Grand Challenges Research Building


The Grand Challenges Research Building (GCRB) is a research facility that will expand UA’s capacity in optical sciences and the related disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics.

GCRB is a new research facility that will leverage the University's core strengths to address the grand challenges identified in Pillar 2 of the University's strategic plan. GCRB will be an interdisciplinary facility designed to foster conversations among sciences and programs.

The 7-story building will be located on Cherry Avenue as part of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences complex. The new building will be south of Meinel West, and across the street from the Main Library.

GCRB will support research laboratories for expansion of the Optical Sciences under the Office of the Provost to continue advancing the University's international reputation in this field, as well as new sponsored projects for the Office of Research Innovation and Impact.

Research and centers that will be located in the GCRB:

Optical sciences research includes the use of lasers, lenses, spectrometers and other light-manipulating systems to design equipment for manufacturing, medicine, communications and space exploration. GCRB will greatly expand UA’s capacity in optical sciences, below are two areas that highlight UA’s research potential.  The College of Optical Sciences has over 50 active research programs and generates approximately $20 million in new research awards per year.

Researchers at UA are world-leaders in designing and fabricating highly specialized optics. Students work alongside faculty on projects of global significance, such as the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and OSIRIS-REx.

At UA major research is ongoing related to the development of advanced optical microscopes, endoscopes, and micro-endoscopes. Several faculty members are involved in multi-modality imaging (optical, MRI, ultrasound, photoacoustic, nuclear) which is a technique that enables scientists to study the microenvironment of a tumor.

In August 2020 the NSF selected UA to lead and establish the Center for Quantum Networks.  The quantum approach to computing is new to the physics of transferring information, it merges quantum mechanics and information theory.  Quantum computing is expected to transform medicine, break encryption and revolutionize communications and artificial intelligence.  In addition to developing the quantum internet, the Center is charged with creating the curriculum for the new discipline, “quantum information science and engineering.”

UA recently participated is the final stages to house the NSF New Frontiers of Sound Science Technology Center.  The Center is focused on bringing many of the benefits of quantum technologies to acoustic devices, including cell phones, radios, medical imaging.  The research conducted at this Center will improve the security of communications, and the transactions that those communications support, and expand the amount of data that can efficiently be transferred.

The first floor of GCRB will include large multi-functional space intended to support student engagement and will be capable of supporting some instructional activity. The GCRB will house the state-of-the-art equipment and technologies required to successfully carryout the research detailed above.


Many large air-tables are required to provide the space and stability needed to conduct most optical experiments.

Laser systems drive most optical experiments and have specific power, cooling, shielding and other related requirements.

The facility will have at least one quantum networking testbed and specialized equipment for quantum network element prototyping.

There will be smart spaces hardware prototyping and human testing laboratories Remote sensing prototyping laboratories, and biomedical optics hardware prototyping laboratories.