News | Administration

University awarded $15M in engineering campus competition

Updated 12:45 p.m.

The city will provide $15 million in funding for a new data sciences institute, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on campus Monday morning. While the proposal has undergone significant revisions since it was initially put forth in October—downsized from 1.1 million square feet to 44,000, and restricted to existing buildings and not new ones—the city's support is still critical.

By hiring 75 new faculty members over the next 15 years, the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering will give the School of Engineering and Applied Science "a faculty that matches in size as well as quality the faculties of other top engineering schools," Bloomberg said.

The institute will be constructed in existing buildings on the Morningside Heights and Medical Center campuses—and not on Columbia's Manhattanville campus, as first proposed.

Columbia developed the data sciences institute as its entry in the city's Applied Science NYC competition, submitting plans in October to build a 1.1 million-square-foot, three-building complex on its Manhattanville campus.

While the institute will maintain its focus on five areas of research—smart cities, new media, health analytics, financial analytics, and cybersecurity—it is now slated to occupy space in existing campus buildings. Columbia will provide $80 million for the project, which will use more than 44,000 square feet in the Seeley W. Mudd Building and the Northwest Corner Building in its first phase.

The second phase allows for the potential expansion into the Audubon building on Columbia's medical campus in Washington Heights. Notably, the proposal does not specifically designate any space in Manhattanville for the institute. University President Lee Bollinger said, "We have designated a number of sites in Phase I ... one of which, one site, I have designated for the School of Engineering and Applied Science that can and probably will incorporate the work that's done in the Data Sciences institute, but other parts of SEAS as well."

Bloomberg estimated that the development will generate $3.9 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years, creating more than 4,200 permanent jobs and nearly 300 construction jobs. Of the 170 companies expected to spin off as a result of the research conducted in the institute, about 100 will be start-ups, Bloomberg said.

Interim Dean Donald Goldfarb called the creation of the institute "probably the most exciting moment in the engineering school's 150-year history."

Bloomberg announced in December that Cornell University had won the competition. But even though the partnership between Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology won the entirety of the city's original $100 million pledge, the city continued negotiating with Columbia and other finalists about ways to fund their proposed campuses and announced $15 million in support of NYU's proposed urban sciences center in downtown Brooklyn in April. In February, 21 City Council members sent Bloomberg a letter urging him to provide engineering campus funding to Columbia and City College.

SEAS Interim Dean Donald Goldfarb said in a July 12 email to students that the school had been "waiting for several weeks now" for the city to announce the funding.

Computer science professor Kathleen McKeown will be the institute's director and civil engineering professor Patricia Culligan will be its associate director.

news@columbiaspectator.com

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