The College of Engineering is on the move

As the fall semester begins, the College of Engineering is moving into the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building

two people move robot into William N. Pennington Engineering Building

Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor Dave Feil-Seifer and graduate student Roya Salek push a 400-pound Baxter robot from a laboratory in Scrugham Engineering to the Charlotte & Dick McConnell laboratory in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building.

The College of Engineering is on the move

As the fall semester begins, the College of Engineering is moving into the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building

Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor Dave Feil-Seifer and graduate student Roya Salek push a 400-pound Baxter robot from a laboratory in Scrugham Engineering to the Charlotte & Dick McConnell laboratory in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building.

two people move robot into William N. Pennington Engineering Building

Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor Dave Feil-Seifer and graduate student Roya Salek push a 400-pound Baxter robot from a laboratory in Scrugham Engineering to the Charlotte & Dick McConnell laboratory in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building.

On August 25, Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Carol Del Carlo, University President Marc Johnson and College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis ceremonially opened the 100,000-square-foot William N. Pennington Engineering Building. Before an autonomous robot facilitated the ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark a new era for the University, President Johnson outlined the goals for the building as an economic catalyst and an incubator for high-impact research that will improve lives the world over.

robot holds ribbon for cutting ceremony
Regent Del Carlo and President Johnson performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the help of Dean Maragakis and an autonomous robot.

“This 100,000-square-foot building provides a modern facility capable of supporting high-tech research,” Johnson said. “It will allow the College of Engineering to pursue its strategic vision, serve Nevada and educate future generations of engineering professionals.”

While construction began in 2018, the concept for a new engineering building as an economic catalyst and research center originated with Dean Manos Maragakis’s ten-year plan when he came into office and received a boost in 2017. After receiving philanthropic support, led by the William N. Pennington Foundation’s gift of $10 million, under the leadership of Governor Brian Sandoval, the 2017 legislature made a $41.5 million commitment to the project. 

“The College of Engineering is committed to providing students a globally competitive engineering education, conducting innovative, cutting-edge research and engaging with the community,” Dean Maragakis said. “This building propels these goals forward and contributes to the vitality of our region, our nation and our world. I am grateful to everyone, from the William N. Pennington Foundation and the many donors to the building to Governor Sandoval and the legislators, who saw the importance of the new engineering building for the continued success of our students and community.”

“The College of Engineering is committed to providing students a globally competitive engineering education, conducting innovative, cutting-edge research and engaging with the community,” Dean Maragakis said. “This building propels these goals forward and contributes to the vitality of our region, our nation and our world.”

Of the building and its importance for the State of Nevada, Governor Sisolak, who participated in the event virtually, added, " Our competitiveness in the global economy requires innovation in high tech fields & that requires the facilities and equipment for students and faculty to work on those problems. The 40 labs mean students leaving with degrees will have the skills to contribute to industry right away."

A look inside

In gratitude to the donors who made the building possible but who couldn’t visit during the ribbon-cutting ceremony due to restrictions on gatherings, Chair of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering Jeffrey LaCombe recorded a video tour of some of the key spaces in the building.

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 careers. A 200-seat classroom on the first floor is intended to support students from their first day on campus. Because the disciplines in the College are hands-on, 40 laboratories (both wet and dry) will 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 master's and doctoral students the space to pursue their goals. And when they need a break, students can grab a bite to eat at the café on the first floor.

Davidson Foundation Class 100 Cleanroom will advance research, bolster economy

The showstopper of the new building is undoubtedly the Davidson Foundation 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 1,00,000 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 in biosensing, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing—industries that have increasingly made Nevada home in recent years. As such, it promises to provide continued support to the economic development of the state and region.

A new home for Computer Science & Engineering

faculty on chairs in the William N. Pennington Engineering Building
The Department of Computer Science and Engineering faculty members Engin Arslan, Feng Yan, Christos Papachristos, Emily Hand, Jim La and Tin Nguyen with Chair Eelke Folmer in the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building.

The third and fourth floors of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building will house the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The new space will increase the department’s footprint from 13,000 square feet to 23,000 square feet and bring all of its research labs under one roof, thereby facilitating collaboration and allowing the department to continue to develop its growing reputation. In the past year, the department was ranked 21st in Computer Science Rankings for its robotics research while launching a new M.S. in cybersecurity and earning the University the designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. With the opening of the new building, students and faculty will be able to pursue advances not only in robotics and cybersecurity but also networking, big data and related fields of study in new computer labs and research spaces, including a 25-seat and a 50-seat computer lab on the first floor.

Building on a decade of success

With its potential to enable cutting-edge research while supporting economic development, the William N. Pennington Engineering Building is a microcosm of the College of Engineering itself, and it arrives at a momentous time in the history of the College.

In the past decade, undergraduate enrollment in the College of Engineering has doubled while Ph.D. enrollment increased by 41 percent. To keep up with the demand for a Nevada engineering degree, a concerted effort to bolster the ranks of the faculty with world-leading professors and researchers has led to the College and all of its programs receiving U.S. News and World Report rankings in 2020. In the past academic year alone, in addition to gaining recognition as a CAE-CD and launching the M.S. in cybersecurity, the College has developed a new aerospace engineering program and a minor in construction management while launching a new doctoral program in engineering education.

In all five departments, the students, faculty and staff in the College of Engineering are on the move, and the new building is key to the ongoing success of the College and all of its students.

On the move

three students in a William N. Pennington Engineering building lab
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.

To turn the potential of the new building into reality, the College is in the process of moving into its new offices, laboratories and classrooms.

professor and students moving equipment into laboratory
Before she could start work in her new lab, Professor Raeeszadeh-Sarmazdeh and her team had to transport delicate equipment into the new space.

Department of Chemical and Materials Science Chair Jeffrey LaCombe, who also chaired the committee tasked with allocating space, explained, “We are vacating spaces in Cain Hall, Applied Research Facility, and Ansari Business and back-filling dozens of spaces in engineering buildings, making this a big logistical challenge for the college’s faculty and staff as well as facilities staff. There have been many, many last-minute adjustments to the moving lists and plans.”

The offices for the College of Engineering Advising Center will move from Cain Hall to Scrugham, as will the K-12 Outreach Programs, while the Engineering Research Office will take up residence in the Dean’s Suite on the fourth floor of the new building. Meanwhile, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering will move to the third and fourth floors, simultaneously consolidating its research labs from seven different research spaces to labs under one roof. As a result, even as the semester starts, more than 200 people, 1200 boxes and countless un-boxed items are settling into their homes.

Follow the ongoing move into — and the research coming from — the new building on the William N. Pennington Engineering Building page and on the College of Engineering Facebook page .

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