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About Sickkids
About SickKids

December 30, 2013

Life at the Gilgan Centre: Exciting science, gorgeous views and great interactivity

By Margaret Sheridan

The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning officially opened its doors on Sept. 17, a historic day warmly welcomed by SickKids and its researchers.

In the following weeks, an estimated 2,000 scientists, researchers and staff started to relocate their labs and offices to 21 storeys of the magnificent glass tower overlooking Bay Street.

Anna Gross

Anna Gross, Project Co-ordinator for Research Operations at the Gilgan Centre, played a key role in the move and transition. Before the move, she says, “We were figuring out the organization, figuring out the departments, learning about what everybody did and what their needs were, and how we could best get them into the building.”

As well as managing other people’s move, she had to move herself to a workstation on the third floor. “We did a lot of pre-planning for everyone else, but I have to say about an hour before it was my own turn, I was frantically throwing things into boxes.”

We caught up with a few of the new residents and asked them how they’re enjoying their new digs.

9th Floor – Organ Systems & Disease Neighbourhood

Hayley Craig-Barnes

Hayley Craig-Barnes, Research Technologist, Analytical Facility for Bioactive Molecules

Craig-Barnes and her team moved into the new building in October and they are happy with their new lab. Her favourite features are the interactive areas, the many windows that let in a lot of sun and give her an incredible view of the city, and the work space that is quiet thanks to a special room designed to manage the heat radiating off the equipment without an additional air conditioner.

“I think the opportunity for collaboration and interaction with all the researchers in this building is so much better,” Craig-Barnes says. “People know where we are and can find us, so with everybody talking to each other there will be a lot more channels to get research done.”

She hasn’t yet had a chance to experience everything the new tower has to offer. “I’d like to go have lunch on the 21st floor. The view up there is absolutely gorgeous!”

13th floor – Genetic & Genomic Medicine Neighbourhood

Sergio Pereira and Jo-Anne Herbrick

Jo-Anne Herbrick, Facility Manager, The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) and Dr. Sergio Pereira, Lab Research Project Manager, The Centre for Applied Genomics

The Centre for Applied Genomics staff moved into the Gilgan Centre at the end of September.

Aside from more space, Herbrick and Pereira were looking forward to the climate-controlled lab.

“We always ran into issues at MaRS because we were in one open lab where the heat from our instruments couldn’t be controlled,” explains Herbrick. “Here the building is designed so we have a room specifically for these instruments.”

For Pereira the biggest improvement has been connectivity – specifically, Internet connectivity.

“One of the things we have that is very beneficial is a higher network speed,” Pereira says. “My facility generates a lot of data and I have to send these to our customers. For example, a typical data set can take five to eight hours to upload, but here I can do it in about two to three hours. So it’s much quicker to deliver our data now.”

21st floor – Molecules, Cells & Therapies Neighbourhood

John Parkinson

Dr. John Parkinson, Senior Scientist, Molecular Structure & Function

The possibility of being around more people had Parkinson looking forward to his move from the MaRS building into the newly opened Gilgan Centre in October.

“I wasn’t really feeling like I was interacting enough with people from my own program,” Parkinson explained of the set-up in his former lab “Being so close to everyone else in the Research Institute is great.

“I think what I’m hoping to gain being in this tower is getting more integrated in, and driving forward, some of these larger-scale projects that can really benefit the hospital,” Parkinson says. “By being in this kind of environment we can start putting together different researchers with different interests and hopefully forming these research nexuses.”

15th floor – Genetic & Genomic Medicine Neighbourhood

David Knight

David Knight, Research Associate, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Knight and his team moved from their lab at MaRS and are pleased that they are a lot closer to the hospital.

“This is a really nice building with an amazing view, and the common areas are nice,” says Knight. “We’ve only been here a month so we’re still getting everything settled and dealing with the technical issues that go along with a new building.

“It’s good for the hospital to have all its researchers in one spot. SickKids was gradually spreading out. With our new building there are a lot of opportunities to accommodate what researchers need.”