At 100 College St., building connections inside and out
When Yale leaders decided, in 2019, to move into several floors in 100 College St., a 13-story building in the heart of New Haven, it represented something much bigger than scoring new research space.
It offered a historic opportunity to pursue key science-related priorities, including neuroscience and data science, identified by the university science strategy committee, strengthen the connection between Yale’s medical and central campuses, and reinforce the city’s position in the bioscience sector.
And today, as the departments of Psychology and Neuroscience and the cross-disciplinary Wu Tsai Institute (WTI) establish themselves in the building, they are helping shape an ever more dynamic city corridor and finely knitted university community.
When 100 College St. was officially opened during a dedication ceremony on Dec. 5, Yale Provost Scott Strobel called it a “milestone” event in Yale’s long-term investment in the sciences. “The building represents the power of connection,” he told guests gathered in the building’s 11th floor, where they were surrounded by views of the city.
It also represents a significant step toward one of the priorities identified by President Peter Salovey when he was appointed a decade ago: creating a more unified Yale.
It is one of the only buildings on campus that house departments from both the School of Medicine (YSM) and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) — including Neuroscience (YSM) and Psychology (FAS) — in addition to other scholars and scientists from across campus. And it is the home of the Wu Tsai Institute, a university-wide initiative launched in 2021 to advance the study of human cognition.
“My vision of a more unified Yale focuses on working across disciplinary, department, and school boundaries to produce world-altering discoveries,” Salovey said during the dedication. “100 College St. will catalyze this integration by bridging Yale’s medical and central campuses — bringing together colleagues from across the FAS, YSM, and many corners of campus.”
The dedication of 100 College St. followed the construction of the Yale Science Building, which opened in 2019, and a thorough redesign of the campus’s iconic Kline Tower, which reopened earlier this year.
Like those centers of research and learning, which prioritize community and the convening of fields and departments that complement and enhance each other, 100 College St. unites Yale researchers from diverse fields who are studying the mind and brain. And adjacent floors are connected by open internal staircases, which represent the opportunity to pursue the kinds of interdisciplinary collaborations that the new space promotes.
Throughout Yale’s floors, labs sit among lounges, classrooms, common spaces, and conference rooms, a design aimed at emphasizing interaction and collaboration.
“We have created a network of scientists and researchers who were previously spread across the university,” Strobel said in his remarks. “Now, they are arranged in an integrative entity that links departments and subfields, across scales from molecules to mind.”
Nucleating neuroscientists and psychologists who are working across disciplines — ranging from structural biology to cognitive and social psychology — will amplify Yale’s impact and improve lives, he said.
The 513,000-square-foot building is also home to pharmaceutical firm Alexion, as well as amenities including a cafeteria, gym, and parking garage. Yale now occupies seven of the 13 floors.
A thriving 100 College St., Salovey said, connects not just the Yale campus but the greater New Haven community. When the downtown Oak Street Connector project was introduced more than 60 years ago, he said, it divided New Haven and Yale, literally and symbolically.
The opening of Yale space in 100 College St., he said, knits together the medical and central campuses and grounds key Yale departments and initiatives in downtown New Haven.
“We now have a more unified city and a more unified Yale,” said Salovey.
Speaking at the dedication, Nancy J. Brown, the Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Yale School of Medicine (YSM), touched on the “expansive views” one can find looking out of the upper floors of 100 College St. as well as those you can find in the research taking place inside of it.
And Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), extolled how the people of 100 College St. get every detail right, from the precision of the research taking place, to the colors chosen to represent WTI.
“It indicates the commitment of this place,” said Gendler.
The idea of connection, underscored by Strobel, was evident in the backgrounds of three new faculty members recruited by the Wu Tsai Institute and hired jointly by the institute and the Yale departments with which they’re affiliated.
Kia Nobre, professor of psychology and director of the WTI’s Center for Neurocognition and Behavior, Emilia Favuzzi, assistant professor of neuroscience, and Shreya Saxena, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, all joined the Yale faculty this year. And all three gave presentations about their research interests during the dedication event.
Nobre studies how the human brain uses attention to identify important information from its surroundings and from memories, selecting what is relevant from what’s not and using it to guide behavior. Favuzzi described her work on interactions between neurons and the immune system and how immune cells called microglia regulate brain wiring and function, particularly in early development when the brain undergoes significant neuronal pruning. Saxena described how she develops computational models of cognition and behavior by using both large-scale neural data and biologically relevant constraints.
These three researchers — who all work at 100 College St. and represent not only their departments but also FAS, YSM, and the School of Engineering & Applied Science (and can walk to each other’s offices in under 30 seconds) — exemplify the unifying effect of the building.
Intersections and connections
The creation of the Wu Tsai Institute, and associated renovations to 100 College St., were made possible by a transformational gift from Joseph Tsai ’86, ’90 J.D. and Clara Wu Tsai announced in 2021. Both spoke during the dedication ceremony about their deep interest in the human mind and the importance they place on fostering multidisciplinary research. They then joined Yale leaders in cutting the ceremonial blue ribbon marking the building’s opening.
“By encouraging interaction and collaboration through new proximities, shared facilities, and thoughtful design, 100 College St. is a physical manifestation of the Wu Tsai Institute’s goal of sparking interdisciplinary inquiry in the service of understanding human cognition and exploring human potential,” said Nick Turk-Browne, WTI director and professor of psychology.
The breadth of research already taking place in the downtown building was on full display in an open house following the ceremony. Students and faculty organized interactive demonstrations throughout the building in spaces for data collection, analysis, and visualization, showcasing the questions they are asking, discoveries they are making, and technologies they are building. They demonstrated how groundbreaking tools are expanding the ways scientists can measure human brain function. They even welcomed people to play with a robot named Kenneth.
Presentations on the 12th and 14th floors, now home to the Department of Psychology, highlighted the use of virtual reality to better understand mental health disorders and revealed how young children can over-imitate adults around them, copying actions they observe whether they’re necessary or not. Attendees also played a “Pong”-like game with a robotic device designed for studying cognition and movement.
Researchers on the 10th floor, home to part of the Department of Neuroscience as well as WTI’s Center for Neurodevelopment and Plasticity and Microscopy Innovation Core, illustrated how advanced microscopes enable scientists to capture the development, wiring, and activity of neurons. Meanwhile, on Neuroscience’s other floors, 2 and 3, attendees viewed living nematodes, a type of roundworm, under a microscope as well as part of a neuron, fluorescing where other neurons connected to it. They could also cross over one of the building’s elevated bridges to the Sterling Hall of Medicine and the Kavli Neurotechnology Core, where researchers can learn how to design and build tools they need for their work.
Situated strategically between the departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, on the 11th floor, sit the event spaces and administrative offices of WTI, as well as its Center for Neurocomputation and Machine Intelligence and Center for Neurocognition and Behavior. In the lab spaces connected to these centers, faculty from the departments of Statistics and Data Science, Computer Science, Psychiatry, Comparative Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and more come together through a shared interest in understanding cognition. A tour of a WTI facility dubbed “The Matrix” showed how researchers could use video walls to visualize data, stream live data, and manipulate 3D models of the brain. Other parts of the facility provide a maker space and a mini data center for building new high-performance computer hardware to accelerate discovery.
BrainWorks, a WTI facility located on the first floor along with two classrooms, gives researchers unparalleled access to the latest and most powerful technologies for safely measuring the human brain in action. With tools like functional magnetic resonance imaging and a first-of-its-kind optically pumped magnetometer system, as well as wearable devices and motion capture, Yale scientists can gain new insights in more natural experiments closer to real-life behavior. Researchers put these instruments to use during the dedication, showing how brain activity can be measured in someone as they go about normal activities.
The demonstrations offered a glimpse into the broad range of related research topics being studied at 100 College St., a place where psychologists, neuroscientists, and computer scientists are putting their heads together with engineers, linguists, data scientists, philosophers, and more. It’s a hub that sits at many intersections, connecting fields, bridging campuses, and reconnecting New Haven.
“It’s a remarkable moment for our campus and our city,” said Salovey.