GRAND RAPIDS — It’s a dream that has been five years in the making – the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center is finally open for business.
Thirty-three research teams will move into the 162,800 square foot space this fall to research neurological disorders, cancers, women’s health issues and more. The six story building has room to grow and will eventually accommodate 44 teams.
The MSU Research Center is located at the gateway of the city’s “Medical Mile”, a community of health institutions. The center will be a collaborative think tank for researchers from a plethora of institutions including Michigan State, Grand Valley, the Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health.
“You talk about Spectrum, or the Van Andel Institute, or the children’s hospital, and you put them all together and the world changes,” said Michigan’s lieutenant governor Brian Calley.
Health professionals directly influenced the $88.1 million dollar building’s design scheme. They included more open lab spaces that foster conversation. The building is LEED certified and has a unique air filtration system that will sustain a clean lab environment.
The space looks a little empty right now, but Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon urged guests at the opening ceremony to imagine busy scientists working to find cures.
“When you see those empty spaces that are those lab benches I want you to imagine people working together,” said Simon. “Imagine people thinking of things that we cannot yet imagine.”
The building was funded by a group of donors, including Peter Secchia and the DeVos family. Michigan State invited Betsy DeVos, the country’s secretary of education, to speak at the ceremony.
Ph.D candidate Sarah Kelly will move into the building to complete her dissertation. She says she’s thrilled to move in and get started, but she wasn’t all smiles at the grand opening. She arrived at the ribbon-cutting with a hand-made sign and a crew of protesters.
“I’m directly affected as a student and as a worker by this opening ceremony with Betsy DeVos here,” said Kelly. “Honestly, Betsy DeVos does not represent Michigan State, she has lobbied for millions and millions of budget cuts to public education.”
DeVos was confirmed to the cabinet in February, by a narrow referendum that was decided by Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote. The Grand Rapids billionaire is an advocate of school-choice and backs policies favoring school privatization.
Kelly held a sign that read “Public Education enemy No. 1” and recruited other protesters through Facebook. She occupied one corner of the sidewalk adjacent to the new building, while counter-protesters marched nearby.
“Make education great, who can argue with that?” said Anthony Markwort, a DeVos supporter. “We support what the secretary of education and the president are doing…we wanted to make sure that both sides of the argument are heard.”
While protesters and counter protesters chanted a few hundred yards from the ceremony, Lou Anna Simon thanked DeVos for her commitment to research.
“We can share a vision, and it’s about having children who are healthy,” said Simon. “Children who are well-educated, and children who’s dreams are always bigger tomorrow than they are today.”