Chemistry for Life

The foundation for OSU's new science center was built a century ago
Light spectra by artist Stephen Knapp illuminate a wall in the new Linus Pauling Science Center. In their research, scientists use spectra to detect and measure the abundance of chemical elements. (Photo: Theresa Hogue)

Light spectra by artist Stephen Knapp illuminate a wall in the new Linus Pauling Science Center. In their research, scientists use spectra to detect and measure the abundance of chemical elements. (Photo: Theresa Hogue)

In 2011, the first Baby Boomer turned 65 — the leading edge of a wave that is going to change the country. By 2030 one in every five Americans will be older than that. People are already living longer, taking time to travel and to enjoy their families. Think gourmet cooking classes, fishing trips and art museums.

But they will increasingly face the diseases that now kill most people in the developed world: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

They want answers and solutions. And in the future, many of those answers will come from a new research facility at Oregon State University, the Linus Pauling Science Center.

This new $62.5 million, 105,000-square-foot research and educational structure, just completed this fall, has arrived at an opportune time in American history. But its foundations were laid 94 years ago, in the fall of 1917, when a young student arrived at Oregon Agricultural College and enrolled in a chemistry course. Linus Pauling, OSU’s most accomplished alumnus, went on to win two Nobel Prizes.

“Linus Pauling revolutionized the fields of chemistry and molecular medicine, and this facility will be a working memorial to him, a great tribute,” says Balz Frei, director of the Linus Pauling Institute. “It will help further establish LPI as a national leader in the study of diet, optimal nutrition and micronutrients.

“Chronic disease prevention through diet and lifestyle is the future of medicine,” Frei adds. “And it’s for everyone, not just the elderly.”

Advances in health will come from better understanding of phytochemicals such as sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting compound in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Other research focuses on vitamin D in enhancing immune function and fish oil in preventing fatty liver disease. New types of antioxidants and “anti-inflammatories” are also being investigated, such as lipoic acid, which may be key to getting the most out of life as we age.

Chemical Collaboration

The institute will share the new facility with the OSU Department of Chemistry. Specialists in analytical, materials and organic chemistry will work in close proximity to their peers in the health sciences and develop new strategies for disease diagnosis and treatment. “These new facilities house approximately $10 million in state-of-the-art transmission- and scanning-electron microscopes and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers that will serve the entire campus,” says Vince Remcho, chemist and associate dean in the College of Science.

The new instruments were made possible by grants from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and partnerships between several of OSU’s colleges, the OSU Research Office and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).

Chemists in the new facility bring with them “an astonishing research track record, as measured by publication count, impact, external funding and intellectual property development,” Remcho adds.

Primary support for the center, which was designed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED silver standards, came from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation – a $20 million gift – and another $10.6 million from Pat and Al Reser. Most of the research in the facility will be supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and NSF.

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