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Undergraduate Laboratory for Molecular Engineering
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Remember the stories about the Undergraduate Laboratory? That room with really old equipment. That small, cluttered, dingy room on the first floor. Well, those stories are about to change. Prof. Mark Davis put together a crew, found sponsors and essentially formed Caltech's own "Extreme Makeover: Lab Edition" to completely transform Room 122 by the end of 2004.

Sears may sponsor ABC's home makeover series, but this project has even better sponsors. The renovation and upgrade of the Undergraduate Laboratory for Molecular Engineering is made possible through the generous donations of Joyce and Ed McDowell (MS 60 ChE; PhD 64 ChE) and Greg Stone (BS, MS 74 ChE).

And what about the crew? No, we couldn't convince Ty Pennington ("Extreme Makeover: Home Edition") or Paige Davis ("Trading Spaces") to join us for this historic makeover. Our crew, led by Dr. Michael Vicic, includes:

  • space & curriculum consultants: Profs. Costas Giapis, Anand Asthagiri, Mark Davis
  • construction management: Greg Norden
  • building management: Patty Hess
  • general contractor: R.M. Lane
  • many subcontractors

You'll see many new faces working in Room 122 over the next few months.

If you're tuning in for the first time, here's a quick synopsis of what's happened so far. The team started its work in March 2004 and generated a general concept for the lab--open space, large working areas, versatile lab configurations, plentiful utilities and top-of-the-line equipment. During April and May, the team reduced this concept to an initial design, allowing the demo crew to start its work in June. Then the team refined the design in June and July and chose the contractor in August. The contractor started work on Aug 11, 2004.


When construction ends at the end of the year, you won't recognize the lab space. First of all, Room 122 will be one large room again. All the interior walls have already been removed, leaving 950 square feet of wide-open space. Next, all low-hanging ducts are being raised, making all permanent fixtures higher than eight feet from the floor. The room will be lined with deep lab benches on the East wall, two hoods and a lab bench on the West wall, and a narrow working counter on the South wall. Four large islands will be located in the middle of the room. And a dominant feature of the new lab will be the 6-ft long x 4-ft high glass window in the hallway.

Despite the new digs, the objective of the Undergraduate Laboratory remains the same—use hands-on experiments to reinforce essential concepts in kinetics, control theory, thermodynamics and transport phenomena. What about the actual experiments for ChE126a? Some of your favorites will be modernized--you won’t even recognize the QCM experiment. Other new experiments are currently being developed. As in the past, students will work in small groups and rotate through three experiments during the term.

...and now back to your regularly-scheduled programming.


©2004 California Institute of Technology. All Rights Reserved.

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