Top 9 Features of the New ILSB Not to Miss

Published: Aug 27, 2019

Since its groundbreaking two years ago, the UMBC community has watched the new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building rise next to The Commons. Students and faculty wondered what it would look like on the inside, and what it would be like to study, take classes, do research, or just hang out in the new space. 

Well, the time has come! As the ILSB opens its doors for the fall semester, Retrievers are eagerly trying to figure out how the ILSB will fit into their routines. Grabbing a seat in the atrium for a quick break with friends before class? Conducting experiments in an open lab with floor-to-ceiling windows? Learning about any number of topics in classrooms designed from the ground up for active learning? Taking your lunch to a patio adjacent to the green roof? However you use the ILSB, here are nine features you shouldn’t miss:

1) Stunning staircases 

Science isn’t just what happens inside the ILSB, it’s built into the building itself. Two staircases in the building exemplify the designers’ dedication to detail: this bright orange spiral staircase has an uncanny resemblance to a DNA helix, don’t you think? And the stairs in the building’s atrium are cantilevered to appear to float in thin air—reminding us all that anything is possible.

2) Sundial 

As you ascend the stairs or peer over the building’s inner balconies, don’t be nervous about the spot of red light slowly migrating across the floor. It’s not a laser experiment gone rogue—it’s a sundial. On the solstice, it traces a special line on the floor. Old and new technologies come together in the ILSB, reminding us all that we’re standing on the shoulders of giants.

3) Green roof

There’s life bursting from every corner of this building, including UMBC’s fifth green roof. Green roofs provide insulation that reduces heating and cooling energy requirements, plus they help purify the air and water. Unfortunately, the roof is off limits to games of ultimate frisbee or other activities, but the adjacent patio is a great spot to enjoy lunch or just take a breather between classes.

4) Environmental systems lab

This lab allows researchers to get their hands dirty conducting environmental experiments in a way never before possible at UMBC. A controlled trial looking at how insects respond to different water chemistry? Sure. An experiment to determine how plants respond to different temperatures? Go for it. Risk of contaminating molecular experiments that could be ruined by a stray speck of dirt? Nada. Have fun, ecologists!

5) Innovative classrooms

UMBC is consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for undergraduate teaching for many reasons. One of them is our commitment to teaching in an active-learning and flipped-classroom format. This is when students first encounter material traditionally presented in lectures at home via readings or short instructor-produced videos. That way, class time is saved for team-based problem solving. Implementing this practice has often meant completely revamping core classes such as introductory biology and chemistry. The ILSB adds to UMBC’s capacity to offer this kind of educational experience.

6) Art installation

It’s a bird! It’s a neuron! It’s…whatever you want it to be. Volkan Alkanoglu’s brightly-colored artwork INFLIGHT, which seemingly floats from three large walls in the ILSB’s atrium, is striking no matter how you look at it. But did you know the artist carefully incorporated elements from UMBC research into the design, from brain cells to flying orioles? Now that’s interdisciplinary. What do you see? 

7) Multi-user all-gender restrooms

Although UMBC is currently in the middle of remodeling many of the restrooms on campus for all-gender use, the ILSB is the first building at UMBC designed with all-gender multi-use in mind from the beginning. These restrooms pave the way for a more inclusive and convenient bathroom experience for our students, faculty, and staff of all gender identities. Learn more about the university’s plan for the addition of all-gender restrooms on campus. 

8) Etched windows

Look closely at the windows—what do you see? The pattern etched on the glass, created especially for UMBC, was designed to symbolize reeds and grasses on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The “fritting,” as it’s called, serves to deter bird strikes and reduces the energy required for heating and cooling. It’s a subtle way to honor our unique location and continue to protect it.

9) Brick pathway

As further homage to UMBC’s geography, the curving brick pathway around the ILSB imitates a stream that once flowed across campus (it now runs underground), and all the plants you see are native to the region. So take a stroll, or simply sit on a bench and take it all in, from buzzing pollinators to bright flowers.


All photos, including header, by Marlayna Demond ’11.

Scroll to Top