Governor-General opens ground-breaking Molecular Horizons building
Building dedicated in honour of UOW’s fourth Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings
The University of Wollongong’s ground-breaking new Molecular Horizons building was officially opened on Friday 30 April 2021 by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd).
The formal ceremony dedicated the Molecular Horizons building to retiring UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE, to recognise his outstanding contribution to the University, naming it the Paul Wellings Building.
The building was designed to house a suite of revolutionary technology – including the three-metre tall, one-tonne FEI/Thermo Fisher Titan Krios cryogenic electron microscope – that will deliver high-impact research that changes the way we understand disease processes.
The Titan Krios is the most powerful microscope of its kind in Australia, able to see down to the level of individual molecules. It works by firing a stream of high-energy electrons through a frozen sample, generating multiple two-dimensional visualisations of molecules that can be reconstructed into highly detailed three-dimensional models.
These visualisation techniques will lead to a better understanding of how proteins and cells behave which is critical to developing new ways to detect and fight disease.
Molecular Horizons Director Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen said the world-class research facilities will be shared by a team of scientists whose research spans four key themes; antimicrobial resistance, molecular neurosciences, protein aggregation related diseases and cancer therapeutics.
“By bringing together biologists and chemists, we aim to understand the molecular principles of life and find ways to prevent things from going wrong at that molecular level so we can treat disease,” Professor van Oijen said.
“This spectacular-looking building has technology that is truly cutting-edge and that allows us to see what the molecules that play a role in disease look like. It has microscopes that can magnify millions of times and that allow us to visualise the atomic structure of protein molecules, exactly the information we need to design better medicines.”
His Excellency the Governor-General congratulated UOW on delivering a world-class facility that had the potential to cement Australia’s position as a leader in health-related research, and described it as a very fitting legacy of Professor Wellings’ exceptional leadership and his contribution to the University.
Professor Wellings said he was deeply humbled to have the facility named in his honour, and thanked Governor-General Hurley and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley for officially opening the building and for their unwavering support of UOW.
“Molecular Horizons strikingly represents how our University continues to invest in research that has the potential to deliver breakthroughs – in this case, research that improves and saves lives, Professor Wellings said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work, learn and interact both personally and professionally. Throughout this disruption, the transformative projects delivered by the University are keeping communities safe and are helping their economic and social post-pandemic recovery.
“Molecular Horizons epitomises UOW’s partnership approach. It is a fusion of local, national and international collaborations all working together to gain a greater understanding of disease mechanisms. Importantly, this work also includes training the next generation of scientists in the technology now available.
“Molecular Horizons is the University’s biggest ever self-funded research infrastructure investment. We have made this investment because at the nucleus of world-class research and education is world-class infrastructure.
“Molecular Horizons is about bringing together outstanding people and leveraging infrastructure, technology and innovation. Together, with our partners within academia, industry, government and the health system, we are charting a course in a new era of scientific discovery.”
UOW Chancellor Ms Christine McLoughlin expressed her thanks to their Excellencies for helping UOW celebrate a milestone occasion, and her appreciation to Professor Wellings for his outstanding service to the University and its communities.
“For almost a decade as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wellings has built upon the University’s rich history and driven transformative projects such as this one to benefit the institution and our communities,” Ms McLoughlin said.
“Under Paul’s leadership, UOW has developed an enviable reputation as one of the world’s top 200 universities.
“One of the most influential university leaders in the country, Professor Wellings leaves an indelible imprint on this institution and the Paul Wellings Building is an enduring tribute to his achievements.”
The event will be attended by government and industry partners, University leadership past and present, philanthropic supporters, as well as Institute researchers and professional staff to celebrate this monumental occasion for the University.