Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex

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Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex
Exterior of ISEC in 2019
Exterior of ISEC in 2019
General information
TypeResearch Facility, Classroom, Laboratory
Town or cityBoston, Massachusetts
CountryUnited States
Coordinates42°20′16″N 71°05′13″W / 42.337694°N 71.086917°W / 42.337694; -71.086917Coordinates: 42°20′16″N 71°05′13″W / 42.337694°N 71.086917°W / 42.337694; -71.086917[1]
GroundbreakingFebruary 21, 2014
CompletedApril 3, 2017
Cost$225 Million (2017)
OwnerNortheastern University
Technical details
Floor count6
Floor area234,000 square feet (21,700 m2)
Design and construction
Architecture firmPayette
Services engineerArup
Main contractorSuffolk Construction

The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) is a 234,000 square-foot (21,700 m2) building at Northeastern University designed to provide an innovative environment for collaborative research, laboratory access, and classroom learning. The building is located on the University's central campus at 805 Columbus Ave, Boston, Massachusetts. The building initially opened on April 3, 2017.


ISEC has 6 stories consisting of labs, classrooms, offices, conference rooms, and research facilities. The first floor consists of two 50-seat lecture halls, two 50-seat active learning classrooms, a bicycle storage room, a 24-seat biomaterials teaching lab, a cafe, and a 280 seat auditorium. The building also has a central atrium which extends through all 6 floors and contains the main spiral staircase. Floors 2-5 house an array of experimental labs on the rectangular half of the building and contain several offices and conference rooms on the rounded half of the building across the atrium. The 6th floor is structurally similar to floors 2-5, but house computational research facilities in place of the laboratories. The north corner of floors 3-6 contain a computational research room, and floor 2 has a lab classroom in the same corner.



The ISEC building was constructed for collaboration and cutting-edge research , with the theme of flow and movement in mind. The central body of the building consists of a large atrium that extends from the ground floor to the six-story ceiling. Much of the research space which borders this main atrium is completely visible to observers , allowing for high levels of transparency between the public and different disciplines.Open spaces of collaboration and "research on display" define much of the complex.

ISEC was constructed on an urban brownfield site that was formerly a parking lot set between the Columbus Ave and Renaissance Park Garages. Set between Boston's historic Roxbury and Fenway neighborhoods, The facility serves to connect two areas that were for the most part separated by the Amtrak and MBTA rail lines.[2]

Influence and impact[edit]

University profile[edit]

Completion of the ISEC facility signifies a major shift in the culture, history, and trajectory of Northeastern University. In the period from 2006-2016, its ranking as measured by US News and World Report rose from 98th to 39th. The school reports having received 50,000 applications for 2,300 places last year. The co-op program, in which students split their time between their studies and working jobs in the field, is still an integral part of the experiential learning education model of the school.[3]

Once largely a commuter school, the university is making a large shift in increasing its research budget to become center of innovation and research that is on par with the nation's elite research colleges and universities, and the opening of ISEC marks a future of accelerating Northeastern's research momentum.

In the past ten years, the university's federal research funding has more than doubled, to the current $130 million a year, and Northeastern has hired 565 new tenured and tenure-track faculty in disciplines directly tied to its research goals since the 2006-2007 academic year.[4]

The ISEC building represents a $225 million dollar piece of the $1.6 billion master plan for development proposed by Northeastern to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in November 2013.[5]

Expansion projects[edit]

Currently, the rail corridor that serves Amtrak, the Orange Line, and commuter trains makes walking or biking from one side to the other difficult, effectively isolating Northeastern's main campus from the Roxbury neighborhood. To combat this issue, the designers of ISEC included a new public pedestrian bridge that will extend from a ISEC to the central campus of Northeastern, with accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists. Construction began in Fall 2017 and was expected to finish in late 2018. The bridge was lifted into place in October 2018, a revised timeline stated the bridge would open in Q1 2019.[6] The bridge opened to the public in June 2019.[7]

The original 2013 Institutional Master Plan that proposed ISEC included three buildings in the complex.[8] In May 2019, Northeastern announced the second building in the complex, EXP, with plans to begin construction in early 2020.[9] The 350,000 sq ft new building is anticipated to take three years to complete and will include dynamic research spaces for driverless cars and humanoid robots.[10][11]

Research projects[edit]

The complex currently houses five major research projects.

The Human-centered robotics research group develops robots and assistive devices to empower people, improve health care, or ensure public safety. In partnership with NASA, researchers are programming a 6’2” humanoid, Valkyrie, to explore Mars as soon as 2030, ahead of human explorers.[12] This project represents a collaborative effort between Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts Lowell, and NASA's Johnson Space Center.[13]

The research on brain and cognitive health uses virtual reality, computer modeling, and neuroimaging technologies, including fMRI, researchers design new ways to measure performance from youth to old age.

Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute researchers are currently designing techniques to safeguard data and strengthen critical wireless and cloud-network infrastructure against attack.

The research team responsible for drug delivery and structural biology designs small molecules, the basis of new medicines to treat schizophrenia, among other devastating diseases. Sculpted at the atomic level, this project develops molecules which must fit cell targets precisely to avoid causing toxic side effects.

The translational biophotonics research cluster harnesses visible and near-infrared light rays to examine disease. To develop new optical technologies, engineers, physicists, and chemists collaborate with biologists and pharmaceutical scientists at Northeastern and medical experts at Boston’s world-class research hospitals.


Lobbying and protest[edit]

On April 4, 2017, the building had its official grand opening ceremony. Researchers, students, faculty, administrators, and executives of various research institutions attended the grand opening along with a protesting student environmental group, DivestNU.

DivestNU is a student organization that advocates for Northeastern's administration to divest the university’s endowments from the fossil fuel industry. During their outdoor demonstrations at the opening of the building, DivestNU members did things such as hold up tubes to symbolize oil pipelines.

The Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD) let the student protesters go inside as long as they did not hand out flyers. After getting in, the NUPD had to prevent them from handing out any posters at all inside. Eventually, the group was asked to leave ISEC building.[14]


  1. ^ Google (October 31, 2017). "Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  2. ^ "Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex – Payette". Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  3. ^ "ISEC building emblem of new era at Northeastern - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  4. ^ "Northeastern formally opens $225 million science, engineering complex - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  5. ^ "Northeastern University to Expand with New Research Building". Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  6. ^ "An engineering feat completed as Northeastern pedestrian bridge that will unite Boston campus is raised". Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  7. ^ Schwartz, Deanna (2019-06-04). "ISEC footbridge opens to mixed response". The Huntington News. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  8. ^ "Boston Campus Institutional Master Plan". BPDA. 2013-11-19.
  9. ^ Sarwari, Khalida; Thomsen, Ian (2019-06-11). "Northeastern University to construct new research building to support university's work in autonomous vehicles, drones, humanoid robots, and more". News@Northeastern. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  10. ^ Gaffin, Adam (2019-05-28). "New Northeastern building would include space for improving driverless cars - and building humanoid robots that could ride in them". Universal Hub. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  11. ^ LaFratta, Kristin (2019-05-30). "Proposed Northeastern building would house innovative hub to research driverless cars, 'humanoid robots'". Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  12. ^, Northeastern University,. "Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC) - Northeastern University". Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC) - Northeastern University. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  13. ^ "NASA Awards R5 Valkyrie Robots to MIT and Northeastern". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  14. ^ "Politicians, student demonstrators turn out for ISEC opening". The Huntington News. 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2017-11-28.

External links[edit]