The University of Iowa


Optical Science and
Technology Center


Cross-disciplinary interactions are enhanced by the physical surroundings. Much of the research is housed in the modern Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories. The laboratories in this environmentally controlled building are devoted primarily to research in areas of optical science and technology. These world class research laboratories offer state-of-the-art equipment including a variety of novel laser systems (such as widely tunable, ultrafast lasers), materials growth and characterization facilities, optoelectronics device fabrication and characterization, UHV surface science laboratories, and supersonic molecular beam time-of-flight mass spectrometer systems. Scientists also have access to Department and University diagnostic support facilities including, nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectrometry, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, and electron microscopy.


The Iowa Advanced Technology Center (IATL) houses 28 Principle Investigators whom occupy 40 individual laboratories

IATL Principle Investigators are from the Departments of

  • Chemistry
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemical & BioChemical Engineering
  • Electrical - Computer Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Vice President of Research

IATL research groups are an assembly of Post Doctorates, Masters, and Undergraduate students with specialized areas of study.  All laboratory work involved within the building is associated with the use of optical science.  Most research work involves the use of active lasers, requiring climate controlled or cleanroom environments and strictly regulated protocol and procedures.


The water in Iowa City peaked at 31.5 feet closing IATL June 13, 2008.  Flood stage is 22 feet.  The river is normally at 16 feet. 

Losing power to the building, pumps were closed and water came from within.  Because of this first floor replacement all have to have quick release & on rollers.  We lost two researchers to the flood and recovery continues to this day.  

2014-2015 FEMA Flood Mitigation Construction

Completion date: this project was substantially completed on Feb. 18, 2015

Construction Cost: $9.79M


Permanent recovery and mitigation for IATL. IATL is an example of the early work of internationally known architect - Frank Gehry. Therefore, the building has historical and signature status. Modifications to the facility should preserve the integrity of the original design whenever possible.

The Permanent Recovery work consisted of:

  • Removal and installation of all copper flat lock seam panels at the copper clad Service Wing
  • Removal and installation of stainless steel flat lock seam panels at the stainless steel clad Office Wing, from the ground to a termination point
  • Replacement of flood damaged OSB composite board that the stainless steel and copper panels are attached too.

The Mitigation work consisted of:

  • A removable flood wall encircling the IATL site, similar to Art Building West,  including substantial flood wall foundations. When assembled, the flood wall will provide protection to an elevation of 657, 4.5 feet above the flood level experienced in 2008.
  • Nine dewatering wells and two pump stations will manage groundwater and hydrostatic influences on the building and flood wall foundations.
  • A natural gas powered emergency generator will provide back-up power for the dewatering system.

General Contractor: Portzen Construction, Inc.

Architects: Smith Metzger Architects


Recovery projects will continue throughout the inside of the building, expansion of UIMF Service Center and OSTC facilities, additions of faculty will continue to bring projects to existing laboratories to tailor to the Principal Investigator’s specialized research needs. 

Needless to say, IATL will continue to be the quiet beauty along the river that no one really knows what goes on inside.