Fontana Laboratories: a milestone in discovery and innovation

Posted: April 5, 2022

After much anticipation and some understandable delays, The Mars G. Fontana Laboratories finally welcomed donors and friends on April 1, 2022, to mark its long-awaited official grand opening.

Dean Ayanna Howard speaks at the Fontana Labs grand opening
Dean Ayanna Howard addresses the crowd at the grand opening.

“The vision for the Fontana Labs was born just over 10 years ago and today, we can officially celebrate a major milestone in discovery, innovation, and translation of new and emerging technologies to improve all facets of human life by opening this world-class facility,” said Chief Advancement and Economic Development Officer Chris Yates during a dedication ceremony on Friday.

Home to the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering, the completely renovated 124,000-square-foot Mars G. Fontana Laboratories on West 19th Avenue is the first phase of the Biomedical and Materials Engineering Complex, commonly referred to as BMEC. Thanks to generous donors and state investment, the space features seven engineering research neighborhoods, 14 teaching laboratories, five classrooms and a 159-seat auditorium.

Although occupants moved into the building in August 2020, a formal celebration was delayed due to the pandemic. The grand opening program featured remarks from College of Engineering Dean Ayanna Howard, Biomedical Engineering Honors student Aneesh Zutshi, Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson, Dale Heydlauff of American Electric Power, Materials Science and Engineering Chair Michael Mills, Vice Chancellor of Education for the State of Ohio Michael Duffy, and Martha Fontana Worth, daughter of Mars G. Fontana.

A two-year renovation project transformed the aging Koffolt and Fontana Lab buildings into modern, efficient spaces for 21st century teaching and research. It also enabled the College of Engineering to move the biomedical engineering academic program from west campus, and allowed both departments to significantly increase their undergrad and graduate student capacity.

President Kristina Johnson speaks at the Fontana Labs grand opening
University President Kristina Johnson

“On behalf of the students in the College of Engineering, I would like to personally say thank you to the individuals that helped make this building a reality,” said Zutshi. “Because of you, my fellow students and I have the physical resources to push the boundaries of our education and the research we are exposed to.”

At Friday’s dedication, Dean Howard thanked the industry partners, donors, alumni, and friends of the College of Engineering in the audience, without whom the project would not have been possible.

“If you look around this building, the contributions and the investments are about our students, research and enabling what was not possible before," said Howard. "This is what can happen when you reimagine what can happen within engineering. When you combine materials science and biomedical engineering and medicine all in the same space, working together side by side, amazing things happen. This would not be possible without this facility and this type of interaction.”

During her remarks, President Johnson quoted an excerpt from “Corrosion Engineering,” the landmark textbook authored by the late Professor Fontana, which focused on the importance of cross-disciplinary knowledge and application. The Mars G. Fontana Laboratories was specifically designed with a mandate for collaboration, uniting students, faculty and industry partners in a multi-disciplinary approach to solving the world’s problems.

Professor Jenifer Locke speaks with donors in her lab
Donors toured lab spaces, including that of Materials Science and Engineering Asst. Professor Jenifer Locke (left).

“This convergence of ideas and people is at the core of our ambition to make Ohio State the absolute model of a land-grant university for the 21st century,” said Johnson. “It’s central to our goal of setting a new standard of excellence in higher education. The Mars G. Fontana Laboratories was specifically designed with a mandate for collaboration, uniting students, faculty and industry partners in a multi-disciplinary approach to solving the world’s problems.”

Following the dedication ceremony, guests were encouraged to take a self-guided tour of the facility, which highlighted 11 innovative spaces throughout Fontana Labs, demonstrating the incredible work happening at the hands of students and faculty.

Read more about Mars G. Fontana Laboratories and the impact of philanthropy on the project.

View photos from the grand opening on Flickr.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |

Categories: CollegeGiving