Man on Dead Campus

The Eternal Flame of Chemistry...Life feels like the twilight zone right now. Kentucky is one notch ahead of Illinois in the Pomeroy Ratings (#80 vs. #81), campus is dead because of Fall Break, Kanye West is an ahhtist, and gas is $1.60. Chemistry marches on though, as always.

One nice aspect of UIUC’s newfound emptiness is the ability to travel the tunnel between the chemistry buildings without the risk of awkwardly running into someone (unless, of course, they had the same idea). I don’t know whose idea it was to construct an underground tunnel between two of the major chemistry buildings on campus, but I salute you. You’re almost as awesome as the guy who designed the chemical tracking database. Thanks for making me feel like Bruce Wayne descending into the Bat Cave every time I need to travel from Roger Adams Lab to Noyes Lab.

The sketchiest part of the aforementioned journey is probably on the RAL end–the tunnel proper is located at the bottom of a staircase leading from the “first basement” to an even lower level though an ancient door with chipping beige paint. Above the door sits one lonely, bare light bulb that looks like it’s been burning continuously since 1910. On either side of the path to Noyes Lab, chain-link fences guard what many speculate are medieval torture devices pilfered from museums and sold on eBay to finance research. Low-hanging pipes claim the foreheads of absent-minded travelers. A Burke group refrigerator, deemed unclean for the storage of their sacred MIDA boronates, weeps in a deserted hallway. Strangely, on the Noyes end, the tunnel opens directly to the basement level, even though the ground above is basically flat. Physicists speculate that a quantum teleportation device the university’s been keeping under wraps (and behind one of those creepy fences, no doubt) may be involved.

I wish I could make this stuff up. I really do. Happy Thanksgiving faithful readers!



  1. One of our science buildings was repurposed from a parking garage. It’s so utterly labyrinthine that you can pick out the freshman instantly- they have no clue where they’re going. It’s also a designated fallout shelter.

    One physics building I visited at another campus seemed structured in a spiral within: As you go down the winding hall, you seem to go further into the building.

    Science buildings are like that historically I think. I remember reading about how Enrico Fermi’s lab was beneath the football field at the University of Illinois. Kanatjan Alibekov, the former Soviet bioweaponeer, wrote about how the weapons research facilities he worked at were structured like nesting dolls- buildings within buildings until you got to the most dangerous part of the operation at the center. Though this was mainly about containment.


  2. No sign yet. I once saw a lab with a sign like that hung inside the lab, so that you saw it walking out towards the outside world. Right clever, I thought.


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