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Three at MIT conceive cell-shaped building

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--An innovative cell-shaped building will house a new biomedical research institute in Chengdu, China, thanks to an unusual crossdisciplinary collaboration between Shuguang Zhang, a world-renowned bioengineer and scientist at MIT, his former student, architecture major Sloan Kulper, and computer science and electrical engineering major Audrey Roy.

Kulper (S.B. 2003) and Roy (S.B. 2005) designed the cell-shaped building for the Institute for Nanobiomedical Technology and Membrane Biology in Chengdu, China, the regional capital of Sichuan province in southwestern China. The proposed new facility will contain 170,000 square feet of laboratory, research and meeting spaces; it is slated for construction over the next three years. The building is intended to look like a cell from the outside and to include an assortment of forms inspired by molecular biology inside.

Zhang, associate director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering, will serve as founding advisor of the new Nanobiomedical Institute, to be sited at Chengdu's Sichuan University, where Zhang received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry. Zhang met Kulper in 2002, when he took Zhang's course, "Molecular Structure of Biological Materials: Structure, Function and Self-assembly."

In the class, Zhang frequently discusses the striking similarities between architecture and biological structures, he said. "Nature has produced abundant magnificent, intricate and fine molecular and cellular structures through billions of years of molecular selection and evolution.

"These invisible molecular and cellular structures cannot be seen by the naked eye, but can only be observed with the most sophisticated scientific tools, such as X-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance, or modeled with advanced computers. But if they can be amplified billions of times as in a building, then these molecular structures can be seen, touched and admired. At that large sca
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
7-Aug-2006


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