UTEP'S Planned Interdisciplinary Research Building Intended for World's Grand Challenges 

A new complex designed to enhance interdisciplinary research at The University of Texas at El Paso will sprout from the southeast corner of University Avenue and Sun Bowl Drive in the near future and herald a new era of discovery at UTEP.

The planned $85 million, 158,800-square-foot Interdisciplinary Research Building (IDRB) will provide faculty and students from different disciplines with the support and resources to tackle complex issues that face the world in the 21st century.

Peter Golding, Ph.D., professor of engineering education and leadership, said the state-of-the-art building speaks directly to the relevancy of interdisciplinary research, a concept that UTEP President Diana Natalicio and Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D., vice president for research, have championed for many years.

“To me, this investment will put our money where our mouth is,” said Golding, who added that today’s research in materials science cannot be done without an understanding of chemistry, biology, mathematics and nanotechnology. “They are all interconnected in a way that they weren’t once upon a time.”

University officials envision the IDRB as a tool to advance UTEP’s core values of access and excellence and its ability to pursue unique approaches to large- scale research that will attract world- class faculty and talented students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. “The building will provide a unique opportunity to foster interdisciplinary research in our growing areas of strength, while benefiting the quality of UTEP’s undergraduate and graduate students, as well as research and academic programs,” Osegueda said.

The building will consist of three wings within sight of Interstate 10. The north wing will be four floors and the middle and south wings will be five stories tall. The exterior will follow a Bhutanese architectural design and be landscaped with native or drought-resistant vegetation.

The first floor, which will be partially underground, will have core facilities and heavy equipment. The second floor, nicknamed “Main Street,” will handle the heaviest pedestrian traffic with a café, building visitor center, galleries to showcase research, meeting rooms and an 80-seat auditorium. The top three floors will have wet and dry labs and interdisciplinary research suites designed for maximum flexibility in size and use.

Among the highlights will be a “canyon-like” patio between the IDRB and the Undergraduate Learning Center. A planned bridge will span the canyon, which will have a water feature.

“We believe that this building will not only be a beautiful addition to our campus, but will raise our interdisciplinary research enterprise to a whole new level,” said Bill Hargrove, Ph.D., chair of the IDRB campus committee and director of UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management. “This building represents the way of the future.” - Daniel Perez