Paulien & Associates SmithGroup H-STEM Proposal

In February of 2019 Michigan Technological University solicited two national firms to provide services to assist the University in developing a Vision for the new H-STEM Complex.  Of the two, Paulien & Associates SmithGroup was selected as providing the best value to the University.  Their Qualification Statement is available for viewing HERE.

Working with the H-STEM Steering Committee, Deans, and Department Chairs, the Paulien Group developed the following Vision Report for the H-STEM project:

Executive Summary | Process Overview and Highlights | Electronic Survey Overview | Workshop Overview | Trends | Case Studies | Governance | Workshop Results | Appendix | Survey Responses | Presentation

Executive Summary

The 2019 Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan for Michigan Technological University clearly identified the need for an H-STEM facility that will integrate educational programs to apply engineering and science to solve problems related to human health. The building will co-locate multi-disciplinary teams to work together in shared collaborative space to advance learning, develop new technologies and prepare a technologically skilled future workforce. In order to create a shared vision for the facility, a Project Directing Committee was formed with key campus leaders and a broad-based group of stakeholders in research, science, engineering, and health-related fields was invited to participate.

With the assistance of a consulting team, trends in state-of-the-art STEM facilities were reviewed and discussed. These trends included an emphasis on hands-on experiential learning, interactive and collaborative space to promote teamwork and community, shared research labs to enhance transdisciplinary collaboration, showcase facilities to recruit and retain students, faculty and staff, and governance structures to sustain successful operations.

A workshop was conducted with the Project Directing Team to develop the vision, goals and priorities for the complex. Participants were surveyed regarding the relationship of the project in supporting the institution's strategic vision, mission and goals and asked to identify both opportunities and key issues or challenges that should be addressed prior to implementation. A two day workshop was conducted to discuss these topics, craft a vision statement and set of priorities for the project. The team drafted the following vision for this project:

  • Create a showcase facility that has a positive impact on health-related research activity and the recruitment of faculty and students.
  • Put research on display. Support research-based discovery learning.
  • Encourage inter-disciplinarity through thematic rather than departmental grouping.
  • Reinforce the MTU culture of collaboration.
  • Focus new construction on state-of-the art research and research support space.
  • Renovate existing space for office and instructional space.

Informing this vision statement were priorities, which included, ranked by order of importance:

  • Co-locating of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology and Bio-Medical Engineering in renovated chemistry building space
  • Provision of an ACF
  • Renovating non-health related lab space in Chemical Sciences Building to modern standards
  • Having "Health" integrated into the building
  • Including a 60-80 seat multi-purpose space for public receptions, seminars, lectures, etc.
  • Creating a "wow" factor
  • Developing a "hub" or home base for H-STEM on campus (including hoteling for faculty)
  • Constructing modern lab space with proper ventilation airflow, climate control and vibration dampening
  • Creating research clusters/themed research neighborhoods
  • Renovating inadequate existing space for offices and instruction
  • Providing shared equipment (core facilities)

The full report and supporting documents provide additional details.

Process Overview and Highlights

A process was developed in close coordination with project leaders. This included the formation of an executive steering body, referred to as the Project Directing Committee, consisting of the Provost, VP for Research, Director of the Great Lakes Research Center Operations, the Director of Planning and Construction and the Assistant Director of Planning and Construction. The Project Directing Committee provided input and feedback in crafting the process. To create an engaging and inclusive process, a working group of stakeholders was then identified. The process consisted of two phases of engagement. The first step was to solicit input via an electronic survey, and this was followed by an on-campus workshop.

Electronic Survey Overview

The survey asked how the project supports the University's Vision and Mission. The participants were also asked how the project would contribute to specific University goals. The results confirmed excellent alignment between the H-STEM project and Michigan Tech's published strategic vision, mission and goals.

The survey also helped identify some strong synergies between departments by asking about how likely the responding departments would be likely to collaborate with other departments. This identified the greatest synergies with KIP, Biomedical Engineering, Biology, and Cognitive Learning Sciences (in ranked order), as shown in the graph below.

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It should be noted that these results likely reflect the strong interests of the survey participants, since responses were received from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Cognitive Learning Sciences, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and the AVP for Research.

Strategic Themes from Survey

A list of issues and opportunities were summarized and formed the basis for discussion during the workshop. Strategic themes from the survey were noted to be as follows:


Teaching Excellence, Academic Quality, Culture, New Pedagogies, New Ways of Thinking, Learning and Doing, Remove Physical and Practical Barriers, Schools/Colleges Visibly Working Together


Fostering Interactions, Break-down Silos, Shared Spaces, Combined Research and Education, Cross-disciplinary Discussions, Faculty and Student Interactions


Medical Advancements, Improve Human Health and Wellbeing, Results Disseminated all over the World, Reputation, Partnerships


Interdisciplinary Research, New Approaches, Recognition, Entrepreneurialism, Advancement of Knowledge


State-of-the-Art Facility, Centralization, Process Improvement, Central Hub Spaces, New Technologies, Infrastructure Alignment, Space Accessibility

Survey responses are compiled and included in the Appendix.

Workshop Overview

A workshop held over two days constituted the second phase of engagement. Representatives from the following individuals were invited:

  • Pradeep Agrawal - Chair, Chemical Engineering
  • Janet Callahan - Dean, College of Engineering
  • Jason Carter - Associate Vice President for Research Development
  • Megan Frost - Interim Chair, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
  • David Hemmer - Dean, College of Sciences and Arts
  • John Jaszczak - Interim Chair, Chemistry
  • Chandrashekhar (Shekhar) Joshi - Chair, Biological Sciences
  • Sean Kirkpatrick - Chair, Biomedical Engineering
  • Dr. Ye (Sarah) Sun - Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Other stakeholders included:

  • Jackie Huntoon, Provost
  • Dave Reed, Vice President of Research
  • Kerri Sleeman, Facilities Management
  • Jacob Guter, Assistant Director of Facilities Planning & Construction
  • Mike Abbott, Director, Great Lakes Research Center Operations

The workshop consisted of two primary agenda items: a presentation of trends and case studies, and a working session to discuss opportunities and issues, which resulted in the formation of a draft vision and set of prioritized goals for the project.

Trends related to classrooms, instructional laboratories and thematic research space were discussed at the workshop. The idea of space assigned on a modular basis provides for flexible and adaptable space that can be converted and changed as the needs of students change. The modular concept is one that allows for space to be changed over time from instructional laboratory space to research space to office space as needs and requirements change. Trends in laboratory design are suggesting that a lab module of 11'-0" x 11'-0" is a good starting point for flexibility and convertibility in space that can be converted between wet and dry space.

The first trend relating to classrooms explored the idea of flexibility in learning types and the advantages of active learning pedagogies. While space specific to classrooms is very important, the group had discussed trends related to dryish space that could flex between a classroom and additional support spaces. Trends that relate to the dryish experiential learning space have multiple components that incorporate prep/equipment/storage space, write-up space and team-based mobile technology space. Flexible experiential learning spaces are becoming highly desired in today's active learning environments.

Instructional laboratories for today's students need to promote collaborative teamwork and hands-on learning. The trend in instructional labs is moving away from the traditional didactic experience to one that promotes students interacting in a team-based, hands-on experimental environment. A wet lab concept was explored for instructional laboratories, one that explores the opportunity of active lab environment. The active lab accommodates team-based mobile technology with flexible casework systems and provides a separate space for write-up experiment design and equipment storage prep space. A sample project was discussed at the University of Illinois Electrical and Computer Engineering building. The University of Illinois project had instructional laboratories set up in thematic clusters with an instructional lab, small classroom and support space. This thematic cluster allowed for a separation of classroom and laboratory functions allowing for flexibility in scheduling.

Thematically Organized - Flexible Spaces

Thematic-based research space is a trend that the group had discussed at length during the workshop. The survey had expressed a desire for collaboration and innovation within interdisciplinary research spaces, enforcing the need for flexible and adaptable spaces able to accommodate many different sciences. A trend in Higher Education Research space suggests that space is no longer allocated to specific faculty, but to specific research funding needs for the faculty. This trend is suggesting that flexible space that can be changed over as funding streams change, is most desirable. We had discussed an example of a standard 2 module lab that had services on the exterior and corridor walls with overhead services on the separating walls. This concept would allow for separating walls to be removed or added as research needs change over time. This type of flexibility in research space is common within many Higher Education clients.

Environments for students and researchers are changing. Trends are suggesting space that can accommodate flexibility and adaptability are best suited for today's learning environments.

Case Studies

During the workshop, the group had discussed a variety of similar case studies, most notable Oakland University Engineering Center and Virginia Technological University Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science II. Both projects identify a flexible and interdisciplinary approach to instructional and research laboratories, viewed as useful and appropriate by the executive steering body.

The Oakland University Engineering Center has allowed the University to expand and grow enrollment and research funding through flexible and hands-on student opportunities. The new facility is 143,000 square feet of classroom, instructional labs, research labs and collaboration space, all working to enhance the students learning experience. The flexible research space provided follows a model that the executive steering body thought was useful for the H-STEM project. The research space in the Engineering Center is allocated to faculty who have active research funding. The laboratories have flexible casework systems and MEP infrastructure that allows for adaptability as funding may be increased or decrease.

The second case study was for Virginia Technological University, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science II (ICTAS II). ICTAS II, as it is known on campus, is a 42,000 square feet interdisciplinary research building that is part of a 600,000 square feet interdisciplinary precinct on campus. The ICTAS II building supports science at the intersection of engineering and biology, providing advanced laboratories for cross-disciplinary research. Space within the ICTAS II building is assigned based on research funding and re-assigned as funding streams change.

The Oakland University and Virginia Tech case studies as explored, have flexible and adaptable space that provides and interdisciplinary approach to research. The research space for both projects is provided with a modular approach allowing for flexibility in dry and wet research, the executive committee found value in this approach.

Research—Michigan Tech Research and Development Expenditures

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Two case studies were presented regarding governance. The first involved CU Boulder's Jennie Smoly Caruthers Systems Biotechnology Building, which was re-programmed, designed and constructed when Paul Leef was the campus architect at CU-Boulder. This building was the vision of Nobel Laureate and former director of the Howard Hughs Medical Institute, Dr. Tom Cech. It was original constructed to house researchers from Department of Biochemistry, Department of Chemical Engineering, the BioFrontiers Institute and private industry partners. It was designed around thematic research "neighborhoods," "productive collision" space and lab flexibility. In fact, the labs were designed according to a standard lab module rather than individual occupants, and space assignments were not decided until after design was complete. Space decisions are made by an executive committee consisting of the chair of Biochemistry, the chair of Chemical Engineering and the Director of the BioFrontiers Institute.

The second study in governance structure involved the Bond Life Sciences Building at the University of Missouri Columbia. The facility was studied by Paulien & Associates as part of a campus wide utilization analysis and assessment of space needs and found to have the highest productivity of research expenditures on campus. The building is operated by a director and staff funded by Indirect Cost Recovery (ICR) with responsibility for event scheduling, fiscal matters, grant administration, IT, facilities coordination and general administration. A unique aspect of this facility is that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has bee developed to articulate mutual expectations. In particular, principal investigators are expected to:

  • To develop and maintain a vigorous and externally research program
  • To cultivate collaborative interactions with other investigators both within and beyond the LSC
  • Provide and annual report
  • Participate in governance and meetings
  • Participate in evaluating the director

These are designed to create a behavioral culture of collaboration. The requirements for engagement also provide more opportunities for relationship-building. Faculty committees for policy, personnel, facilities and lab operations, and space and equipment serve the dual purpose of governance and development of collaborative culture. The Space and Equipment Committee was developed to help address the use of "flex" or "surge" lab space in the building, and to reinforce the shared nature of equipment.


The trends presented resonated with the stakeholder group, particularly as related to collaboration areas and thematic research. One issue which garnered significant attention and discussion was that of governance. The case studies offered two models for funding and operational oversight. It was observed that the governance model for the H-STEM building would be important, since the vision is for it to be a non-departmental building, with academic home departments located in the existing Chemical Sciences Building. However, the existing Great Lakes Research Center provides an operational prototype for the new building. However, with an institutional goal of increasing research expenditures, one key issue to be addressed is the process and terms for space allocation in the new facility.

Workshop Results

Vision Statement

The team drafted the following vision for this project:

  • Create a showcase facility that has a positive impact on health-related research activity and the recruitment of faculty and students.
  • Put research on display. Support research-based discovery learning.
  • Encourage interdisciplinarity through thematic rather than departmental grouping.
  • Reinforce the MTU culture of collaboration.
  • Focus new construction on state-of-the art research and research support space.
  • Renovate existing space for office and instructional space.


Through facilitated discussion, the stakeholder team developed and then voted on the following goals, listed in priority order by voting:

  • (20) Co-locate KIP and BME in renovated chemistry science building
  • (16) Animal Care Facility (hidden)
  • (16) Non-health related lab space (chem sci) to be renewed to modern standards
  • (13) Health integrated into building
  • (13) 60-80 seat multi-purpose space for public receptions, seminars, etc.
  • (12) "Wow" factor
  • (12) "HUB" or home base for H-STEM on campus (incl. hoteling for faculty)
  • (11) Research clusters/neighborhoods
  • (11) Modern lab space with ventilation airflow, climate control, and vibration dampening
  • (10) Shared equipment (core) facilities
  • (10) Renovate inadequate existing space for office and instruction
  • (9) Governance structure
  • (9) Café (chem sci?)
  • (8) Adequate emergency power for freezer and lab backup power
  • (7) Public access and patient privacy (parking, etc.)
  • (7) Conference rooms meeting space
  • (6) Increase student recruitment and retention
  • (6) Co-locating graduate students
  • (5) Combined research and teaching space
  • (5) Dual purpose practicum facility for exercise
  • (4) Informal gathering and collision space
  • (3) Makes visible ‘enterprise' program
  • (3) Increase faculty recruitment and retention
  • (2) Display/exhibit space for campus-wide health research
  • (1) Facilitate meaningful tours