New Duke Facility Will Advance Engineering, Physics

Duke University plans to build a $100 million, 85,000-square-foot facility to expand education and research programs in engineering and physics. Scheduled to open in 2018, the building will create a hub where engineering and physics faculty work together with graduate and undergraduate students to develop solutions to society’s greatest challenges—from making solar energy economical to engineering better medicines.

Plans for the new building were announced during celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Duke Engineering on April 25.

“This facility will make possible the best of Duke’s vision for teaching and learning: bringing together students from different fields of study to work collaboratively on projects that address the problems of our time,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “It will provide a physical home for Duke’s growing partnerships that link engineering with the sciences and liberal arts, helping our students develop the broad perspectives they need to become leaders and innovators.”

The new facility will be on Duke’s West Campus, between the Teer Engineering Building and the Physics Building. Current plans include approximately 25,000 square feet of educational space—teaching labs and classrooms shared between the Pratt School of Engineering and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences that are designed to facilitate team-based, experiential learning. There will also be a 5,000-square-foot, 150-seat auditorium, plus 40,000 square feet for engineering research and 15,000 square feet for physics research. The common space will support integrated science and engineering teaching and opportunities for undergraduate research.

“The building will provide a literal and metaphorical bridge between engineering and the sciences—a place where the grand challenges of engineering meet the big questions of physics,” said Tom Katsouleas, Vinik Dean of Engineering, who worked closely with Trinity Dean Laurie Patton in developing the vision for the facility. “The new building will significantly enhance our ability to provide the kind of hands-on teaching connected to real societal issues that has become a signature of a Duke education, through initiatives such as the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars program.”

Pratt is one of the fastest-rising engineering schools in the nation. Graduate and undergraduate enrollment is up, the school’s faculty has grown by 20 percent over the past decade, and external research funding has more than doubled in that time.

“By providing much-needed space, the new facility will support the ambitious teaching and research agendas of our current faculty, and enable us to leverage the Vinik Grand Challenge Professorships to recruit new faculty who deepen our strengths,” Katsouleas said. “We’re also excited about the ways this space will help us forge new bonds with our colleagues in physics and the sciences, similar to the way the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine & Applied Sciences has strengthened the ties between engineering and medicine.”

The inclusion of state-of-the-art space for applied physics research will not only enhance recruitment and retention of top faculty in that department, but create a dynamic environment for educational and industry collaborations, said Dan Kiehart, dean of natural sciences for Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

“This building represents a significant and transformative investment in science and engineering at Duke,” Kiehart said. “Some of our top physicists are also engineering faculty, and our engineering and physics students share core classes, so it’s a very natural partnership. Co-locating the disciplines will dramatically expand the opportunities for joint research and the discovery-oriented educational experiences that are so important to prepare our students for leadership positions in academia and industry.”

Fundraising for the facility is part of Duke Forward, the seven-year, university-wide campaign that aims to raise $3.25 billion by June 30, 2017. Every dollar donated to Duke's 10 schools and units, Duke Medicine or university programs and initiatives counts toward the campaign.

Pending final approval from Duke’s Board of Trustees, groundbreaking for the new building will take place by late 2016.