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New heights for UMMC research come with 'topping out'

Published on Thursday, May 5, 2016

By: Karen Bascom

Published in News Stories on May 05, 2016

Folklore says that “topping-out” ceremonies come from an ancient Scandinavian rite where builders put trees and branches on top of new structures to ward off evil spirits. Whether that is true or not, the rain held off long enough for the Translational Research Center's topping-out ceremony on Monday, May 2.

UMMC representatives joined Fountain Construction and Foil Wyatt Architects at the construction site north of the Arthur C. Guyton Research Center to celebrate the successful end of this construction phase. But instead of a tree, the crane raised a white iron construction beam bearing their signatures to the roof.


“It is the primary mission of UMMC to improve the lives and health care of Mississippians,” Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research, told the dozens of people in attendance. “This building will serve as a platform for translating the discoveries of our physician-scientists into methods that will improve those lives.”

Translational research is an emerging biomedical field that takes “bench science” - findings from laboratory studies - and brings them to the “bedside” as treatments for disease. It also extends into the community, where the new knowledge can improve population health.

Dr. Tom Mosley, director of the MIND (Memory Impairment and Neurocognitive Dementia) Center, expressed excitement and gratitude as he spoke on behalf of the new building's inhabitants.

“We have the potential to create synergy between these groups,” Mosley said. “We will all be under one roof and doing fantastic science.”

The MIND Center will move into the building's first floor. The Center for Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, soon to be part of the Department of Data Science and the School for Population Health, will use space on the second floor. The third floor will have wet and dry neuroscience labs which members of the new Neuroscience Institute will use.  The basement floor will include laboratory animal facilities.


“We welcome you all to come back when the building is finished and take a look around,” Mosley said.

The top floors are open for now but will include incubator space where scientists can collaborate with industry members to hatch ideas and bring them to the market.

Brad Fountain, president of Fountain Construction, called the six-story, 106,104-square-foot TRC “one of the most exciting building projects” his company has worked on for UMMC. The building is on schedule for completion in June 2017, he says.

By the time the TRC opens, Fountain says the building will contain 48 million pounds of concrete, 2.7 million pounds of steel, 500,000 bricks and blocks and almost 170 miles of piping, electrical raceway and wiring.

“Most importantly, the project will have provided employment for approximately 300 construction workers who will put in 1.2 million man hours over a 22-month period,” Fountain said. In celebration of those workers, Jackson Ready Mix mixed up some fried catfish for the topping-out ceremony.

To the east of the TRC, the new School of Medicine building had its own topping-out ceremony in March. That project is also scheduled for completion in 2017.

The Translational Research Center may have reached its highest height, but there is still plenty of room to grow.

“It is my hope that the Translational Research Center will help our institution continue the long tradition of progressive approaches to fighting disease that our citizens deserve,” Summers said.