This past February, members of the Penn community braved the cold weather to participate in a special “topping off” ceremony that marked a milestone in the construction of the Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology (VLEST). This time-honored builders’ tradition gave students, faculty, staff, and the builders an opportunity to sign the final steel beam before it was placed on top of the building. Event attendees included Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience; Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean and Professor, School of Engineering and Applied Science, with appointments in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Computer and Information Science, and Electrical and Systems Engineering; Penn President Liz Magill; and P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, who, along with his wife Diana Vagelos, made the project possible through two major gifts to the School of Arts & Sciences.
“Knowing that energy solutions are among our world’s most pressing needs—and that Penn is the place where they can be discovered—Roy and Diana made the gift that brought this laboratory into being,” remarked Fluharty. “This [ceremony] lets us celebrate the fact that we are one step closer to achieving an important goal—and celebrate our good fortune in having so many friends who have made this project possible.”
“[Energy and climate issues] are a huge problem coming at us, and so we need to solve it,” said Vagelos. “With this new building, we’re going to play a major role in supporting sustainable energy and make a real difference.”
VLEST, located at 32nd and Walnut Streets, will provide space for the activities of Penn’s top energy scientists and serve as the home for critical initiatives in energy research and education, accelerating the pace of scientific advances and forging the path to urgently needed solutions.
Attendee Awahan Sapkota, C’26, ENG’26, who is enrolled in the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), a dual-degree undergraduate program, commented that he is very excited to have a space in VLEST once it’s operational. “I come from Nepal where there are a lot of energy crises—that really motivated me to do energy research for my undergraduate journey.”
Additional filming credits: Rich Hoffmann, Blake Eichenseer, and Zia Kazi.