Delaware State University to construct new optics center

Dover, Del.

Freshly turned earth is being prepared to make way for new construction on Delaware State University’s campus. The space is being prepared to make way for the university’s Optical Science Center for Applied Research.

Phase one of construction is set to be complete in the spring 2015.

The school’s optics program is currently housed in the Luna Mishoe Science Center, but the space is no longer meeting the department’s needs, said Dr. Noureddine Melikechi, dean of the optics department.

“The idea came about to build something new because we have so many ideas to advance STEM education, innovation and economic development, but to do that we need a good infrastructure,” Melikechi said.

Since the optics program was created in 1998 the department has developed two pieces of intellectual property, one of which is a laser installed on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. Staff in the optics department are also working on technology that could help treat the early stages of ovarian cancer, said University President Harry Williams.

The new optics lab will be built with the infrastructure necessary to support the specific temperature and humidity needs that an optics lab requires and will also feature a unique design, Melikechi said.

“The shape of the building says itself that it’s an optics building because it’s designed to look like a prism and a prism is a key optical element,” he said.

The 70,000-square-foot facility is set to house optical and computer laboratories, office space and a 150-seat auditorium. Space will also be included to foster economic development, Melikechi said.

“Under the same roof there will be a space dedicated to collaborating with potential industrial partners, potential startup companies or our own start-up,” Melikechi said. “We want to work with those innovators who wish to work with us to develop an idea and to get it to market.”

The facility is set to be built in two phases. The first 27,000-square-foot portion, which will house optical research labs, is slated to be complete by spring 2015. The beginning of the second phase of construction is still a few years off, according to Carlos Holmes, director of news services for the university.

The center, referred to as OSCAR, will be located on the southeast portion of DSU’s campus next to the Village Café and adjacent to the Education and Humanities Theater. Ground was broken for the facility in fall 2012, and construction manager for the project is Z whiting-Turner Construction Co., said Holmes.

The project is being funded with the help of $10 million in state funding that was included in Gov. Jack Markell’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The university is putting $5 million of its own money toward the project, Holmes said. University officials recently went before the General Assembly’s bond bill committee to request a total of $41.1 million be allotted for Delaware State University in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget; of that funding, $3 million was requested for the first phase of construction on the optics building. Delaware State also requested $28.8 million for the second phase of construction.