Laboratory designer given O’Neill Award for exceptional work

L.A. Cicero Brian Carilli

Brian Carilli, lab designer in the School of Engineering, is one of two recipients of this year’s Marsh O’Neill Award.

Whether they're wind tunnels, heavy welding equipment or cutting-edge facilities in the new science and engineering quad, Brian Carilli has turned researchers' wishes into reality. Since 1984, he has designed and supervised the construction of laboratories throughout campus.

So one might think his magnum opus would come plated with brushed steel panels and other 21st-century features. But when Carilli looks back on all the different facilities he has designed, his favorite project could easily have been called "This Old Lab."

That's because, in addition to construction, renovations also lead to new facilities. And Carilli can't think of a rebirth more glorious than that of the Agassiz Building at the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. Dating back to 1917, the historic laboratory underwent major upgrades for earthquake safety, American with Disabilities Act compliance and optimum use for teaching and research.

Carilli implemented all that while ensuring that the building's historic character was preserved. "It is absolutely the most beautiful building that Stanford owns," said Carilli, currently the associate director of facilities and planning in the School of Engineering. "It is something to behold."

Faculty from an array of engineering and science departments have turned to Carilli for their research-space needs over the years, and in honor of his service and expertise, the Office of the Dean of Research has named Carilli one of two winners of this year's Marsh O' Neill Award.

Winners must be nominated by faculty and demonstrate "exceptional and enduring support" of the university's research mission. This year's other winner is Mary-Louise Munill, interlibrary borrowing specialist at Green Library. Each will receive a $3,000 cash prize and be honored at a reception starting at 4 p.m. today in the Faculty Club.

Hosting will be Artie Bienenstock, acting vice provost for graduate education and special assistant to the president for federal research policy. Jeff Koseff, professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) and co-director of the Woods Institute for the Environment, will introduce Carilli at the reception.

"My trust in his abilities, his commitment, his judgement and his dedication to delivering the highest quality products is so complete that I am loath to proceed on a project without his input and participation," Koseff wrote in his nomination letter.

CEE Professor Richard Luthy, a senior fellow at the Woods Institute, wrote in his nomination that Carilli came to his office last December—during the winter closure—to address Luthy's concerns about the need to "fast track" the design of his laboratory in SEQ 2, the second science and engineering quad.

"He is so excellent in his job that the School of Engineering created a position for him to work full time on four new buildings at SEQ II," Luthy wrote. "He is outstanding in terms of providing service to a broad community at Stanford."

So outstanding, in fact, that his reputation ripples even farther: "It's perhaps worth mentioning in closing that Brian is continually being 'head-hunted' by organizations outside of Stanford, positions that would give him a massive increase in salary," Professor George Somero, director of Hopkins Marine Station, wrote at the end of his nomination.

Carilli, who plays in a band that has performed numerous times at Stanford's Multicultural Springfest, confirmed that outsiders occasionally come courting. But he said no value can be placed on the everyday opportunities to work with and learn from Stanford scientists and professors—especially since he firmly believes in the university's research mission.

"Stanford has a product. A lot of people don't know this," Carilli said. "We produce a product, and our product is the future."