A top executive at Apple is helping Boston College expand its programming in the hard sciences, with an eye on joining the nation’s top research institutions.
BC will begin construction on the $150 million lab and classroom facility on its Chestnut Hill campus in 2019 with plans to open two years later. The new building represents the university’s largest single investment in the sciences, with a focus on energy, health and the environment.
The mission of the new Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society will be to create and sustain emerging initiatives in basic and applied science; educate the next generation of science and technology leaders and innovators; develop and deploy new tools and technologies to address important societal problems; and promote partnerships with industry and the public and private sectors, BC officials said.
Newton native and BC alum Phil Schiller -- a senior VP at Apple, who has been responsible for marketing many of the technology company’s high-profile products, from the Mac computer to the iPhone -- and his wife, Kim Gassett-Schiller launched the effort thanks to a $25 million gift.
“I am deeply grateful to Phil and Kim for their longstanding commitment to Boston College and its mission,” said BC President William P. Leahy. “I am confident that the Schiller Institute will play a key role in helping the university address the pressing needs of our day in such areas as health, the environment and energy through quality teaching and research.”
The new facility will feature office and laboratory space for researchers, including engineering faculty, and teaching laboratories that will include computer science robotics and data visualization space. It will provide maker spaces to give students hands-on experiences in prototyping research, a clean room and a collaboration commons for faculty and students.
Chamber President Greg Reibman said Boston College’s deepened commitment to the scientific research was great news for the region. He cited a 2016 economic development study by Camoin Associates which said the ability to “attract, create or partner with a nearby research entity,” was critical to growing the innovation economy in Boston’s inner suburbs, including in the N-Squared Innovation District.
“Our businesses are thrilled that BC will be training our next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs,” Reibman said.
This investment in the sciences will further BC’s momentum in scientific research, which was underscored by the University’s designation in 2016 as an “R1” institution by the Carnegie Foundation, a classification for doctoral universities with the highest levels of research activity. Boston College is one of only 115 universities nationally to achieve this distinction.
“One of the things that I admire most about Boston College is its commitment to liberal arts education,” said Schiller who described the new Institute of Integrated Science as a dream come true. “And looking back, what attracted me to Apple was its commitment to combining technology with humanities to really make a difference.”
“The institute’s focus on combining technology and the humanities and its commitment to collaboration and innovation as a defining principle is very exciting. This is where the best work comes from, as diverse minds with different experiences try to understand a problem together and solve things as a team. That is where big leaps forward happen, and it is a major reason why we have chosen to support this important initiative,” Schiller said.
To date, more than $100 million has been raised for the new facility, which will be located in a new science facility adjacent to Higgins Hall, which houses BC’s Biology and Physics departments, and the Merkert Center, home to BC’s Chemistry Department.