The breakables were carefully wrapped. Boxes were packed and labeled. The movers were called.

But this was no ordinary move. This one would involve nine departments, 95 faculty and staff and some 3,000 plastic moving crates. That’s in addition to 20 specialty moving vendors for particularly delicate items, including several spectrometers, 525 zebrafish, a cryostat and a laser table worth approximately $1 million.

The immensity of the move from Merrill Science Center to the new Science Center requires a high level of coordination. Dealing with a state-of-the-art, 250,000-square-foot building with 12 teaching laboratories, 47 research laboratories and 12 new classrooms involves a dizzying array of moving parts.

Jess Martin, administrative director of the Science Center, who often jokingly wears a sheriff’s badge with her name on it, had to troubleshoot a host of issues, big and small, that come with such a large-scale move. Vendors disagreed with each other about the best procedures; items went missing or were delivered to the wrong spaces. At one point, Martin and her assistant Kaitlyn Tsuyuki ’18 had to arrange for 250 lab stools—delivered in hilariously short dimensions by mistake—to be collected, refitted and redelivered.

Martin said one of her most nerve-racking moments was when physics professor Jonathan Friedman’s cryostat was on its way from one building to the other, flanked by a cadre of technicians. Martin discovered that new sealant had been applied to the floor where it would reside, requiring some last-minute tweaks (and plywood) before the quarter-of-a-million-dollar machine could be placed.

 “It was at least a 12 hour day,” she said, “but it all had to be carefully timed so people were in the right place at the right time.” 

Arguably the most complicated objects to move were Professor David Hall ’91’s two cutting-edge laser tables, loaded with optics, electronics and an extremely delicate vacuum system. The equipment—which required demolition work in Merrill to extract, a master forklift driver and a flatbed truck for the short drive to the Science Center—arrived safe and sound after 15 hours of labor. 

“The move was a success, and I think it is fair to say that I am immensely relieved,” said Hall, the Paula R. and David J. Avenius 1941 Professor of Physics, via email a few days after the move. The tables, which he collectively calls the “atomic refrigerator,” represented 20 years of work, he said, and injury to the vacuum system, in particular, would have set his research back a year or more. While each table weighed half a ton, they also had to be carried level, to within a few degrees, to avoid damaging the instrumentation.

“Everything being so heavy, and the day so hot, the forklift tires sank into the fresh asphalt,” said Hall. “The riggers put down Masonite and plywood, in the hot sun, and then drove the forklift down the hill to drop off the tables at the north entrance.” 

The tables, which are for research on monopoles, knots and skyrmions, will now be reassembled and adjusted. Hall said that, while he normally uses them for various demonstrations during classes, he’ll likely skip that this fall while they’re still being set up. 

“I am deeply appreciative to all of those who helped in the move,” Hall said. “I hope my students and I can now prove that it was worth it.”

The new Science Center will open to the community on Sept. 7 with the annual Summer Research Poster Session, which will include tours and food.

Professor Hall Documents Moving the Laser Tables

Professor David Hall ’91 documented the complicated relocation into the new Science Center of two cutting-edge laser tables, loaded with optics, electronics, and an extremely delicate vacuum system.