New $100m centre to meet global scientific challenges

Posted on March 5, 2013


Sustaining Australia’s knowledge economy and prosperity into the future: Dean of Science, Technology and Engineering Brian McGaw, speaks at the opening

A new world-class research and education facility – the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) – was opened on the University’s Melbourne campus in February.

The $100 million complex will continue to grow the University’s world-class research in molecular science, biotechnology and nanotechnology. It will train the next generation of scientists in these fields, to translate findings into commercial products, and to develop outreach programs to engage school students.

Transformation of Australian universities: Vice-Chancellor Dewar and Parliamentary Secretary Ms Bird after unveiling the plaque

Transformation of Australian universities: Vice-Chancellor Dewar and Parliamentary Secretary Ms Bird after unveiling the plaque

The LIMS complex was opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar and the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills, Ms Sharon Bird.

The stunning six-storey molecular sciences research hub was built with generous support from the Commonwealth Government and the University’s own resources.

It houses 34 research and 11 teaching laboratories and more than 400 scientists, teachers and staff. It also has a 180-seat auditorium, public access areas for joint programs and workshops.

Brilliant labs and facilities

Professor Dewar said La  Trobe is one of Australia’s top research universities in cell biology and biochemistry. ‘The brilliant labs and facilities our researchers can access at LIMS will help bolster our lead in these important disciplines.’

‘We are committed to research that helps solve global problems and improve the welfare of human societies, and the work we are doing at LIMS is a great example of how we are putting this into action.’

Ms Bird said the building was another example of the transformation of Australian universities under the Federal Government’s Education Investment Fund.

High visual impact of X and Y chromosome elements in the new building

High visual impact of X and Y chromosome structural elements in the new building

With four of La Trobe’s research areas – analytical chemistry, biochemistry and cell biology, microbiology and veterinary sciences – well above world standard in the latest Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) survey, Ms Bird said molecular science research and teaching at the University will benefit immensely from this facility.

Executive Dean of Science, Technology and Engineering, Professor Brian McGaw, said there were enormous challenges world-wide relating to human health and food security.

‘These challenges come at a time where we face new diseases, antibiotic resistance, climate change and a growing population.’

‘LIMS already has an international reputation for its research into the basis of human, plant and animal disease, and in driving technological approaches to combating disease,’ Professor McGaw said.

‘With its capacity for multi-disciplinary research, LIMS is crucial to our ability to meet future research challenges, as well as attracting the best students to study with us.

‘This isn’t just important for the research activities here at La Trobe, but also for sustaining the knowledge economy and the prosperity of Victoria and Australia into the future,’ Professor McGaw said.

New forms of science co-operation

Realisation of a vision: Professor Hoogenraad speaks at the opening

Realisation of a vision: Professor Hoogenraad talks about the impact of the new centre

Professor Nick Hoogenraad is Executive Director of LIMS and Head of the School of Molecular Sciences.

He said the new complex will allow academics and researchers from chemistry, biochemistry and genetics to work together to achieve results that would not be possible in traditional university settings.

‘The LIMS building has been designed to change work habits and to allow interaction between different groups. Integrating the research activities of the various departments allows more collaboration between researchers,’ he said.

The innovative building has been designed by Lyons Architects. The eye-catching exterior is matched by creative teaching and work spaces that are designed to promote collaboration, interaction, and efficient use of space.

More stories on the work of LIMS:  Heredity – it’s not all in your DNA;  Institute harnesses expertise for cancer research;   World-leading scientist joins LIMS

Benefit for regional students

Students at regional campuses are also benefitting from the new facility.

Laboratory work at LIMS

Laboratory work at LIMS

Head of Environmental Management and Ecology at Albury-Wodonga campus, Dr Susan Lawler, says many local students in areas including agriculture and wildlife, and conservation biology, will undertake some of their second and third year studies at the Melbourne campus.

‘They will benefit from great teaching labs, research facilities and access to an improved learning environment at the LIMS complex.’

For example, local biochemistry honours student, Roxanne Smith, who began studying chemistry and biochemistry in 2010, now works in the new building. Although chemistry wasn’t her best subject at school, Ms Smith was inspired by her University lecturers to continue with chemistry and biochemistry.

Meningitis research: Roxanne Smith in front of LIMS

Meningitis research: Roxanne Smith on her new campus

After moving to Melbourne to further her studies, she decided to do an honours degree because of La Trobe’s reputation in biochemistry and cell biology. Her research focuses on the bacterium that causes meningitis, and is a step towards her career goal in drug design to help cure disease.

As one of the first occupants of the new building with its $10 million worth of new scientific equipment, she says she is ‘very proud and grateful for the opportunity to undertake my studies at LIMS, in Australia’s top biochemistry laboratory’.

Pharmacy and chemistry at Bendigo

Chemistry and pharmacy students at the Bendigo campus will also have improved access to top researchers and new facilities at LIMS.

Associate Dean (Regional) in Science, Technology and Engineering, Dr Katherine Legge, says her faculty runs an outreach program for high schools, which brings students to La Trobe to demonstrate career prospects in the sciences.

‘Access to LIMS experts and facilities will enhance their learning experience’, she says. – Suzi Macbeth

Staff, students and visitors inspect the new building after February's opening

Staff, students and visitors inspect the new building after February’s opening