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June 5, 2023

Moonstone is a Milestone

ISTA opens new laboratory building with seminar center and science education space

The newly opened laboratory building is the sixth on the growing campus of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) in Klosterneuburg. In addition to laboratories for cutting-edge research, the Moonstone Building will also accommodate science education with the VISTA Science Experience Lab and a seminar center for scientific conferences. This milestone marks the end of the second of three expansion stages en route to doubling the Institute’s size by 2036.

Moonstone Building. Elegance and sustainable design in service of science and its communication. © Anna Stöcher / ISTA

It is no coincidence that the new laboratory building of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) was ceremonially opened on the day of a full moon, of all days. “For me as a scientist, the moon is a silent reminder that we humans are developing science and technology to make the seemingly impossible possible—such as flying to the moon and back,” says ISTA president Martin Hetzer. “The Moonstone Building, which opens today, will provide space and resources for our pioneering spirit to conduct the kind of interconnected basic research that could better the world and the daily lives of billions of people.”

In addition to laboratory and office space for future research groups, the building will provide space for the new VISTA science education program to hold student workshops and teacher training sessions. It also houses a state-of-the-art seminar center for scientific conferences.

Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Governor of Lower Austria, who was also present at the opening of the building, is enthusiastic. She adds, “ISTA has developed into a beacon for international research that shines far beyond the country’s borders. The campus has established itself as a regional landmark. To attract the brightest minds to our province, we offer them the space for scientific development and thus create an attractive research location that is perceived nationally and internationally as a center for research and education. We are excited to see which groundbreaking scientific findings will find their origin in the Moonstone Building.”

Cutting of the opening ribbon. From left to right: Member of the Lower Austrian Parliament and City Councilor of Klosterneuburg Christoph Kaufmann, Managing Director Georg Schneider, Governor of Lower Austria Johanna Mikl-Leitner, and President Martin Hetzer. © Anna Stöcher / ISTA

Customized Laboratories

The Moonstone Building also symbolizes ISTA’s departure into space from the research side. In 2023, the Institute welcomes Lisa Bugnet and Jorryt Matthee, its first two professors in the field of astrophysics. In addition, climate research, data and computer science, and physics will be conducted in the new building.

In the almost 1,000 square meters of laboratory space, for example, the experimental physics groups of Scott Waitukaitis and Jérémie Palacci will have a custom-tailored joint laboratory. They study emergent soft matter phenomena and have been meticulously planning their labs for years. The now possible daily interactions between the members of the two groups promise groundbreaking project ideas. Waitukaitis is already looking forward to the exchanges, “Just the chance to borrow a piece of equipment, or ask a question, can turn into an idea for a new experiment.” Palacci adds, „It is great to have so many different researchers together in one space. Not to forget our colleagues doing theoretical work, now working next to us, and all the benefits we will get from the mixing of the office space of theory and experimental students.“

Deputy Governor and Head of the Science Department in Lower Austria Stephan Pernkopf emphasizes the societal benefits of basic research, saying, “Lower Austria is considered a top location for science and this is not least due to the excellent conditions that researchers find here. Through targeted investments in modern infrastructure, such as here at ISTA in Klosterneuburg, we drive the spirit of research and offer the opportunity to develop ideas, expand concepts, and implement projects. Because it cannot be emphasized often enough: All big questions can only be solved by and with science. The achievements that emerge in our province’s scientific institutions directly benefit us all.”

Guest of the opening event visiting laboratory spaces. After the opening ceremony, guest had the chance to tour the state-of-the-art research facilities themselves. © Anna Stöcher / ISTA

VISTA Science Experience Lab and Conference Center

“Communicating science to the next generations and building confidence in science are two important pillars of ISTA,” explains Christian Bertsch, Head of the Science Education Team. “In the VISTA Science Experience Lab, we will offer workshops for school classes and science clubs for individual research, where students can experience science first-hand and apply it themselves.” The VISTA Science Experience Lab program will be available online at beginning this summer.

The new building also houses a seminar center for 400 visitors. Its space can be flexibly configured as needed and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a mobile stage. “The seminar center will allow us to host larger events such as scientific conferences,” says Hetzer, looking to the future. “This will further strengthen ISTA as an international research site and Lower Austria as a location for science.”

The building’s design is also looking into the future. The responsible consortium of the architectural firms DIN A4 and ILF paid particular attention to sustainability. In addition to low energy consumption of the building services, despite the complex demands of the laboratories, and the highest standards of thermal insulation, the roof is equipped with photovoltaic collectors. Inside the four-story building, a 100-square-meter moss wall over several floors ensures a pleasant indoor climate.


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