This past Thursday, the University of Pennsylvania broke ground on its long-awaited Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology at 32nd & Walnut Streets. The new center will be a research center for observing microscopic subjects and developing molecule size items, like motors, that would be used for a variety of uses such as surgery or for creating new materials. The new building will provide 10,000 square feet of research space, primarily among two labs, that will be secure from vibrations and have the latest microscopes and equipment for observation and research. It is intended to be a research lab, but also, an educational building and a center for translational research. Translational research is research that is intended to lead to new technology for practical use. Many people, who are familiar with that area of the Penn campus, may know that this new nanotechnology center is a few feet from the location of the world’s first electronic computer, known as the ENIAC, that was in a building at 33rd & Walnut Streets. Of course, that experimental technology led to the creation of the transformative information technology industry, after it was developed for the military in 1946.
This isn’t the first nanotechnology center. Similar centers have been created recently at Harvard and Cornell, and a new nanotechnology center is about to be built at Princeton. This will allow Penn to take advantage of this growing field. The center will be administered jointly by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Arts and Sciences. It will cost about $80 million to build, with $20 million coming from Krishna P. Singh, a Penn alumnus, who is the founder and CEO of Holtec International, an energy technology company based in Marlton, NJ.
It is hoped that this center will be a new gateway for the Penn campus for those coming from Center City. The 100,000 square foot building, designed by architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi, will surround a courtyard on Walnut Street. The courtyard will include space that is currently taken up by the tiny brown brick Edison Building, that houses advanced equipment. That nondescript building will be demolished for the courtyard that will be surrounded by the modern building, which will have sloping rooves and a section cantilevered over Walnut Street. The courtyard will, also, have a small hill leading up to a part of the building at the back of the courtyard.
The Singh Nanotechnology Center will be around the corner from the recently renovated Skirkanich Hall on 33rd Street and Drexel University‘s new Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building at 33rd & Chestnut Streets. These various research buildings will be adjacent to the University City Science Center, the large office and research park along Market Street from 34th to 38th Street. That stretch of buildings has various high-tech companies and has been seeing some new development near 38th Street in recent years. The hope is that the synergy of several commercial office and research buildings next to new university research centers, such as the Singh Nanotechnology Center, and the expanding University City hospital complex, will create new companies, jobs and wealth for the city and region for many years to come.
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