- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2007

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) — A $126 million effort to attract world-class scientists to the University of Virginia hasn’t panned out, and school officials are considering expanding resources as a better way to enhance the university’s reputation.

The three-year recruitment effort known as the “star scientist initiative” has lured six top-tier researchers to Charlottesville at a cost of $20 million.

President John T. Casteen III told a Board of Visitors committee Thursday he wants to shift focus. “Our problem is space, not scientists,” he said.

Mr. Casteen said the policy of recruiting star scientists and then custom building lab space for them has proved a “disaster” and said the school is at risk of falling behind without scientific expansion.

“I can’t imagine another way that we can catch up with other institutions,” Mr. Casteen said. “If there’s an arms race, then we’re losing it.”

In one instance, the university built an animal-testing lab in a $35 million underground facility and a tailor-made research lab in a $43 million building to lure molecular neurobiologist Joseph Takahashi from Northwestern University.

The scientist later declined the job offer.

“It was a real shocker,” Mr. Casteen said. “We spent a tremendous amount of money.”

Friday, the board was expected to approve three construction projects that would add more than 195,000 square feet of research space.

Also under the proposal is an expansion of a planned 73,000-square-foot research center for the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The expansion would increase the size of the building to 100,000 square feet and add $19.6 million to its $56.7 million price tag.

The final proposed project is an expansion of a planned 41,000-square-foot health sciences building at Fontaine Research Park. With the expansion, the building would increase to 110,000 square feet and jump in price from $35 million to $93.3 million.

The three new buildings are likely to incorporate several high-tech tools, including teleconference screens in each lab to allow life-size conversations with fellow researchers.

“You’ll be able to talk to researchers in China or researchers across Grounds,” said Dr. Arthur “Tim” Garson, the University of Virginia’s provost.

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