By Christopher Stevenson
Demolition has begun on a 1940s era building to make way for the Center for Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) at Montclair State University (MSU). CELS is an important commitment to MSU’s nearly 2,500 science and other majors in the College of Science and Mathematics (CSAM) – and to the students who will follow.
In the planning stages for over five years, CELS, at 100,000 square feet, will be one of the largest buildings on MSU’s campus. Its twin missions will be a devotion to the study of environment and sustainable use of natural resources and to focus on the scientific initiatives in global health. CELS will build on New Jersey’s pre-eminence in research and commercial development for the global life sciences industry and on MSU’s long tradition of providing employees for it.
The cost of CELS will be $55 million and Montclair State University’s goal is to raise $20 million in corporate, foundation and philanthropic support for the project. “For more than a century, Montclair State University has been responding to the educational and workforce needs of an ever-evolving New Jersey”, said Dr. Susan Cole, the President of MSU. “The Center for Environmental and Life Sciences reflects our continued commitment to that core mission. The development of the CELS building will help ensure our future ability to meet the rapidly changing research, workforce and partnership paradigm of our state’s life sciences industry.”
CELS’ role as a “hub” for scientific partnerships will build on MSU’s history of effective collaborations. In the past few years, MSU has shown its strong ability to cut across its four colleges and two schools to foster effective, bottom-line partnerships with New Jersey’s private research community led by its life sciences and “green technology” industries.
But “collaboration” today means something very different than it did even a decade ago. Internally, MSU realized long ago that traditional academic silos could no longer stand in isolation. For example, business and science leaders at MSU have long worked together as is done in industry. Externally, MSU’s Sokol Institute for Pharmaceutical Life Sciences has attracted a number of critical evaluative projects with New Jersey’s life sciences industry. The Sokol Institute – hard at work developing other evaluative relationships with the pharmaceutical industry – will be a key resident of CELS.
One of those emerging relationships is with Celgene Corporation, now listed as the fifth largest biopharma company in the world. Celgene had humble beginnings as a spin-off from the former Hoechst Celanese Corporation in the late 1980s. Since 2009, MSU and the Sokol Institute have entered into an evaluative research partnership with the Celgene Corporation.
Those forces – and others – will come together within CELS as it fosters the unique interplay between New Jersey technology and health industries and academia. Critical to this mission, and inherent within the new building and the rapidly changing landscape of the sciences in New Jersey, will be:
• MSU’s ability to expand capacity and generate new long-term discoveries, new processes, and new technologies. This is critical to support the long-term growth of New Jersey’s life sciences and related cluster industries.
• Efforts to enhance life sciences research partnerships. MSU has attracted a number of key industry leaders to its campus and CELS will help attract many others.
• CELS physical structure is designed to promote interdisciplinary research and collaboration by providing flexible research space.
• A large suite for CELS state-of-the-art research laboratories specifically designed to serve as incubator sites for emerging industries.
• CELS modern and collaboratively designed facilities for some of MSU’s well-established programs within environmental management and sustainability, such as the Passaic River Institute and the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies.
• CELS research capacity to provide the expanded capabilities necessary to examine the unique environmental challenges of New Jersey’s coastal infrastructure within an environment very susceptible to the ramifications of global climate change.
The layout flexibility of CELS will help MSU maintain and enhance its reputation for leadership in environmental management and sustainability studies. CELS will help MSU greatly extend its unique Ph.D. program in Environmental Management, one of only a handful of such programs in the United States, and a first in the state of New Jersey. CELS will also deeply expand the research capacity of the Sokol Institute for Pharmaceutical Life Sciences during a time of “reinvention” in that industry.
Great programs need an appropriate home such as CELS. CELS represents years of careful and focused planning for MSU’s continued leadership for training in the sciences. It will help produce students who are strategic thinkers and who possess the science savvy and leadership capabilities that are essential to New Jersey’s industries. New Jersey’s economic future depends upon CELS!
Christopher Stevenson is a member of the Bridgewater law firm of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, where he practices environmental, land use, and redevelopment law and is the convener of the firm’s Green Energy and Buildings Practice Group. He holds Master’s Degrees in Environmental Management and Business Administration from MSU.