Artist rendering of HST building

An artist's rendering of the inside of Lehigh's new Health, Science and Technology building.

A Revolutionary New Space for Interdisciplinary Research

Lehigh's new Health, Science and Technology building is scheduled to open in 2022.

The Health, Science and Technology building, slated to open in early 2022, is being heralded as a revolutionary space for interdisciplinary research, where thinkers with different perspectives can join forces to address important questions.

The facility, also home to the College of Health, has open-concept labs, transparent walls, staggered staircases, integrated workspaces and a community forum, laid out in a way that prompts unexpected meetings among students and colleagues.

“The most innovative interdisciplinary research ideas come from sticky collisions,” said Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor and Chair Steven McIntosh. "They come from striking up conversation next to someone new while you’re getting coffee. The HST building is designed extremely well to have those collisions. ... You have to move around.”

We asked some of the faculty who will be working in HST about the discoveries and collaborations that the space might make possible.

Fathima Wakeel

Fathima Wakeel

Fathima Wakeel
Maternal and Child Health

The community is Wakeel’s lab. Working with local stakeholders, she’s devoted to understanding maternal resilience and what resources women need to cope with trauma and stress during pregnancy. In 2020, she also launched two studies on COVID-19 impacts. Her team includes researchers in education, psychology, journalism, data visualization and even business as a way to understand perceptions about various aspects of the pandemic, such as vaccine intentions and behaviors, stress and coping. “I’m really excited about the Community Forum space, where we can let people come in anonymously and be able to run focus groups. 
… HST will facilitate Lehigh’s connection with the community.”

Thomas McAndrew

Thomas McAndrew

Thomas McAndrew
Computational Scientist

McAndrew builds ensemble algorithms that combine predictions from computational models and humans to forecast the transmission and burden of infectious agents. In other words: He gives a weather report for the flu and COVID-19. But the goal is to also understand how best to share the resulting information. “If you had the world’s most perfect algorithm and could accurately predict exactly the number of deaths or hospitalizations one week from today, that would actually solve no problems. I need others to communicate that information in a way that convinces other people to act.” He looks forward to interacting with people in communications, behavioral economics, psychology and other fields.

Steven McIntosh

Steven McIntosh

Steven McIntosh
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

McIntosh and colleagues are already collaborating on a new project: artificial meat. Combining their specialties of antibiotic resistance, biomaterials, scaffold microstructures and energy, they are working out how to grow muscle tissue in the lab. If it works and catches on, it could alleviate environmental hazards. “Fertilizer is a highly chemical substance. It goes into crops, which go into animal feed. It’s a highly inefficient process. So let’s skip all of that. Don’t grow the crop. Don’t bother feeding an animal. If you want to eat meat, grow the meat.”

Elsa Reichmanis

Elsa Reichmanis

Elsa Reichmanis
Chemical Engineering

A pioneer in microlithography, Reichmanis continually imagines new forms of advanced materials—like organic material that supports electrical current. One “cool” application, she says, would be in a biomedical device that supports electronic signaling mechanisms in the nervous system, allowing people with nerve damage to function in new ways. “That’s not something I could do from a purely materials or device standpoint—I’m not a biologist or in the bio sector—but a team of people might be able to have an impact. … The more conversations we have, the more stuff gets started.”

Hyunok Choi

Hyunok Choi

Hyunok Choi
Public Health

Understanding how pollution causes asthma in children would mean better treatments, new policies and improved health. “It would be a moonshot to be able to develop an effective strategy that is targeted to air pollution-driven asthma,” says Choi. With colleagues in education, biology, psychology, business and engineering, she’s exploring aspects ranging from cell development to how schools might help intervene. “I could never do any of this alone,” Choi says. “Being together means the world to us researchers.”

Anand Jagota

Anand Jagota

Anand Jagota
Bioengineering

Understanding how a snail holds onto a wall has helped Jagota uncover ways a tire can better grip a road, and how to make glue that releases on command. Now, he’s looking at how viruses stick to cells. Or, more importantly, how to keep viruses from adhering, to prevent infection. The work bridges health, computational methods, bioengineering and more. “We need to be constantly talking to each other. We’ll be much more prolific in generating science and proposals and ideas if we keep seeing each other on a day-to-day basis.”

Story by Janet Norwood

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