Researchers Like New Labs

Nearly a year after Sherman Fairchild Biochemistry Building was vacated for renovations in order to accommodate newly-consolidated Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology laboratories, researchers say they are mostly settled and used to their new spaces.

The SCRB labs—which are scattered between Boston and Cambridge, including in Massachusetts General Hospital, the Longwood campus, and Fairchild—were originally supposed to come together in the Allston Science Complex. When construction on the Science Complex slowed down and then halted in 2009, plans were made to centralize SCRB in Fairchild instead.

Multiple members of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology were moved out of Fairchild into the Northwest Science Building last May to facilitate these changes.

David Jeruzalmi, associate professor of MCB, said that although work slowed down for about two weeks after the move in May, the pace picked up again in early summer.

“Moving is never easy and it was all compressed into a week and then the previous, let’s say a month, was spent planning the whole thing out,” he said.

Jeruzalmi’s lab and three others wanted to stay together, and they were very involved in the process of designing their new lab space in Northwest. The four labs occupied separate rooms in Fairchild but work in the same open space in Northwest.

“The space looks new and bright ... Everyone has a bench and a space but there aren’t any walls,” Jeruzalmi said. “They essentially gave us what we wanted.”

According to Jeruzalmi, the new configuration facilitates collaboration.

“Students can bounce ideas off each other and so forth,” he said.

Jeruzalmi said that although the move did not seem necessary at first, the new facilities suit his lab’s purposes better than expected.

“What we have is much better than what we had before,” he said. “I don’t think about Fairchild at all anymore.”

Members of SCRB, however, eagerly look forward to moving out of their temporary accommodations and into Fairchild. Director of Translational Medicine at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute Lee Rubin’s lab and office were located in Fairchild before the shift. He is now working in the Bauer Laboratory until he can return.

Rubin said he is excited about the prospect of newer, nicer labs but more than the space, he misses the interactions with other researchers.

“When Doug [Melton] and Kevin [Eggan] and I were in the same building, we’d run up and down 100 times [to confer],” Rubin said. He added that the consolidation of laboratories is a critical process for making SCRB feel like a department.

“The core of a department really is defined by the way people interact. Not just the faculty members, but the students and the post-docs—all those wonderful scientists together in one place,” he said.

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@college.harvard.edu.

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