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BRC finds non-Rice tenants

By Tina Ou     4/21/11 7:00pm

The BioScience Research Collaborative has made progress in finding non-Rice tenants to fill the south side of the building since it opened in April 2010.

"The whole design of the building is to foster collaboration," Community Development Specialist Margie French said. "There are fabulous things the Rice faculty can do by themselves, but by bringing in outside research groups with related interests, we can build on each other's strengths and learn much more."

French said the BRC is still working towards its goal of being a center for collaborative research, which she said began with the Rice faculty being grouped by interest rather than by department.

"We work towards [our] goal through our conversations with our neighbors and [by] finding ways to put the right people together in the building to enable all groups to synergize their efforts and make some big leaps forward," French said.

French said enthusiasm and engagement are important in choosing groups to occupy the BRC. She described the selection process as more like participating in a dating service than choosing team members.

According to French, the National Space Biomedicine Research Institute and the Baylor Center for Space Medicine, two of the tenants, are completing construction of their space, which takes up half of the ninth floor.

In addition, preparations have begun for construction on part of the 10th floor for the Houston Area Translational Research Consortium, which will provide a team of experts to help apply lab products and devices to the clinic. French said other negotiations are currently underway with groups that will complement the current research at the BRC.

Third year bioengineering grad student Jie Chou, who works in the McDevitt lab, said the labs and student offices, having an open layout, allow for opportunities for collaboration. He said it was very easy to start collaborations with labs inside the buildings and with the Medical Center.

"The BRC is like a bridge between Rice scientists and engineers and the clinical researchers from the Medical Center," Chou said.

Rice faculty occupy the north half of the BRC from the third floor through the eighth floor. Because of the fire code, the chemistry department occupies the lower floors, while the fewer chemical elements the research involves, the higher the floor of the labs and offices for the group.

Pierre Floriano, Ph.D. Senior Scientist in the McDevitt Lab, said the building, though well-designed, may have disadvantages for some people who prefer to work in secluded environments instead of open office spaces like the ones in the BRC. Additionally, Floriano said it would be helpful to have more clinicians in the building.

French said in the future, a second tower may be added to the BRC if more space is needed, but for now, the BRC is being modified to be more comfortable and livable.

"If there's not a place for people to hang out and talk, if you're not at ease or find no inspiration in the space, it's hard to make the broader connections that can lead to the kind of amazing changes we're anticipating," French said.

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