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CBEC: An investment in innovation

The new Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building, commonly known as CBEC, represents Ohio State University’s bold investment in creating a state-of-the-art, collaborative environment for 21st century teaching and research.

Located in the heart of the science and engineering neighborhood, the new facility expands real-world learning opportunities for students; enhances interdisciplinary collaboration to advance critical research in energy, advanced materials, polymers and bioengineering; and fuels Ohio’s economy through industry partnerships.


“As the state’s signature research institution, we must attract and prepare future engineers and scientists who can solve the world’s toughest problems. With areas optimized for collaboration, top-notch research facilities and premiere learning spaces, this building is the ideal environment for these future leaders to thrive,” said College of Engineering Dean David B. Williams. “CBEC is our investment in innovation.”

While its residents began moving into the building last fall and it quietly opened for operations in January, the university officially celebrated the grand opening of CBEC on April 10, 2015. The program included remarks by Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, Ohio Board of Regents Senior Vice Chancellor Gary Cates, faculty, students and alumni.

President Drake noted that CBEC represents more than a new building with structural appeal.

“CBEC sets a new precedent for interdisciplinary collaboration at Ohio State, with two powerhouse departments from different colleges coming together for the first time: Chemical and biomolecular engineering from the College of Engineering, and chemistry and biochemistry from the College of Arts and Sciences,” he said. 

CBEC Grand Opening


Calling CBEC the “Horseshoe of innovation,” Congresswoman Joyce Beatty discussed its importance as an investment in the future.

“We live in an innovation economy and we must invest in basic research,” Beatty said. “While this is only a building, it is a building that will allow our best and brightest to explore their ideas and create a better and brighter world for all Americans.” 

A $126 million construction project, backed by $70 million in state funds, CBEC is the first LEED-certified laboratory building at Ohio State. Engineering alumni played an instrumental role in generating the funds necessary to make CBEC possible, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Interim Chair Andre Palmer said. 

“We’re very grateful to the alumni for making this building a reality,” Palmer said. “In fact, we would not be here celebrating today if Bill Lowrie had not brought to us his inspiration and dedication to create a new home for Koffolt Laboratories.”

Lowrie, a ‘66 chemical engineering grad, and his wife, Ernestine, donated $17 million to support construction of the new facility and other initiatives. During his comments at the opening celebration, Lowrie credited former Chemical Engineering Chair Joseph Koffolt with “laying the bedrock for this building by instilling in us deep respect for the profession, loyalty and the value of teamwork.”

“Moving from the worn out Koffolt Laboratories to this magnificent new building has resulted in a state-of-the-art education and research facility for chemical and biomolecular engineering education and research,” Lowrie said. “The big bonus is that it will foster more collaborative research because of the proximity students and faculty will enjoy.”

Spanning 237,000 square feet, the building is home to the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, several research teams from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and to Koffolt Laboratories.

The building comprises a six-story tower for offices and theoretical research connected by bridges to a four-story lab wing with experimental research and teaching spaces. Every floor includes open communal areas, or laboratory neighborhoods, that provide research space for more than 400 engineers and scientists.

Laboratories have been custom-built with the proper floor-to-ceiling height — some of them 20 feet — to accommodate the massive, state-of-the-art instrumentation required to support intensive research that can be done there.

The new industry-standard unit operations lab is another hallmark of the facility. Housing process-scale equipment, including a two-story high distillation column, it provides students with a unique, hands-on experience using industrial equipment and teaches them the latest safety protocols and techniques. The space is surrounded by glass, allowing visitors and prospective students to get a first-hand look at the types of experiments chemical engineers do.

CBEC also features a premier student study and work lounge, computer labs, transparent floor-to-ceiling exteriors and energy-saving window panels. 

“Since I’ve been at Ohio State for a semester in this brand new building, I’m comparing the labs that I tour on graduate school visits to this lab,” says Hannah Zierden, a recent chemical engineering graduate. “Not very many of them can measure up to what I have here.”

Soon CBEC will launch students into promising careers. It will also increase Ohio State’s potential to recruit top faculty, post-docs and graduate students, and leverage large-scale grants.

“Recruitment is key to success,” said Barbara Wyslouzil, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, as well as chemistry and biochemistry. “Having a building like this instead of a fifty-year-old building to show to someone means that you’re serious about science and you’re serious about furthering the opportunities that people have at Ohio State."