by Rick Winterson
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, known by everyone as WPI, is a private research university in Worcester. WPI engages in all aspects of technical arts and applied science. As of last Wednesday morning, January 31, it has officially (and ceremoniously) opened a new innovation facility on the South Boston Waterfront. At noontime, a contingent of officials, led by WPI President Laurie Leshin, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh began their remarks leading up to the ribbon cutting itself.
Entitled simply “WPI Seaport”, this technical facility now occupies the ground floor at 303 Congress Street. Its location is both strategic and beautiful.
Strategically, it anchors the western end of the South Boston Seaport, which is also known as the City of Boston’s “Innovation District”. WPI Seaport joins the high tech enterprises that stretch all along the harborside of the Seaport District, right out to the Design Center to the east, which itself has now been renamed “The Innovation and Design Building”
WPI Seaport’s location overlooks the placid, scenic Fort Point Channel and Boston’s Financial District skyline from its windows, along the pedestrian walkway that connects Summer and Congress Streets on the South Boston sides of the respective bridges. It is directly across Congress Street from the Tea Party Ships and Children’s Museum, opposite their big “milk bottle”.
A jam-packed crowd of officials, WPI students, local media, and technical intelligentsia from across the Commonwealth gathered as the speaker took to the lectern. WPI President, Dr. Laurie Leshin, said, “WPI is already in 26 countries. We want to do more right here in Boston. WPI Seaport is ‘a wormhole from Boston to to Worcester’” (EDITOR’S NOTE: In space science, the word “Wormhole” refers to a high-energy passage from a gigantic black hole to another universe.). Lt. Gov. Polito spoke about “continual invention of the future” and “corridors of connection”. Mayor Petty contrasted the coming of WPI Seaport to Boston with the (then) upcoming Super Bowl by saying that the WPI Seaport project “has two winners – Boston and Worcester both”. Mayor Walsh compared Boston and Worcester – “Both our economies depend upon life sciences, biotech, and our colleges.” He closed by thanking WPI for their Vision (with a capital “V”) in bringing WPI Seaport to Boston.
With WPI President Laurie Leshin expertly wielding the scissors, the team of guests then well and truly cut the foot-wide ceremonial red ribbon. A reception followed, while the student/faculty research demonstrations in the technical suites at 303 Congress continued – robot-assisted surgery, decision-making with “big data”, tissue-engineered blood vessels, and so on. State Auditor Suzanne Bump sent her greetings to all her many South Boston friends.
As a kind of editorial comment, many people think of scientific research being performed by a “lone wolf” scientist in a dimly lit lab, surrounded by a Bunsen burner, a gram scale, and an oscilloscope with glowing green lines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today’s scientific research, whether it’s done by a university, the government, or a corporation, is always a team effort. A scientist with an idea is joined by mathematicians, laboratory technologists, computer experts, literature searchers, and many others. WPI Seaport, by establishing itself here in Boston, furthers the technical team approach that is so essential to investigating modern technology in this day and age.