The Jerome L. Greene Science Center at Columbia University

The Jerome L. Greene Science Center is conceived as a place for human connection, intellectual excellence, and pioneering research that cuts across traditional academic boundaries.

Home to the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, it will be a thriving hub where faculty and students from across Columbia University, scholars from around the world, and members of the local community will be able to come together in the search for new insights about ourselves—how we think, why we act in the ways we do—exploring the complexities of the 21st century’s greatest scientific frontier.

At the Forefront of Understanding Mind, Brain, Behavior

The Greene Science Center will house the Zuckerman Institute, eventually home to 1,000 of today’s leading neuroscience researchers working together with scholars from a diversity of fields to decipher the mysteries of the human brain. Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists, clinicians, humanists, artists, and engineers will collaborate on research, teaching and public programming that will contribute to essential understanding of neurological conditions such as ALS and Alzheimer’s and the search for cures.

Research at the Zuckerman Institute will explore critical aspects of brain and mind: from the genetic and molecular to the cellular and anatomical to observable behavior of individuals and populations. At the heart of the Institute’s mission is a commitment to reach across all sectors of the University, bringing the perspective of brain science to multiple disciplines. Neuroscientific insights into decision-making, for example, have crucial implications for economists. Research on perception and memory relate to law and psychology. Investigations of consciousness, emotional regulation, creativity, and language could enrich the fields of philosophy, art, sociology, and more. The sparks of innovation and discovery often ignite where multiple disciplines intersect.

Powering the Zuckerman Institute’s engine of discovery will be more than 50 principal investigators, presiding over state-of-the-art laboratories at the Greene Science Center. Because breakthroughs often occur at the intersection of disciplines, the Institute will bring together researchers—including graduate students and post-doctoral investigators— representing multiple fields, including cell biology, chemistry, computer science, economics, engineering, psychology, sociology, and statistics.

Researchers based at the Greene Science Center will reach across the University to conduct interdisciplinary work with Columbia faculty in the arts, business, law, and public affairs at the Morningside Heights campus and with clinical faculty at Columbia University Medical Center. These diverse and wide-ranging interactions will energize thinking and foster scientific breakthroughs.

The Institute is led by three of Columbia’s most distinguished scientists. Richard Axel, MD, has performed pioneering work mapping the genetics and molecular biology of the olfactory system—research that earned him a Nobel Prize in 2004. Thomas M. Jessell, PhD, is a leading expert on the spinal-cord circuits that control movement and winner of the inaugural Kavli Prize in 2008. Eric Kandel, MD, has conducted seminal work showing how learning permanently alters synaptic connections between neurons—research recognized with a Nobel Prize in 2000.

A Generous Gift from the Greene Foundation

The building was made possible by a historic $250 million gift from Dawn M. Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation in 2006 and is the first to rise on Columbia’s new 17-acre Manhattanville campus. The 9-story, 450,000 square-foot structure is designed to maximize creative collaboration among scientists. It includes connecting stairways and common spaces that link individual researchers and lab groups into a coherent community.

The Greene Science Center will be a hub of cross-university research, bringing together researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and other schools on the Morningside Campus. Engagement with the surrounding community is intrinsic to the mission of the Institute and hardwired into its new campus. The ground floor of the Greene Science Center, open to all, will be a neighborhood-based resource for brain science education. Public programs are designed to be both educational and fun, including free public lectures given by Nobel laureates and hands-on activities for learners of all ages in the Education Lab. A specially designed wellness center on the ground floor of the Greene Science Center will serve as a resource for area residents with concerns about the brain and mental health; it will also offer free cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.

Built for Sustainability

By enlisting the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Columbia University sought to ensure that the Jerome L. Greene Science Center would be a model of sustainable urban design. Unique elements of the Greene Science Center’s design will set a new standard for sustainable technology: 1) A double skin aluminum and glass façade system creates a high-performance envelope that acts as an insulation blanket to help keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 2) Solar sensors on the roof work continuously to raise or lower perimeter shades for maximum heating or cooling efficiency. 3) High-reflective “cool roof” materials protect against the urban heat island effect and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 4) Intuitive lighting controls regulate internal brightness to maximize natural light flow in the workspace and conserve energy. Building materials were selected with high recycled and regional content, which reduces waste and minimizes the University’s carbon footprint.

Design: Spaces for Spontaneous Connection

The nine-story, 450,000 square foot structure is the largest that Columbia has ever built and the biggest academic science building in New York City. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano’s design creates innovative spaces for individual scientific discovery, collegial collaboration and civic engagement. Inviting social spaces will encourage faculty and students, scientists, and social scientists to come together and share ideas, hear new perspectives, and generate fresh insights. Connecting stairways, common spaces, and a quadrant system grouping scientists’ labs together based on similar areas of inquiry will foster idea sharing and problem solving among fellow researchers.

Piano spent many hours in conversation with Columbia neuroscientists before sketching designs for the Greene Science Center. They saw a need to create quiet spaces for concentration and open space where people and ideas from various disciplines can come together—as well as shared public spaces for those from the University and local community. The key to Piano’s plan is to embrace the intersection of the City and the University. “The university of the 21st century,” he says, “is not a fortified citadel and Columbia University in New York City has always been an example of the urban university, in contact with a complex social reality.”

About the Author
Columbia University was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States. For more than 250 years, Columbia has been a leader in higher education in the nation and around the world. At the core of our wide range of academic inquiry is the commitment to attract and engage the best minds in pursuit of greater human understanding, pioneering new discoveries and service to society.