Knights donate $500M more to Oregon’s science campus

The gift will create a second research facility and boost the number of its faculty and students at the university.
By: | July 6, 2021
Photo courtesy of the University of Oregon

Five years ago, Phil and Penny Knight gifted $500 million to help launch the University of Oregon’s Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact that bears their name.

On Tuesday, the philanthropists doubled down on the university’s growth plan around bioengineering and presented scientific research with a second $500 million donation. The gift will go toward creating 14-16 new tenure-related faculty positions and a $175,000-square-foot building that will be home to new innovation and lab spaces.

“This gift accelerates our drive to greater heights of excellence, forging partnerships with other great universities and creating incredible opportunities for students,” said Michael Schill, University of Oregon president and professor of law. “The work that will take place at the Knight Campus will improve people’s lives directly through innovative treatments and devices, and indirectly through company formation, jobs and economic development.”

Led by Professor Robert Guldberg, the first of the campus buildings opened in December 2020. The new facility will feature research in regenerative medicine, biomedical data science and applied interdisciplinary sciences. According to the university, the goal of the Knight Campus will be to train “postdoctoral scholars and students to become the next generation of engineering and applied citizen-scientists.”

“The combination of engineering, science, business and medicine is where the magic happens, and that’s what we are already witnessing at the Knight Campus,” Guldberg said. “This gift allows us to achieve our larger vision in a very compressed timeline. What would take other institutions decades to achieve is happening here in just a matter of years. Our goal is to dramatically shorten the timeline between discovery and societal impact through world-class research, training and entrepreneurship in a nimble scientific enterprise.”

Aside from the physical work being done on the Campus, faculty are helping to deliver cutting-edge curricula and critical tools to help make students successful, such as building communication skills and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit. Those faculty have introduced high-resolution 3D-printing methods for potential medical implants, sensors that allow doctors to monitor the progress of bone regeneration in trauma patients, and designing proteins to treat disease. Researchers are encouraged to pursue startup ambitions and launch new inventions. “At the heart of the Knight Campus are the innovation-minded students and faculty we are recruiting as well as cross-disciplinary partnerships, which are essential to solving society’s most challenging problems,” Guldberg said.

Partnerships will be essential to the success of the campus. To that end, the university has teamed up with Oregon State University on a new bioengineering doctorate program. It is also creating the Campus’ first undergraduate program so students can pursue a minor in bioengineering to go along with their related studies in STEM fields.

The Campus also features an experiential graduate internship program for master’s seekers that is focused on materials science, bioinformatics and genomics.