The Robert B. Goergen Hall for Biomedical Engineering and Optics will be dedicated to Robert B. Goergen ’60 on May 17, although some classes are currently being held in the building this semester. The fall semester will see many more BME and optics classes held in the recently-finished hall.

“The opening of the 101,000-square-foot facility, the first new academic building for the College in 20 years, represents an important milestone in the progress of our University,” UR President Joel Seligman said in the most recent Rochester Review.

The new building houses both the BME department and the optics department, both of whom were in search of a new home or room to expand. The BME department’s faculty is spread all over campus; therefore, with the construction of a new building, the department will be unified. In the case of the Optics department, room for expansion was needed.

The Institute of Optics was founded in 1929 and is the oldest Optics department in the United States. It remained in the Eastman building until 1931, at which point the department was moved to Bausch and Lomb Hall. From 1931 to 1977, optics had control of the top floor of the hall. Following the construction of the Wilmot Building in 1961, optics moved into Wilmot in 1977 and has occupied it ever since.

Conversely, the BME department is the youngest program in the college, founded in 2000. Combining one of the University’s oldest programs with one of its newest serves to create an environment in which collaboration among scientists and researchers can take place.

“The two departments have separate identities, but the nature of the building encourages people to work together,” Director of the Institute of Optics Wayne Knox said.

The building is meant to foster this sense of interdisciplinary cooperation due to its “openness and light,” Knox said. With whiteboards outside nearly every door, researchers and professors are encouraged to put their latest research on display, so as to share their experiences.

The building’s five floors include teaching labs, exhibits, classrooms, auditoriums and computer classrooms. The basement houses nano-BME and optics labs, while the second and third floors are reserved for the BME department. Optics occupies the fourth and fifth floors and, as of Monday, April 2, they were moving in furniture, as BME had already done.

One of the many innovations in the building is a set of tunnels connecting Wilmot to Goergen Hall, providing easy access to both buildings. Two other points of interest for students are the coffee shop, slated to open this summer, and complete access to wireless Internet throughout the entire building.

“We will not be able to open the Pura Vida coffee shop until August,” Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf said. “There were a number of delays for a variety of reasons. As it gets later in the semester, it makes less and less sense to rush to get it open.”

Finally completed, the new Goergen Hall took roughly $37.5 million and three years to create and construct. It was only through the donations of Goergen himself, in addition to other alumni, including Charles Munnerlyn and Thomas Sloan, as well as the Whitaker Foundation and New York State and federal funds, that the building was possible.

Halusic is a member of the class of 2010.

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