William N. Pennington Engineering Building Opens

The new William N. Pennington Engineering Building opens

MAKING A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

The opening of the 100-000-square-foot William N. Pennington Engineering Building enables the University to increase the high-impact research that improves lives and strengthens Nevada’s economy. Students and faculty from all five departments in the College of Engineering will be able to pursue research in the state-of-the-art facility, while collaborating across campus and with industry partners.

When the coronavirus sent University students, faculty and staff home in March, many members of the Wolf Pack family turned their attention to ways to help in the fight against COVID-19. Support groups and community service activities sprang up throughout northern Nevada, demonstrating a sense of solidarity and proving that the strength of the Wolf really is the Pack.

Faculty and staff in the College of Engineering joined the effort. Using 3D printers, they produced personal protective equipment like face masks and shields for distribution to medical personnel in local hospitals and medical facilities; they began work on more efficient tests for the virus; they adapted drones to disinfect hospital rooms and public spaces; and they began research on novel AI-based smart sensors to detect COVID-19 symptoms via telehealth conferences.

Meanwhile, with proper safety precautions in place, construction on the 100,000-square-foot William N. Pennington Engineering Building continued. As it opens this fall, the building promises to help the University continue its mission to serve the community through research that improves lives, while bolstering Nevada’s workforce.

“The opening of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building is an important milestone not just for the University but for our entire region,” President Marc Johnson said. “In its halls, students and faculty alike will perform groundbreaking research, preparing the next generation of engineers and computer scientists for vital careers to propel our economy forward.”

It is fitting that the William N. Pennington Engineering Building should open at a critical moment in the history of the state. When Nevada was grappling with the effects of the 2008 Great Recession, a movement to diversify the economy of the state began. Over the coming years, a concerted effort was made to attract a range of businesses to Nevada, and engineering and computer science were seen as key to this effort. As such, the College of Engineering was vital to ensuring that businesses that come to the state have the local workforce necessary to excel. With a focused recruitment plan, the College gained recognition for excellence, resulting this year in the College and all of its programs receiving U.S. News and World Report rankings. With enrollment in the College growing rapidly—it has doubled in the last ten years—student demand for a Nevada Engineering education has pushed the College to the limits of its space capacity.

With a forward-looking vision, under the leadership of Governor Brian Sandoval ’86 (English), the 2017 legislature made a $41.5 million commitment to a new engineering building. This financial commitment was matched by a combination of capital improvement fees and philanthropic support, led by the William N. Pennington Foundation, which provided a lead gift of $10 million. 

“At its heart, our field is about solving problems, and we are grateful to everyone, from the governor and legislators to the donors, who saw the importance of the new engineering building to support our high-impact research,” College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis said. “Combined with state-of-the-art curricula and dedicated mentorship from leading faculty, the new laboratories and study spaces will enable our exceptional students to flourish. The William N. Pennington Engineering Building unlocks a tremendous potential to turn visions of a better, safer world into reality.”

Assistant Professor Maryam Raeeszadeh-Sarmazdeh’s research laboratory has students from diverse backgrounds performing interdisciplinary research in biomolecular engineering to solve important health, biomedical and energy issues. Pictured here in her laboratory in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building are B.S.-M.S. biotechnology student Mari Toumaian, pre-med student Imam Sanousi and graduate student Bella Do.

  • The William N. Pennington Engineering Building as seen from the south (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • The second floor of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • One of the computer laboratories in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • One of 40 laboratories in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • One of 40 laboratories in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • One of 40 laboratories in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • The Davidson Foundation ISO 5 (Class 100) Cleanroom in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)
  • The new William N. Pennington Engineering Building as seen from the East (photo courtesy of Vance Fox)

A look inside: Unprecedented research and learning opportunities for students and faculty

With dedicated space for all five engineering departments, the William N. Pennington Engineering Building is designed to support members of the College at all stages of their education. From their first day on campus, undergraduates will take classes in the 200-seat classroom on the first floor. Because the disciplines in the College are hands-on, 40 laboratories (both wet and dry) enable students to gain the skills necessary to land internships and, upon graduation, contribute immediately in their first jobs in their fields. Throughout the four stories, 150 graduate workstations provide M.S. and Ph.D. students the space to pursue their goals. And when they need a break, they can grab a bite to eat at the café on the first floor.

Department of Electrical & Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Jeongwon Park’s research in the Davidson Foundation ISO Class 5 (Class 100) Cleanroom ranges from biomedicine to advanced manufacturing. Supported by a mechanical room with 10 independent air and water systems, the cleanroom is a carefully calibrated and maintained laboratory that reduces air contaminants from an average of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 parts per cubic foot in ordinary indoor spaces down to 100.

Davidson Foundation ISO Class 5 (Class 100) Cleanroom

Department of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Jeongwon Park’s research is at the intersection of biomedicine, the “internet of things” and advanced manufacturing. Working at the level of the nanometer (for scale, the width of a human hair is 150 nanometers), his wide-ranging work includes the creation of nano-sensors and devices to help motor skills for those with Parkinson’s Disease, improved ultrasound readings for physicians-in-training and highly sensitive sensors for the detection and identification of airborne chemicals and biological agents. As silicon chips reach their limits in power conversion, he is investigating Gallium nitride (GaN) electronics as a greener, more energy efficient alternative. At every turn, his work is informed by a desire to help people and the environment.

Like many members of the College of Engineering, Park’s ability to advance his research will be significantly enhanced in the new building’s Class 100 Cleanroom. Supported by a mechanical room with ten independent air and water systems, the cleanroom is a carefully calibrated and maintained laboratory that reduces air contaminants from an average of up to 1,000,000 parts per cubic foot down to 100. This degree of air purity is unmatched by publicly available laboratories in the state of Nevada, and it is essential for research like Park’s in biosensing, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing.

“This cleanroom will allow us to build a state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research laboratory, which will in turn allow the University to emerge as one of the premier world institutes in nano/micro electronics and nanotechnology-enabled research,” Park said. “The cleanroom will allow my research group to fabricate nanoelectronic devices, and conduct fundamental materials research, thereby creating a novel platform for nanotechnology-enabled nanoelectronics and sensors.”

While the cleanroom will help Park and other researchers on campus develop life-enhancing technologies, the laboratory will also play a key role in the diversification of the local economy. Demand for the large-scale development of nano/micro-devices is on the rise, and northern Nevada is well positioned to become a leader in the advanced manufacturing necessary to bring these technologies to market. According to Park, the number of manufacturing jobs in Nevada has already increased by 45.2 percent from 2010 to 2018, while the national average growth over the same period was 9.9 percent. By comparison, in Reno alone, manufacturing has grown by 104.6 percent. And expansion in advanced manufacturing is expected to continue over the next decade.

“For the local industry, the cleanroom will serve as a resource for advanced manufacturing for nano/micro- devices, sensors, biomedical devices, and product prototyping,” Park said. “The cleanroom will enhance collaboration with local industry partners and enable collaborative projects with the University, in turn creating further opportunities for student training including internships at global companies and national labs.”

While most cleanrooms are behind window-less walls and closed doors, visitors will be able to watch researchers in the cleanroom by looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a glimpse at the high-impact experiments conducted in its research bays.

Park said, “The cleanroom will spawn new ventures and transfer technology to industry at both the national and international levels, thereby contributing to the University’s development as an innovative, knowledge-based economy.”

Environmental engineering graduate student Lauren Mazurowski ’19 recently earned a Graduate Research Fellowship Program award from the National Science Foundation for her research designed to increase access to potable water. She will continue her studies in room 345 of the new William N. Pennington Engineering building.

“Everyone should have access to clean water”

Because the faculty in the College of Engineering provide students with opportunities for experiential learning from day one, students like Lauren Mazurowski are ready to harness engineering principles for the greater good in the new building.

A first-generation graduate student in environmental engineering, Mazurowski has a passion for increasing access to clean water around the world. As graduate president of the Student Association for International Water Issues, she annually plans trips abroad to help communities suffering from limited access to potable water.

“Everyone should have access to clean water,” she said. “I want to work internationally and locally to give people that access.”

As she approached the finishing line of her master’s degree, Mazurowski applied for and received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) grant to continue her studies. The GRFP awards fellows a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 education allowance to conduct their own research at any graduate school they choose.

“It feels surreal,” Mazurowski said of receiving the award. “Originally, I only had the research funding to finish my master’s degree, then start working in engineering, and I know I would have been happy to do that. But now, getting this award has changed the course of my life. I believe I need to make the most I can with this fellowship, and really work to do something that could help people.”

The GRFP award will support Mazurowski’s research in breaking down recalcitrant water pollutants to make water potable more quickly and more efficiently. To pursue her research, she will use a lab-scale UV reactor in the William N. Pennington Engineering Building. The reactor combines O3 molecules with ultraviolet, high-energy light and organic molecules to break down impurities like pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

When she is not busy in the lab, Mazurowski volunteers regularly and espouses the belief that the best way to excel is by working hard and being kind. She said, “If you do your work with kindness, a good heart, and for the right reasons, you will be successful.”

TAKE A TOUR

Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering Chair Jeffrey LaCombe gives a tour of some of the highlights of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building.

Helping every student succeed

The new building extends the College of Engineering’s mission to provide a globally competitive education to every student who wants to make a difference in the world.

In the hopes of inspiring budding engineers, College of Engineering summer camps introduce elementary and junior high students to engineering principles, while the MAKE Nevada program provides mentorship to students from Title I high schools, and the Mobile Engineering Education Lab (ME2L) brings grade-appropriate, interactive lessons to classrooms throughout the state. Once students arrive on campus, they have access to near-peer tutors in the Engineering Tutoring Center and advising from dedicated specialists. To round out students’ academic experience, the College facilitates international exchange programs everywhere from Mexico to Germany and Italy to China. The local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers connects students with industry partners and mentors already in the field. And when the time comes to find internships and jobs, the Engineering Career Services hosts semi-annual career fairs with industry leaders and offers students one-on-one career advising.

“At every step of the process, we are here for our students,” Dean Maragakis said. “We are committed to the success of all of our students, and as the new building opens, we are also affirming our continued commitment to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion that are crucial to continued growth and prosperity worldwide.”

Out of a belief that diversity in the engineering profession better serves a diverse society, the College of Engineering recently formed a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to provide staff, faculty and students with trainings, resources and support. Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Kelly Cross, the committee hopes to foster “an inclusive community with open collaboration, equal access and equality for our entire campus community.”

Dean Maragakis added, “Everyone in the College of Engineering is united in our common desire to make the world a better place. We are committed to making sure that our faculty, staff and students work in an environment that will enable them to achieve their goals and contribute to the economic development and quality of life throughout the state, country and around the globe. When the doors of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building opened, they opened for everyone. No matter your background, no matter your identity, no matter your country of origin—you are welcome here.”

Donor Support

Contributions from the state and from capital fees were essential to the $91.8 million William N. Pennington Engineering Building, and the vision would not have been possible without key gifts from donors. On behalf of the College of Engineering, thank you!

William N. Pennington Foundation

Bretzlaff Foundation
Clarence & Martha Jones Family Foundation
Leonard & Sara Lafrance
Nevada Gold Mines
NV Energy Foundation
Nell J. Redfield Foundation
University of Nevada, Reno Foundation

The Family of Professor Jim Carlson
Clipper Unitrust
E.L. Cord Foundation
Davidson Foundation
Jerry & Roxie Enneking
Stuart Feigin
Gardner Family
Roxie & Azad Joseph Foundation
Estelle J. Kelsey Foundation
Robert S. & Dorothy J. Keyser Foundation
Mallory Foundation
Nevada Chapter, Associated General Contractors
Richard & Assunta Natucci Reynolds
William C. Rose

Candice A. Bauer
Edna B. & Bruno Benna Foundation
Brian Lent & Jennifer Brzana
Louis J. & Genevieve G. Capurro Foundation
Jeff & Rhonda Ceccarelli
Elliott Group
Kenneth & Victoria Krater
Casey Kreck
Charlotte & Dick McConnell
Millard G. Reed
David & Deborah Richwood
Sierra Angels

college leaderships on plaza of William N. Pennington Engineering Building
Picutred (left to right): Chair of the Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering Jeffrey LaCombe, Chair of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering Eelke Folmer, Chair of the Department of Electrical & Biomedical Engineering Sami Fadali, Associate Dean Indira Chatterjee, Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Petros Voulgaris, Chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering Krishna Pagilla and Dean Manos Maragakis. (Photo by Theresa Danna)

From Vision to Reality

From vision to reality, the William N. Pennington Engineering Building was made possible thanks to its many generous donors. Thank you!

Nevada Engineering | Fall 2020

The stories of the students and faculty in the College of Engineering who are making a world of difference through their research, outreach and service.

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