Challenge Accepted

UArizona Constructs Grand Challenges Research Building

By Tom Leyde

A landmark new sciences building under construction at the University of Arizona is projected to be the site of research and inventions that scientists haven’t even thought of yet.

Ground was broken for the Grand Challenges Research Building in September. It is situated on Cherry Avenue between East University Boulevard and East Fourth Street on what had been a parking lot. It will connect to the Meinel Optical Sciences Building.

The $99 million, seven-story building will have nearly 115,000 square feet and is expected to be completed in February 2024.

The new building will be a key component of the “Grand Challenges” pillar of the university’s strategic plan, housing initiatives that include space exploration, artificial intelligence, disease prevention and the environment. 

 “Our strategic plan prioritizes building a well-rounded innovation ecosystem, which is one of the ways the University of Arizona is driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution to ensure technological innovation is human-led and human-centered,” UArizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This building will help us expand our interdisciplinary research capacity in areas such as optics, quantum computing, advanced communications and biomedical technologies.” 

The GCRB will include a ground floor with public spaces, study spaces and meeting rooms for student engagement and instruction, as well as three floors of laboratories and offices for faculty growth in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences. Also housed in the GCRB will be the new Center for Quantum Networks, funded by a $26 million National Science Foundation grant. Saikat Guha, a professor in the College of Optical Sciences, is the lead investigator of the project.

Robbins said discoveries made at GCRB will be translated into practical innovations that will make life easier.

Science is changing and evolving and what society will see in the future is hard to visualize, he said. “It’s evolving so rapidly in this industrial revolution of bringing digital, physical and biological sciences that’s going to be the future. And we’re just in the nascent stages of that. So I think the things that will happen from fundamental discoveries will really change the world. And it’s so exciting to be part of that, and think about the future of things we haven’t thought about.”

“We’ve been part of the fabric for a long time,” said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, UArizona senior VP for research and innovation. “The College of Optics was designed and built out of our long history, really, in astronomy and now has become an institution that has research and graduates all over the world whose work stimulate an enormous amount to our economy….”

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