Donors leave their mark on new Fontana Labs

Posted: October 13, 2020

With approval from The Ohio State University Board of Trustees, College of Engineering leadership has named spaces in recognition of generous donors whose support helped realize the first phase of the Biomedical and Materials Engineering Complex (BMEC)—the Mars G. Fontana Laboratories.

Exterior of the new Mars G. Fontana Laboratories
The Mars G. Fontana Laboratories

The completely renovated $59.1 million, 124,000-square-foot building opened in August and is home to the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering

“The Biomedical and Materials Engineering Complex will prepare Buckeye engineers to think creatively, problem solve and identify opportunities in ways that increase productivity, tackle global challenges and revolutionize products, services and systems like never before,” said College of Engineering Dean David B Williams, the Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean’s Chair.

The new Fontana Labs will amplify research and interdisciplinary collaboration, especially between engineering and medicine. The facility features seven engineering research neighborhoods, 14 teaching laboratories, five classrooms and a 159-seat auditorium.

“What excites me most about the laboratories is that it’s built upon the premise that interpersonal interactions lead to new ideas and new directions in research and learning, and the new Fontana Labs allows that to occur,” said Materials Science and Engineering Chair Mike Mills.

It also enables the college to meet a long-time goal of bringing the biomedical engineering academic program to central campus.

For undergraduates, the location on central campus will be transformative,” said Biomedical Engineering Chair Samir Ghadiali. “The building is so well designed, with attractive spaces that people will naturally want to use. That will lead to more conversations and collaborations.”

Spanning all four floors of the building, the American Electric Power Foundation Atrium includes ample workspaces for students and faculty.

Light-filled central atrium
American Electric Power Foundation Atrium

It is named in recognition of the American Electric Power Foundation who made a significant grant to help finalize the construction as well as support K-12 STEM education and outreach. The American Electric Power Foundation Lecture Series will be hosted in the adjacent 159-seat auditorium. 

“We are committed to educating our young people and providing opportunities for future scientists, engineers and technologists to learn, innovate and make our communities stronger,” said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and CEO, and chairman of the AEP Foundation. “We’re delighted to join Ohio State in a mutual desire to ensure a brighter technological future for us all.” 

Located on the first floor, the Charles R. Morin, Jr. Teaching and Research Laboratory is a hybrid teaching and research laboratory where students and faculty will focus on the theory, application and associated research of structural materials and thermodynamic properties of materials.

It is named in recognition of the significant contributions from Amy N. Morin Martin, Jason D. Morin, Karen L. Coleman and Kelly L. Beyer in honor of their late father, Charles R. Morin, Jr. ’72 (BS, MS, metallurgical engineering) who was a lifelong supporter of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and its students.

“Our dad was very passionate about inspiring young people in all sorts of ways to make the field exciting and attract more young people to the field,” said Amy N. Morin Martin. “We hope that the building will inspire young people to think about the major and that it will come to light through the cross-curricular studies, how integral materials science is in so many aspects of our lives.”

The John Ratliff Research Laboratory is the new home of the Fontana Corrosion Center, one of the oldest and most renown corrosion research centers in the country. 

Lab benches and shelving
The John Ratliff Research Laboratory is the new home of the Fontana Corrosion Center.

The fourth floor laboratory is named after John L. Ratliff ’69 (PhD, metallurgical engineering) in recognition of his significant contributions.

“Ohio State provided me with a wonderful and financially rewarding life and is therefore deserving of a payback, hence my gifting,” Ratliff said. “I hope it will inspire students and benefit education.”

The Robert E. Schafrik Research Laboratory is the new research home of Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Jenifer Locke. Located on the lower level, it supports her research in environment-assisted cracking and corrosion of metals and alloys. 

The facility is named in honor of Robert E. Schafrik ’79 (PhD, metallurgical engineering) for his significant contributions to the College of Engineering. A National Academy of Engineering member and longstanding MSE External Advisory Committee member, he was an early supporter of the BMEC project.

“Bob really valued getting advanced degrees. He thought it was important for a person’s career and he encouraged all of our children and grandchildren in that direction,” said Mary Schafrik, who made a gift to support Fontana Labs in honor of her late husband. “He also went out of his way to provide mentoring and encouragement to women to choose engineering as a career option. I thought this gift would be a good way to encourage both those things.”

Final construction projects in Fontana Labs are scheduled to be completed in October and a grand opening celebration is being planned for 2021, once it is safe to do so.

Watch a video tour of the new Fontana Labs.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,

Categories: GivingAlumniCollege