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Stanford trustees cheer Nobel laureates, approve StartX Fund, construction projects

Following the fall gathering of the Board of Trustees, Chair Steven A. Denning outlined the highlights and actions taken during the two-day meeting.

L.A. Cicero Steven A. Denning

Steven A. Denning is chair of the university's Board of Trustees.

Like the rest of the Stanford community, the university's Board of Trustees learned the exciting news Monday morning that neuroscientist Thomas Südhof, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology at the School of Medicine, had won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

"President John Hennessy told us that not only did Tom win, but that the other two scientists who shared the prize both have Stanford affiliations," said Steven A. Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees.

Südhof shared the prize with James Rothman, a former Stanford professor of biochemistry, and Randy Schekman, who earned his doctorate at Stanford under the late Arthur Kornberg, a 1959 winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

By Wednesday, the university community was celebrating the announcement of another Nobel laureate: Michael Levitt, professor of structural biology at the medical school, who shares the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Strengthening entrepreneurial culture on campus

During its Oct. 7-8 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved Stanford investing in the Stanford-StartX Fund.

"We feel it's a way of reinforcing the entrepreneurial culture that's been such a critical part of the university," Denning said.

StartX is a nonprofit organization founded by Stanford students in 2009. Its mission is to accelerate the development of Stanford's top entrepreneurs through experiential education.

On Sept. 5, Stanford, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and StartX announced a three-year partnership that includes a $1.2 million yearly grant to StartX as well as a separate, newly created investment vehicle called the Stanford-StartX Fund.

The grant will fund StartX's entrepreneurial education program, and the Stanford-StartX Fund, which is unlimited in the amount it can invest, will support founders and technology emerging from the StartX programs.

Construction approvals

On the building front, trustees gave construction approval to the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project. Under the project, Stanford is installing 20 miles of underground pipes, converting 152 buildings from steam to hot water and building a new energy facility on campus. Denning said Stanford still hopes to complete the comprehensive project by March 31, 2015.

In addition, trustees gave construction approval for a new Northwest Data Center and Communications Hub. The 91,000-square-foot building will be a Class 1 facility, meaning the new building will be structurally rated to maintain continuous networking, telecommunications and operations of critical infrastructure and systems following a seismic or other major event.

The Northwest Data Center and Communications Hub, which is expected to be completed next fall, will serve three critical university functions:

  • The data center will house all major enterprise administrative applications.
  • The electronic communications hub will serve facilities in the northwest area of campus.
  • The remote operator facility will house telephone operators and Forsythe data center managers during emergencies.

Finally, trustees gave construction approval for the renovation of Buildings 02-520 and 02-524, located on Panama Mall. The project will bring together three currently dispersed mechanical engineering groups: the Biomechanical Engineering Program, the Mechanics and Computations Group, and the Thermosciences Group.

Under the project, Stanford will renovate the entire 37,235 square footage of the two existing buildings and will unify them with the creation of a central atrium entry. The project is expected to be completed by April 2015.