About 12 miles southeast of NYU Abu Dhabi's Downtown Campus, in an area of Abu Dhabi called Mussafah, a modern glass building stands surrounded by offices, manufacturing plants, automobile shops, and desert. Housed inside is the University's Center for Science and Engineering (CSE), a laboratory with more than 60,000 square feet of instructional and research space. Occupying three floors, the Center supports both advanced research and the laboratory sections for the University's science and engineering courses.
In addition to instructional and research space, the Center also contains machine shops, materials labs, faculty offices, conference rooms, and storage facilities. As NYUAD Director of Laboratories Michael Davis said, "It's the basic infrastructure that will be used to facilitate building a Tier-1-quality research team."
As such, the instructional and research space contains a variety of experimental laboratories, including multipurpose wet and dry labs, organic chemistry and engineering labs, three digital manufacturing labs, a nanoparticle research lab, a smart environment lab, and a robotics lab. Each is supported by the CSE's core facilities, in addition to appropriate tissue culture, prep, and seminar rooms, as well as 110 lab benches and 100 cubicle workstations located throughout the facility.
NYUAD is an incubator for producing the scientists and engineers of the 21st century.
Near the Foundations of Science classrooms and their adjoining labs is a digital manufacturing lab that uses the subtractive technique (in which a product is created through removal of material) and features two CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines. One of them — a five-axis milling machine with a dual-spindle turning center — weighs in at 5 tons and measures 2 meters across, which, according to Davis, is relatively small. However, it can handle hard-to-machine materials such as stainless steel and Inconel alloys. As Davis explained, "As far as machining, this high-precision tool can make just about anything, from sculptures to high-performance pump impellers for rocket engines, with a precision of plus or minus 5 microns. There aren't many like it in the country."
The materials lab is equally equipped. In addition to a laser cutter, it contains an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer for the chemical analysis of materials, a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to determine information about a sample's properties using a beam of electrons, a research-grade CT scanner that can handle parts as heavy as 200 pounds, and universal testing machines that are used to test the tensile stress and compressive strength of materials. There is also a full range of student- and research-grade optical microscopes for student use.
"Traditionally, a materials course covers typical manufacturing processes such as casting and how these processes affect the behavior of the materials," Davis said. "However, despite being taught such concepts, NYUAD students will engage in digital manufacturing with high-precision metal and plastic 3D printers."
A Space for Faculty Research and Teaching
Additional faculty research initiatives taking place on the ground floor include Assistant Professor of Biology John Burt's study of Gulf corals — the investigation of the process of their recurrent mortality and recovery, as well as the examination of their resilience in regional communities. Also located on the ground floor is the Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, which uses a Magneto-encephalography (MEG) machine — a non-invasive brain scanner, the most sensitive device that currently exists to monitor the human brain — to integrate linguistic theory and psycholinguistic models with observed neurological activity of the brain. Alec Marantz, David Poeppel, and Liina Pylkkänen, all principal investigators of the Lab and NYU New York professors in the fields of linguistics and psychology, hope to better understand the way that the brain processes language. Upstairs, much of the space is dedicated to organic chemistry, engineering, and biology, with departments sharing many of the floor's facilities, including central core labs for material characterization, microscopy, molecular biology, tissue culture, additive digital manufacturing, and digital manufacturing of electronics. Future plans include the installation of several mass spectrometers (to join the first, installed in July 2012), which ionize chemical compounds, generating charged molecules in order to determine the masses of particles, the elemental composition of a sample, and the chemical structures of molecules.
The first floor also contains connected teaching labs and seminar rooms to provide faculty with flexible instructional spaces. A lab for the Design and Innovation course includes a small workshop with drill presses, a four-axis bench-top milling tool, and a vacuum-forming machine, as well as an electronics workshop that enables students to create their own printed circuit boards, electronic-based devices, and working prototypes.
Genomics, Computational, and Chip Research
The University's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology (CGSB) has its home here. Its researchers, including NYUAD Associate Professor of Biology and CGSB Co-director Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, are currently working on three research programs with an emphasis on key areas of renewable resources and regional biodiversity, disease-related chemical genomics, and neuronal systems. With the aid of instruments including high-throughput sequencers, robotics, and the mass spectrometer — as well as specialized environmental rooms for algae, human cell lines, flies, and worms — the research team hopes to tackle regional issues in human health, energy, agriculture, and the environment by identifying the mechanisms that underlie the evolution of complete genome sequences and transform genetic information into cellular and organismal behaviors using a systems-level view.
One floor up, half of the space is dedicated to computational research and is used by faculty in engineering, math, physics, computer science, chemistry, and psychology. In addition to shared "core" spaces for chemistry and engineering, there is a synthesis area used by the chemists and an analysis room, an advanced materials characterization lab, an instrumentation room, a robotics lab, a smart environment living lab, a smart environment research lab, a super-critical C02 lab where nanoparticles can be created, and workstations and wet benches. There is also a dark room where photochemical experimental work can be done.
One of the active researchers in the computational sciences is NYUAD Chemistry Professor Panče Naumov who, using his solid-state and structural chemistry lab at the CSE, is combining solid-state supramolecular chemistry with photochemistry and photophysics to investigate chemical systems that mimic natural processes such as bioluminescence to understand chemical energy conversion. Nearby, NYUAD Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering Ozgur Sinanoglu's Design for Excellence Lab is pursuing research in the field of computer chip testing and security, including designing electronic chips that outsmart counterfeiters and hackers with embedded protective mechanisms; investigating hardware and software support to more effectively detect and correct chips that fail due to environmental interference; and adaptive testing, which takes into account process variation that occurs during the manufacturing of the chip in order to more accurately detect chip defects.
As Davis said, "NYUAD is an incubator for producing the scientists and engineers of the 21st century. The UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, will benefit by influencing, both culturally and intellectually, these leaders of tomorrow."