Editor's notebook

Editor's notebook McGill University

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Home > McGill News > 2002 > Summer 2002 > Editor's notebook

Editor's notebook

McGill is on the threshold of an interesting era -- not in the sense intended by the Chinese curse ("May you live in interesting times") but in the fullest meaning of the word: fascinating, exciting, remarkable.

Each of those terms applies to the changes happening on campus. Construction cranes at the site of the proposed TechSquare are just one manifestation of the major expansion of McGill's physical and intellectual resources. The corner of the campus bordered by University Street and Pine Avenue is being transformed by the addition of the Montreal Genomics and Proteomics Centre (MGPC) and the Lorne M. Trottier Building. Already at the TechSquare site is the Wong Building, opened five years ago to bring together metallurgical engineers, chemists and physicists to collaborate on projects ranging from plastics simulation to toxic waste disposal.

TechSquare will further merge science, medicine, engineering and information technology, and the concentration of these facilities in one location is intended to encourage consultation and the exchange of ideas. It's even being built into the design, through the inclusion of open labs, small-group discussion spaces and a landscaped outdoor courtyard where colleagues can mingle.

The MGPC, funded by the federal and provincial governments as well as corporate and individual donors, will house experts in diseases caused by changes in genetic material. While genomics looks at the building blocks of an organism, proteomics studies the end product of DNA, the proteins produced. Identi-fying proteins in the body will tell researchers about the functions of genes and their role in transmitting or preventing disease.

The building should be finished in October and not far behind it will be the Trottier Building, named for Lorne M. Trottier, BEng'70, MEng'73, a successful entrepreneur in the high-tech field. Trottier gave $10 million so that the Faculty of Engineering could expand and improve undergraduate programs. The building's classrooms and lecture theatres will feature the latest high-tech tools, like digital projection and display systems and "smartboards" that manipulate computer applications with handwriting recognition software.

Trottier's gift, supplemented by donations from the Krieble Foundation, Marika Roy, BEng'61, IBM Bromont, Cisco Systems, the Quebec government and Science and Engineering reunion classes, allows McGill to introduce two new degree programs, in software engineering and microelectronics. Qualified students, once turned away because of lack of space, will now graduate as well trained technology professionals. Such graduates, says Trottier, "are the single most important resource fuelling our new economy."

There's more. In April, Francesco Bellini, the parent of a McGill student and founder of BioChem Pharma, also made a gift of $10 million. His donation will go towards construction of a Life Sciences Building adjacent to the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building. Researchers from Science and Medicine will work closely in the new facilities in five areas: cancer, genetics of complex traits, chemical biology, developmental and reproductive biology, and cell information transfer systems.

McGill has long needed a new building for its bursting-at-the-seams Faculty of Music and the provincial government has finally given the go-ahead. Again, a combination of contributions from the federal and Quebec governments and private donations has made a new building possible. The goal is to make the proposed musical arts centre the most advanced in the world for research, performance development and multimedia in music.

There is also talk of a new Arts building -- and it may not come a moment too soon. The administration, which had set a goal of hiring 100 new professors University-wide each year for the next decade, announced last week that 50 new professors will be hired in the Faculty of Arts alone over the next few months. Dean Carman Miller calls the accelerated plan an "unprecedented opportunity...to develop some fabulous new interdisciplinary programs in the fields of Canadian Studies, Renaissance Studies, the Environment, Health, Communications and Social Statistics."

On reflection, when you add it all up, it's beyond interesting, however wide the definition. It's forehead-smacking awesome. With the big things in place, priorities will include raising money to boost scholarships, fellowships and other student aid programs, acquiring the library resources to support new programs, and providing the staff and equipment to meet the needs of new faculty.

Thanks to a healthier economy, governments that have begun to value university-based research, partnerships with industry and other research institutions, and strong donor support, McGill now faces the pleasant dilemma of managing success.

May we always live in such interesting times.

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