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ACES New Facilities Open House to Highlight Capabilities
Illinois Ag Connection - 09/13/2018

Students in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois are learning hands-on about food systems, starting from seed improvement and soil science to commercial food processing, as well as bioprocessing technologies for industry, thanks to new facilities and renovations across the ACES campus.

The College of ACES is celebrating the completion of multiple renovated and newly constructed facilities with an open house on Sept. 28 on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

This event highlighting the new Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL), Turner Hall Transformation, and the renovated Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) Pilot Processing Plant, located in the Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building, will provide an opportunity to learn more about the broad range of research and learning in the College of ACES through facilities that bridge the gap between scientific discovery and industry application.

"Friends and partners of the College of ACES will have the opportunity to see first-hand the types of amazing teaching, research, and outreach experiences that can be created in state-of-the-art facilities," says Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES. "These new spaces represent translation zones where researchers, industry partners, and students come together to create innovative solutions to the challenges in food and agricultural systems.

"We are grateful to the dedicated alumni, donors, and legislative representatives whose unwavering support made these projects happen," Kidwell adds.

The $3 million renovation of the FSHN Pilot Processing Plant has provided a multi-purpose facility for student instruction, cutting-edge research, and collaborative exploration with external food-industry partners. Some of the key improvements include: food grade and instructional suites, an industrial test kitchen/teaching lab, and upgraded processing equipment.

"We are very excited to share the newly renovated pilot plant facilities," says Brian Jacobson, assistant director of food and bioprocessing pilot plant operations. "The open house will showcase the updated space and equipment, including demonstrations of processes used in our classes and research programs. We hope visitors will learn more about the exciting new capabilities and discuss ways to access the growing list of resources provided by the program."

Because the pilot plant facility serves as a small food processing plant on campus, students are also learning to follow good manufacturing processes, including proper procedures for food handling, equipment cleaning, and personal sanitation. Products such as tomato-based sauces are processed in the plant and consumed in university residence halls.

The Turner Hall project transformed crop science and soil science laboratories into 21st-century learning environments. The three-floor renovation includes updated classrooms on the first and second floors of Turner Hall, and advanced laboratories in the basement. Classrooms feature new technologies, state-of-the-art equipment, new flooring, HVAC, and lighting. The new classrooms allow for greater learning capabilities in crop sciences, entomology, and weed science undergraduate courses. Updated shared student spaces as well as upgrades to the north annex of Turner Hall are part of the renovation.

"As visitors tour the newly renovated areas of Turner Hall, one of the first things they'll notice are the inviting public spaces distributed around the first floor," says Adam Davis, department head of crop sciences. "We want students, visitors, staff, and faculty to feel welcomed by these spaces and to use them to meet, collaborate, or just relax.

"Our redesigned classroom spaces include large lecture areas and smaller active learning classrooms, all outfitted with advanced communications technology hubs that can be easily reconfigured and updated as needed. Teaching labs have been reorganized around lean design principles, increasing the amount of usable space, and providing easy access to essential equipment. All of these changes work together to make Turner Hall a learning environment that supports flexibility in teaching styles and enhances our students' experience," Davis adds.

The new, 42,000 square-foot IBRL is a state-of-the-art pilot-scale facility that will accelerate the commercialization of bioprocessing technologies in renewable chemicals and fuels. The facility is designed to scale bioprocessing technologies and help bridge the gap between academic research and industrial commercialization. Unique IBRL resources include facility space, equipment use, support staff, and access to the intellectual capital housed at the University of Illinois.

"IBRL is designed as a flexible plug-and-play facility," says Vijay Singh, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and director of IBRL. "You can roll in different types of equipment, connect them to quickly develop a process in eight different bays, with each bay equipped with a full suite of process utilities. This capability is unique and allows us to easily use our equipment with specialized equipment from our industrial partners."

Guests are invited to start their visit at the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center for check-in, videos chronicling construction, and hospitality beginning at 8:30 a.m. Turner Hall, IBRL, and the FSHN Pilot Processing Plant will be open 9 a.m. -- noon. Each facility will also have specific scheduled activities.

Maps and schedules will be available at check-in. A formal ribbon cutting for IBRL will be held on Sept. 27. For more information, contact the College of ACES Office of Advancement at acesadvancement@illinois.edu or 217-333-9355.

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