Bill Olen: How the University of Maryland is Planning for the Future of Cutting-Edge Research
Bill Olen is the Executive Director of Planning & Construction at the University of Maryland. We recently sat down to discuss the exciting happenings at the university including the Cole Field House project — a living laboratory where innovators, scientists, clinicians, trainers and athletes work together to advance the practice of sports medicine.
How did the focus of research at the University of Maryland College Park come about?
Several years ago, the General Assembly approved legislation that encouraged the University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore to collaborate in a comprehensive across the board manner. MPowering the State — our strategic partnership — allows us to maximize our complementary strengths and brings our campuses into close cooperation in many exciting areas of research. And that was the genesis of Cole Field House project — combining resources to provide a more comprehensive solution for health, science, wellness and entrepreneurship.
Can you describe the complex program that’s included in the Cole Field House project?
There are quite a few components within this undertaking. First is the Terrapin Performance Center – opened in 2019 – that will promote physical training at the highest level as well as enhanced fitness and recreational opportunities for intramural and club activities.
Next is the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance that will bring together leading researchers in neuroscience, genomics, biomechanics and other fields, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park to study the brain and nervous system.
An Orthopedic Clinic will serve as a resource for thousands of patients in the region each year with more than 40,000 sf of dedicated treatment space. This will lead to a rapid translation of research into practice that will benefit the entire community.
The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a dynamic space that will connect students with exciting experiential-learning opportunities to work across disciplines and launch innovative ideas, products and companies.
Can you elaborate on the research within and how the design it pushing that research forward?
UM College Park already has a strong program in neuroscience that continues to grow in quality and the number of researchers interested in this field. With the new Cole Field House, we are poised to be on the cutting-edge of this field of research.
As for the design, we have built incredible flexibility into the research and clinic spaces. At the south wing of the building where the clinic and some other research space are programmed, we have created flexible labs at grade level that can have a higher level of vibration control. Additionally, we have created space on level 2 that is the most distant from the new Purple Line to house state of the art neuro-imaging equipment.
Overall, we have planned and designed for the future of the neurology research. This field is going to grow and expand and having more space at the outset gives us the maximum amount of flexibility.
When this facility is complete, what kind of impact do you see to the university and beyond?
Although I can’t predict everything, I am most excited to see the positive impact the Cole Field house will have on the local economy though innovation and research. The opportunities for research dollars and grants as well as intent to collaborate with industry are very promising.