Raymond L. White remembers a family reunion he attended at an Ogden park about 10 years ago.
More than 150 family members ate fried chicken and drank soda pop. And many of them volunteered to roll up their sleeves and donate some of the precious fluid that tied them together.For his genetics research at the University of Utah, White collects such biological heirlooms, using the blood to map the markings of familial traits. Because the state is full of families who are bound to their ancestral heritage and who like to hold reunions, Utah is a breeding ground for genetics research.
White and Raymond F. Gesteland are co-chairmen of the U.'s cutting-edge Department of Human Genetics, which marked its coming of age Tuesday with a building dedication. The new, $28 million George and Dolores Dore Eccles Institute of Human Genetics Building has six floors of "fresh air" laboratories and seven floors of "incubation" space.
The goal of the building's design team was to make scientists communicate, said Gesteland, who is known along with White as one of "the Rays." Both professors are investigators for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Eccles Foundation.
Toward that goal, U. officials and the design team from FFKR architects hit on a seven-story, sun-flooded atrium, crowned with a twisting stairway that leads to each floor's lobby. "The Rays told us they needed a place to get out of lab and have a cup of coffee," said Architect Frank Ferguson. "That's what we gave them."
In more scientific terms, the marble-tiled lobbies will serve as incubation places, gathering spots where scientists can argue over theories and formulas while their experiments are incubating.
Both scientists and designers now say the dramatic, railed stairway reminds them of DNA, the basic element of life.
Another amenity that the gray, black and white building boasts is outside window ledges that are slightly sloped so pigeons won't roost there, said Mark Wilson, an FFKR architect.
The dedication ceremony itself was a swank affair in the new building's auditorium. U. President Chase Peterson lauded the facility, saying it was "as fine a laboratory building as has been built anywhere in this country."
Taxpayers didn't buy the building, Peterson said, but instead it was constructed with money from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Eccles Foundation.
Also praised were officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who safeguarded confidentiality yet agreed to allow researchers to use the church's vast family history resources. President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the LDS Church's First Presidency, said the U.'s genetics work could "bless the lives of mankind across the world and for generations to come."