John O'Neil

From cell to society – health sciences research blossoms at Blusson Hall

September 17, 2008

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By Julie Ovenell-Carter

It’s a building as innovative as the faculty it houses: Blusson Hall, the greenest building on campus and home of the fledgling Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), officially opens Wednesday Sept. 17.

The $56.9-million three-storey complex is named for Vancouver philanthropists Stewart and Marilyn Blusson who contributed $12 million to the project.

Designed by Vancouver-based architects Busby, Perkins and Will, the new building exceeds Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards with numerous planet-friendly features such as a green (planted) roof, sustainably harvested wood products, limited use of off-gassing construction materials, storm-water collection for irrigation, radiant-floor heating and abundant natural light.

The U-shaped building frames a tranquil courtyard that references Arthur Erickson’s original design for the AQ gardens. Inside features airy tiers of offices, classrooms and seminar rooms, a computing lab and lecture theatre, and open-plan wet and dry labs that ensure efficient use of research space and equipment. And a recent $4-million gift from Vancouver developer Djavad Mowafaghian will soon help build a containment lab for infectious disease research.

It’s a fitting shelter for the four-year-old FHS — "a unique and logical extension of SFU’s commitment to excellence in teaching and research in the fields of science, public policy and interdisciplinary programs," according to dean John O’Neil (above).

"Our cell-to-society focus in the areas of infectious disease, environmental health, mental health and addictions, and global health brings together experts from the social science, biomedical and public health sectors. Together, they provide students with the skills necessary to tackle pressing global issues and affect positive change in the lives and health of people in Canada and around the world."

That ability to "explore and understand connections at the cellular, community and global level" is what convinced criminology undergrad Benjamin Lee to pursue an extended minor in health science. "It’s the only health sciences program in the country to offer such a comprehensive interdisciplinary education."

Bruce Lanphear, one of the dynamic new faculty recruits (see feature p. 6), looks forward to "the new ideas coming from young, fresh investigators." He acknowledges that FHS "is a new program still finding its way, but that just means it’s wide open to innovation—not set in its ways. And that’s when the most exciting and unpredictable things can happen."
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