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News Release

UC San Diego bioengineering faculty to pursue collaborative research in Franklin Antonio Hall

August 12, 2022-- When the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering’s new 186,000-square-foot Franklin Antonio Hall building comes online in Summer 2022, three bioengineering professors will be among the faculty from all corners of campus who will be leading teams within a building designed from the ground up to maximize the circulation of people and ideas. 

One of the unique features of the building that will encourage this circulation of people and ideas is that research will be performed in collaborative, multidisciplinary research labs called  “collaboratories.” Franklin Antonio Hall is home to 13 of these large research “collaboratories.” These spaces house a collection of professor-led research groups from different but related disciplines. Together, these collaboratories will serve as the foundation for a series of intersecting research ecosystems that will provide exciting places for students to learn and pursue research. Some of the big challenges being tackled in the building are renewable energy technologies, smart cities and smart transportation, wearable and robotics innovations, real-time data analysis and decision making, digital privacy and security, nanotechnology, and precision medicine.

Gabriel Silva, professor of bioengineering and director of the UC San Diego Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence; Sheng Zhong, a professor of bioengineering and member of the Center for Precision Genomics; and Andrew Bartko, a bioengineering professor of practice and executive director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation, are three of the faculty building this dynamic innovation ecosystem in Franklin Antonio Hall. 

Gabriel Silva, professor of bioengineering and director of the UC San Diego Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence

Silva will join colleagues from the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as physician researchers from UC San Diego Health and cognitive scientists from the School of Social Sciences, in the Center for Engineering Natural Intelligence collaboratory. 

The multidisciplinary team will build next-generation artificial intelligence systems derived from the biological brain. They develop algorithms, software and hardware that enable new forms of low-power, real-time machine computation, learning, and intelligence.

“The Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence (CENI) collaboratory is by design intended to be a focal point for collaboration. It will bring resident faculty, students and postdocs who are moving into FAH with other CENI faculty and students who will be joining us in the space to do research from other parts of campus,” said Silva. “It will also provide a focal point for collaborations for visiting scientists, engineers and others from other academic institutions and industry partners - some of which may be spending extended periods with us in FAH. In fact, we are treating the entire collaboratory as an experiment in the sociology of collaboration. How do different individuals from different scientific and engineering backgrounds and cultures come together to efficiently work together in order to maximize creativity and productivity.”

Zhong will join colleagues from the Departments of Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, with geneticists from UC San Diego Health, in the Center for Precision Genomics collaboratory. 

The researchers will advance our understanding of DNA, RNA and the mechanics underpinning our genome. They’ll use bioinformatics to apply these advances toward a precision medicine approach, taking into account a person’s unique genetic code to predict their risk of disease, and provide tailored therapeutics. 

Sheng Zhong, a professor of bioengineering and member of the Center for Precision Genomics

“Our long term goal is to rejuvenate the aging brain,” said Zhong. “In the Center for Precision Genomics collaboratory, we aim to transform the diagnoses and develop therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease. Our strategy is to iteratively improve interpretable artificial intelligence (AI), technology, big data generation, and experimental and clinical validations. The Center for Precision Genomics collaboratory brings together teams with complementary expertise, making it a perfect environment to execute this strategy.”

Bartko and faculty from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will work in the Center for Microbiome Innovation collaboratory to push the boundaries of our understanding of microbiomes — the distinct constellations of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that live within and around humans, other species, and the environment. Through this multidisciplinary research and collaborations with industry partners, the CMI aims to harness this understanding of microbial communities to improve human health and the environment.

As the new home to the UC San Diego Institute for the Global Entrepreneur, Franklin Antonio Hall will also serve as an important new hotspot for entrepreneurship and innovation on campus.

Undergraduate and graduate-student learning, both inside and outside the classroom also take center stage in Franklin Antonio Hall. The building will provide critical workspace for Jacobs School undergraduate student organizations that are participating in national design competitions. Teams of students will design, build and test their projects in this new collaborative environment. Teams will cycle through the space annually to best serve the growing number of nationally ranked student teams.

Franklin Antonio Hall is named after UC San Diego alumnus Franklin Antonio in recognition of his incredible $30 million gift to the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Antonio passed away in May 2022; the building will serve as a testament to his legacy of intellectual curiosity and hands-on education. 


Media Contacts

Katherine Connor
Jacobs School of Engineering