The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact had its virtual grand opening on Dec. 2. The campus, which focuses on biomedical technologies, aims to advance society through science and shorten the timeline between discovery and societal impact.
Phil and Penny Knight gifted $500 million to the University of Oregon for this building project in 2016, and state bonds and additional philanthropy have added an extra $70 million. Construction began on March 2, 2018, and after approximately 800,000 labor hours, the campus was completed.
The Knight Campus is composed of four research “neighborhoods” in the same building, and these neighborhoods serve as facilities for imaging, 3-D printing and rapid prototyping. Scientists at the campus are working on startups such as 3-D printing orthopedic implants, creating devices with built-in sensors to monitor healing and commercializing a molecule to treat vision disorders.
The average time it takes to move the average biotechnology discovery to the market is 10 years, and scientists at the Knight Campus are hoping to reduce that time to just weeks.
The campus was built to allow someone to see everyone else in the building at all times. The all-window design allows for open communication and quicker collaboration between the researchers in their respective fields. The idea is that the scientists can take their research from one stage to the next, by simply walking across the building.
The Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program provides a career-focused accelerated master’s degree, with a nine-month, hands-on internship for graduates. Undergraduates can immerse themselves in research through The Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholars Program, which pairs undergrads with mentors in a lab setting.
The campus, in partnership with OSU, also offers a doctoral program in bioengineering, the first engineering degree offered by UO.
The Knight Campus is mainly operating remotely until at least March; however, researchers and students are allowed to work in the building under strict COVID-19 protocols. Everything in the building from the furniture to the offices is spaced 6 feet apart, and the building is not yet open to the public. But, when COVID-19 restrictions are eventually lifted, those at the Knight Campus say they hope it can be a place for all UO students to gather, regardless of their major.
There are several tributes to Oregon in the building’s architecture, if one looks closely enough. The peaks of the Cascades are abstractly represented on the glass wall of the southern commons, and the water feature on one of the building’s sides is meant to represent the headwaters of the McKenzie River. Another feature that pays homage to UO is the ceramic frit pattern based on the DNA sequence of a duck, located on two layers of glass so the pattern changes as one walks by.
These are only a few of the many subtle architectural features on Knight Campus, and an app allows students to experience 360-degree views of the entire building. The app is called UO Knight Campus, and it can also be accessed on the campus website.
Those who have driven across Franklin Boulevard in the past year and a half have most likely passed under the tied-arch skybridge, which was put into place during a single week in summer 2019. The bridge connects the Knight Campus to other UO science facilities in a completely transparent glass enclosure.
The university recently announced that those at the Knight Campus are working on a COVID-19 testing effort that should more than double the testing capacity in the entire state. As a whole, the initiative has the potential to reshape Oregon’s long-term economy by creating new jobs and businesses.
During the virtual introduction, Executive Director of the Knight Campus Robert E. Guldberg shared his thoughts on the project.
“Lots of places have connected these different activities. We’ve actually integrated them,” Guldberg said. “It’s really the dream, I think, of academics to be at a place where the focus really is on the impact.”