name will forever be interwoven with the great achievements of Indiana University. Their vision and support of our students through the Hillel Center, their support of our arts through IU’s world class School of Music, and their support of medical research through the Simon Cancer Center at our School of Medicine, has been nothing short of transformative. They have joined the ranks of only a few families in the history of IU—families such as the Lillys and Krannerts—who have left an indelible mark on Indiana University with their great vision and generosity.
Please join me in congratulating the Simons for their outstanding support of IU. Please join me in thanking them for making possible this new building, which will be known now and forever as Simon Hall.
An Infusion of Fuel
We also must thank another of IU’s great supporters, the Lilly Endowment.
Over the last few years, our life sciences engine has received a major infusion of fuel.
It has come from the Lilly Endowment in the form of $155 million to support the Indiana Genomics Initiative. A portion of this funding has enabled the construction of this building. Another grant of $53 million to establish the METACyt initiative dramatically accelerated life sciences research here in Bloomington. We are deeply grateful for the Endowment’s continued investments in Indiana University. Their generosity has facilitated ever greater-achievements for IU students, faculty, and staff and for the university as a whole.
Please join me in thanking them.
The Power of Collaboration
Simon Hall will be the site of many great achievements. This building, which will magnify the power of collaboration, was itself a collaborative effort among many. In the interest of time, I will mention only a few of those who played important roles in rallying support for this project. Please join me in thanking former College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kumble Subbaswamy, and former Executive Associate and Interim Deans David Zaret and Russ Hanson, who were tireless champions for this cause. We would not be here today without the efforts of current College Dean Bennett Bertenthal, Vice President for Life Sciences Craig Brater, IU Foundation President Curt Simic, and IU Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson. We also owe a debt of gratitude to bio-geochemist Lisa Pratt, chemist and CEO of our METACyt initiative Ted Widlanski, chemist David Clemmer, and biologists Elizabeth Raff and Jeff Palmer.
Thank you for all you have done to make this ambitious vision a reality.
Conclusion: A New Age
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of this new space. More space means more fruitful collaboration among brilliant minds within the College and our School of Medicine. It fortifies our position as a life sciences leader. It allows us to stimulate the Hoosier economy through new developments and business spin-offs in the biotechnology and medical industries. But most exciting of all, it means new breakthroughs that will lead to discoveries which improve—and sometimes even save—people’s lives.
This new space ushers in a new age of scientific research at IU Bloomington, one which will push forward the boundaries of knowledge in proteomics, genomics, and bioinformatics. It ushers in a new age in which IU will emerge as a leader in the development of lifesaving and life-prolonging technologies. It ushers in a new age in which the impact of the work of the solitary scientist will be amplified by the combined force of intellects spanning departments and disciplines.
Today, with the dedication of Simon Hall, we usher in a new era at IU, one dedicated to the wonders and dynamic possibilities of collaborative research.