Chemistry Building celebrates 20 years

The Chemistry Building is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Thursday, April 18. (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

Thursday, April 18 will be the 20th anniversary kick-off for the University of Connecticut's Chemistry Building, the first building to be built from the UConn 2000 initiative, chemistry department head Christian Bruckner said.

UConn 2000 was a 10-year plan to expand the University of Connecticut. It was the largest initiative in the nation for a publicly financed university, according to the New York Times.

One of the big projects under UConn 2000 was creating a separate chemistry building, Bruckner said. Moving the chemistry department from the currently-named Philip E. Austin building into its own building allowed the department to grow.

“It was the beginning of the transformation of campus,” Bruckner said. “[It was an entire] transformation of the chemistry building. This is the moment to celebrate this moment of transformation.”

On both Wednesday and Thursday, the anniversary celebrations will combine with the Randolph T. Major Lecture Series, a biannual lecture series, Bruckner said. The lecture series, named after a former UConn chemistry research professor, will be led by Professor Kenneth Raymond, from the University of California, Berkeley chemistry department. Lecture topics range from gadolinium MRI agents to molecule activation.

On Thursday, there will be a “Building UConn Chemistry for Another 20 Years” panel with chemistry professor Gary Brudvig from Yale University, pharmaceutical sciences professor Donna Huryn from University of Pittsburgh and professor Kenneth Raymond, according to the UConn chemistry website.

There will also be a reception with the Centerbrook Architects and Planners, the building’s original architects, and chemistry Professor Emeritus Arthur Dimock, who helped with the design of the building. Bruckner said the architects helped the building fit in with the other buildings on campus.

“It is not different [from the other buildings on campus] because it is red brick... It looks like an old New England building, a nod to a New England mill,” he said. “When you look across the lake, it looks like it is from centuries ago with a modern twist.”

Another design challenge was trying to make the chemical fume hoods look captivating.

“They needed to have a design with 225 fume hoods and need big stacks. How do you make that pretty?” Bruckner said. “[You] combine stacks into chimneys and this looks like an industrial building and combined to make it pretty. There you go, you have your mill building.”

There will be two guided building tours of the chemistry building and one “Then and Now” campus tour on Thursday. By having multiple tours, it will ensure that whoever wants to see the building, whether it is current students, colleagues or stakeholders, will have the opportunity to do so, Bruckner said.

“You can't have a tour with 120 people. A lot of alumni only know the old building. They don’t know the new building, so it is a new building for them...They were students of chemistry when it was still Beech Hall,” Bruckner said. “To us, it was a big deal...A lot of people who visit are still very envious of our space.”

Although some of the most complicated events have filled pre-sign up capacity, Bruckner said it is never too late to plan to attend the other events, like one of the building tours.

“Everyone should come and check out what a fine facility we have and what a vibrant department we are,” Bruckner said. “Most student(s) only know our department because they have (to) take general education...but we are more than that.”


Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.