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Celebrating 245 Beacon
A night of festivities formally opens BC’s new integrated science building.
Boston College’s sparkling new $150 million integrated science center has gotten off to a roaring start since opening earlier this year, so spirits were high during the September formal unveiling of the building, which is known as 245 Beacon Street. Hundreds of BC trustees, benefactors, faculty, staff, and students explored the 150,000-square-foot building, attending science-focused panel discussions, demonstrations, and lectures.
In his opening remarks, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley said that the new building was “a profound statement of institutional and collective belief.” He summed up the overarching mission of 245 Beacon Street by screening a video of the late Paul Farmer, the cofounder of the celebrated public health nonprofit Partners in Health, who spoke back in 2017 during the launch of BC’s Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, which is a centerpiece of the new facility. “Boston College can make its chief contribution in linking our understanding of science and technology to other broad categories,” Farmer said onscreen, “and in applying them in a reparative way to social problems.”
That simple message—that BC’s approach to integrated sciences is anchored in its mission to make the world a better place—resonated throughout the event. During his keynote address, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, policy entrepreneur, and NYU professor Paul Romer cited centuries of history to argue that science and society must remain deeply intertwined.
“Science encouraged everyone to be rigorous about honesty and integrity, and that bled into all of Western culture,” Romer said. “I don’t think we should take those values for granted. I think we should work to ensure that the next generation is also acculturated into a system that cares about integrity and truth.”
Thomas Chiles, vice provost for research, moderated a faculty panel featuring engineering Assistant Professor Avneet Hira, earth and environmental science Professor Yi Ming, and Fitzgerald Professor of Computer Science George Mohler, each of whom applies scientific methods to research into societal problems ranging from inequality to global warming.
And on the facility’s upper floors, the crowd listened to presentations by faculty and students in 245 Beacon’s many laboratories, maker spaces, and common areas.
In one presentation, held in the fifth-floor home of the new Engineering Department, department chair Glenn Gaudette and a team of students and fellows explained how they had managed to grow both sustainable meat proteins and human heart tissue on regular leaves of spinach. The decellularization processes involved were complex, Gaudette said, but the impulse behind them was simple enough. “We need engineers who can understand the real needs of society and culture, and then get to work on those problems,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing here: combining the technical with the non-technical so we can train engineers for others.”
Down the hall, Eddy Jiang ’22 chatted with guests about his work with the Affirm Lab, a School of Social Work initiative that is collaborating with the Schiller Institute to reduce inequities for marginalized youth. Jiang, now in his first year in BC’s Mental Health Counseling master’s program, said that working with computer scientists had been far from the intimidating challenge he initially imagined. “The beauty of the Schiller Institute is that it connects us,” he said, “but it lets us stay who we are.”
Back downstairs, students in the prototyping and maker spaces were using state-of-the-art equipment to their own creative ends. Will Gotanda ’25 had built a kinetic sculpture using the facility’s 3D printers and laser cutters, while Jasroop Dhingra ’25 had printed herself a new iPhone case. Their classmate Cyrus Rosen, a member of BC’s Carpentry Team who trains others to use the building’s industrial saws, was taking a moment for a personal project: a set of drawer dividers for his mom’s birthday. “I’d never seen a 3D printer or a vinyl cutter nine months ago, but now I consider myself proficient,” said human-centered engineering major Maggie Hynes ’25. “I love that anyone can access this space and learn, whatever they’re majoring in.”
Phil Schiller ’82 summed up the entire event and the mission of the building itself during his benefactor’s remarks. This kind of exploration and development was at the heart of the vision he and his wife Kim Gassett-Schiller had for the Schiller Institute and 245 Beacon as a whole, he told the crowd. “Come in during the day and see the students who fill the labs, the classrooms, and the halls with their creativity, curiosity, and enthusiasm,” Schiller said. “Because that’s what it’s all about, and that’s why we created this.”