Lab renovations to strengthen biological engineering research at Auburn

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University dedicated a Biological Engineering Research Laboratory on Thursday, Nov. 21. The newly renovated facility features advanced technology that researchers and administrators say will significantly enhance the research infrastructure of the university, the state and the region.

The $6 million renovation, funded by a $4.6 million National Science Foundation competitive grant and $1.6 million from the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, marks the first substantial improvements to the 22,800-square-foot lab since its construction in 1948.

“The new facility has contemporary laboratories that give us new capabilities to address engineering problems in biological systems, with specific emphasis on critical societal needs for producing renewable energy, maintaining clean and abundant water, providing safe and healthy foods, improving natural resource management and preserving the environment,” said Steve Taylor, Department of Biosystems Engineering head and professor.

The Biological Engineering Research Lab, more commonly known as BERL, is located directly behind the Corley Building. The renovation included replacing long-outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and the installation of air conditioning and crucial safety features, such as fume hoods.

“We now will have controlled-environment rooms and cold rooms where we can conduct research on food and other biological materials and we have labs for chemical analysis, biomaterial characterization, food engineering, the advanced study biological systems and high-bay labs for biomaterial processing and conversion,” Taylor said.

Additional features of the lab facility include a high-bay work area for the fabrication of research equipment and flexible, open high-bay spaces that allow multiple graduate students to work on a wide variety of problems.

“It has space to encourage students to collaborate and brainstorm on research questions,” Taylor said.

The updated facility, which will be used by biosystems engineering faculty and graduate students as well as their collaborators in other units on campus, should help increase extramural funding at Auburn and help biosystems engineering recruit the “best and brightest” graduate students and faculty, Taylor said.

Biosystems engineering research to be conducted in BERL ranges from the development of new techniques for processing and pretreating biomass used to produce liquid fuels or electrical power to the refinement of food processing and packaging techniques that extend the shelf-life and ultimate safety of food products.

Those participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Taylor; College of Agriculture Dean and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station Director Bill Batchelor; Auburn University Provost Tim Boosinger; Auburn Trustee Bob Dumas and biosystems engineering doctoral student Nouredine Abdoulmoumine.

(Submitted by Jamie Creamer.)

Contact: Jamie Creamer, College of Agriculture, (334) 844-2783 (creamjs@auburn.edu),
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)