News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 27, 2012

Rose unveils lab for bioscience research

Rose-Hulman
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TERRE HAUTE — Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has unveiled its first “living laboratory,” the William Alfred Cook Laboratory for Bioscience Research, which showcases the increasing role of the life sciences in developing tomorrow’s innovative scientists and engineers.

A grand opening event was conducted on Sept. 20, to kick off the college’s homecoming festivities.

The William Alfred Cook Laboratory for Bioscience Research will allow students to develop their knowledge of the biological sciences through the study of plant life and organisms. The 1,350-square-foot facility is placed on the south side of Crapo Hall in the academic center of campus.

“This laboratory will provide many of our students with their first opportunity to grow, nurture, test and break down plant, bacterial and algal life forms as a part of the learning experience,” said Rose-Hulman President Robert A. Coons. “Our students are learning about organic circuits, DNA computing, genetically engineered machines and bioengineered fuels to become the scientists and engineers who can answer today’s biggest global challenges and those of the future.”

Coons continued, “Science continues to fuse life with life-saving engineering. Those with a state-of-the-art engineering degree must be able to understand and apply these new discoveries to their field.”

A $500,000 gift from Carl Cook provided funding for the laboratory and equipment on behalf of his late father, life sciences pioneer and company founder William Alfred Cook.

A noted philanthropist, William Cook and his family were involved in numerous charitable activities, and have supported the expansion of the biosciences at Rose-Hulman. Carl Cook is chief executive officer of Bloomington-based Cook Group global network of companies and a Rose-Hulman trustee.

Opportunities in bioscience fields have expanded over the past 10 years at Rose-Hulman, helping the college earn a growing reputation of developing highly skilled science students for careers and graduate school studies in the life sciences. The past decade has seen the establishment of the Department of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering, the expansion of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and addition of research programs in biofuels, biochemistry, biology and botany.

The Cook Bioscience Laboratory will help cultivate plants that can be used to produce pharmaceuticals from living organisms, provide space for interdisciplinary algae research, allow for biodiesel production to increase to several gallons each week for engine testing, and create a cradle-to-grave engineering environment in which students examine the recyclability factor of materials made from plants.

“This living laboratory will provide the plants necessary to allow students -- whether they are majoring in the biological sciences or any of the engineering disciplines -- to fully appreciate the study of botany and biology,” said Michael Mueller, Ph.D., head of Rose-Hulman’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Jameel Ahmed, Ph.D., head of the Department of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering, added, “Given the importance that plants play in the challenges facing the world, it is important that Rose-Hulman has a facility like this. Knowledge gained by working in this laboratory environment will help our alumni find ways to feed an increasing population, develop new medicines and explore potential energy sources.”

The Cook Laboratory will provide applied biology students to further their research on the effects of newly discovered bacteria strains on flowering plants. It will also allow students to grow multiple flowers to examine plant structure and their function, and provide valuable research and lecture space for faculty in several academic departments.

Also, the laboratory will provide a large controlled area for the growth of water hyacinth, a free-floating aqua plant that could remove pollution from natural waters and produce biofuels. Essential Biology, a popular biology course, will now have a laboratory dimension where students can examine various plants, leading to a better understanding of plant diversity.

“The opportunities made available by this laboratory are really endless,” stated Peter Coppinger, Ph.D., associate professor of applied biology and biomedical engineering. “I have always wanted to help students study plant development from seed to seed. Previously we have been extremely limited on what we could grow on campus. There will be fewer limits in the future.”

Coppinger also added, “The Cook Laboratory for Bioscience Research gives our biological science program a major boost, and showcases that Rose-Hulman is placing a strategic emphasis in the sciences.”

During his lifetime, William Cook took an interest in the development of Rose-Hulman’s applied biology and biomedical engineering programs. The applied biology major is one of the rare biology programs in the country to require a year-long, full-credit research experience. Meanwhile, the biomedical engineering program was the first among Indiana higher education institutions to earn ABET accreditation (2007). That program also recently earned a No. 2 national ranking in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report college guidebook among colleges that offer the bachelor's or master's degree as its top degree in engineering.

William Cook started developing medical devices in his Bloomington apartment in 1963. The Cook family of businesses has grown into a global entity of 42 companies employing more than 10,000 people with manufacturing, sales, logistics and administrative facilities across the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. The firm manufactures cardiovascular diagnostic and interventional products, antimicrobial catheters, vascular filters, bioengineered tissue grafts, extruded and injection-molded plastics, precision stainless steel tubing, urological equipment, OB/GYN devices and endoscopic instruments.

The William Alfred Cook Laboratory for Bioscience Research was constructed by Garmong Construction Services of Terre Haute, with fabrication by the Winandy Greenhouse Co. of Richmond, Ind., led by 1979 alumnus Hank Doherty. Michael Waldbieser, a 1993 alumnus from Terre Haute, was the lead structural engineer on the project.