Two-Day Celebration Officially Opens CIEMAS

Duke University dedicated its $97 million Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS) Nov. 19 following a symposium that highlighted the teaching and research potential of engineers and scientists working together in a place that ignores traditional departmental boundaries.

The four-building, 322,000-square-foot complex more than doubles the space of the Pratt School of Engineering. Construction began in May 2002 and the center opened in late August, on time and on budget. It now has 375 people working in its laboratories, offices and classrooms.

Through CIEMAS, Duke is physically bringing together scientists and educators from across scientific disciplines to stimulate innovation.

(l-r) Dean Kristina Johnson; Robert Ingram, vice chairman
pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline; Victor Dzau, Duke chancellor
for health affairs; and Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers on a
dedication panel.

Provost Peter Lange said not only does CIEMAS make Pratt “a far better place, with far grander aspirations than it has ever had,” but he said it is enabling alliances between Pratt, the School of Medicine and Arts and Sciences departments “that no one could possibly have imagined, like music.”

The formal opening ceremony was held in CIEMAS’s auditorium instead of in a courtyard between two halves of the complex because of the threat of rain. There was a standing room-only audience of donors, faculty leaders, university officials, students, and members of Pratt’s Board of Visitors, which was holding its regular quarterly meeting.

“This building is meant to house research, and it will, it is meant to house teaching of a very high order, and it already does, but that’s not the limit of what it’s meant to do,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. CIEMAS, he said, will unite researchers from different disciplines “to help solve problems together.”

Pratt Dean Kristina M. Johnson, who began planning for the center shortly after moving to Duke in 1999, called the dedication event “truly a great day for Duke, and for Pratt.” She praised Michael and Patricia Fitzpatrick, Duke alumni whose $25 million gift in 2000 helped make the complex possible.

“Their bold gift has been applied in a way that will both stimulate basic research and result in real-world applications for some of the most promising technologies in our century – bioengineering, photonics, materials, and better sensors to predict the weather Â… . These researchers, students, staff and faculty will transform the way we think about how students learn, helping us shape informed young engineers for which the society is going to need many.”

Johnson also saluted Jeffrey Vinik, a Duke engineering alumnus, whose $5 million gift in 1999 provided the initial impetus for the center. Vinik and his wife, Penny, and the Fitzpatricks and members of their family, were on hand for the ceremony.

Michael Fitzpatrick, a high-tech entrepreneur, called CIEMAS much more than a set of buildings.

“It’s a new home of learning, an advanced interdisciplinary approach,” he said. “The human mind will dwell here and work here. Â… It’s the beginning of something we believe will lead to achievement of incalculable value, in biomedicine, photonics, water quality, security, the diseases of the developing world.”

Fitzpatrick also expressed concern about the pace of research in the United States. He said the rest of the world is overtaking the American research establishment and cited figures to illustrate his point. Fitzpatrick said the U.S. share of industrial patents has been falling for decades, and Europe, as a whole, is now the world’s largest producer of scientific literature. In China, he said, half the university students are studying science and engineering. “In our country, it’s going in the other direction. Â… What we are looking at is the massive redistribution of scientific passion.”

John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems, agreed in a panel discussion following Fitzpatrick’s remarks that America’s global competitors are doing a better job in encouraging young people to study engineering and the sciences. Jobs, he said, will go to the best educated work forces.

“Education is the equalizer in life, and it is about innovation,” Chambers said. “The winners over the next several decades in the global economy will be those that combine education with this innovation.”

Much of the research in CIEMAS is focused on innovative approaches to healthcare, both by Pratt engineers and medical researchers from Duke’s School of Medicine.

“This is testimony to our commitment from the medical school to the partnership with the Pratt School,” said R. Sanders Williams, dean of the medical school. “The fruits of this are only beginning to be seen. What you will not see today, but I hope you can appreciate nonetheless, is the multitude of activities that will increasingly link engineering and medicine to connect our schools in a rich network of research teams, the impact of which will become apparent over the next few years.

“So together we will be seeking solutions to some of the grand challenges of our time with a special interest in those that have global implications in the areas of emerging infections, in biodefense, cancer, cardiovascular disease and environmental health.”

Provost Lange called the opening of CIEMAS “transformational, physically, conceptually and programmatically. I think it is also testimony to Duke’s ability to deliver not only on what it promises, but even beyond what it promises.”

The dedication events began Thursday (Nov. 18) with panel discussions on “Policy and Ethics in Science and Engineering -- Cases of Interdisciplinary Problem-Solving” and “Engineering a Secure Future.” Morning panels the next day focused on “Grand Challenges in Globalizing Healthcare” and “Sensor Technology for Environmental Protection.

Following the dedication ceremony, the plenary panel discussed “The Role of the University in Sustaining Innovation.” Panelists included Chambers; Victor Dzau, Duke chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System; Robert Ingram, vice chairman for pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline; and Dean Johnson.