The University holds the groundbreaking rites for the UST-Dr. William T. Belo Interdisciplinary Research Institute (UST-WitBIRIn) on Friday, Jan. 26, at the UST Santa Rosa Campus in Laguna. Attending the event are University administrators and the building's benefactor, William Belo, the owner of Wilcon Depot, who is an alumnus of the UST Faculty of Engineering. (Photo by Josh Nikkolai S. Bravo/ The Varsitarian)

SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Officials broke ground for the UST-Dr. William T. Belo Interdisciplinary Research Institute (UST-WiTBIRIn) set to rise at the Santa Rosa Campus on Friday, Jan. 26.

The planned edifice, named after its benefactor, Wilcon Depot Inc. founder and chairman emeritus William Belo, is expected to be completed in one to two years. It will be the first of the “trinity buildings” to rise at the Santa Rosa campus, according to UST Rector Fr. Richard Ang, O.P.

“The UST-Dr. William T. Belo Interdisciplinary Research Institute will be the first of three of the important institutes to rise on this campus, which will comprise the UST Santa Rosa Research Complex or the USTARCO Trinity,” he said during the groundbreaking rites. 

“This will be a legacy that will perhaps transcend our generation because research outputs in this institute will create a ripple effect that will be felt by generations to come, and continuing evolution of science, engineering, and the other fields,” he added. 

In his first Rector’s Report last 2022, Ang said UST plans to intensify research through its Santa Rosa campus, which already houses the Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong Innovation Center.

The UST-WiTBIRIn, initially projected to cost P300 million, will house 25 laboratories spread across four stories and will cover 8,311 square meters of the Santa Rosa campus. It was designed by JSLA Architects and will be built by Monolith Corporation. 

Upon completion, the institute will focus on six research areas, according to Ang: food security and safety, health and well-being, energy, environmental sustainability, information and communications, and materials and product innovation. 

Ang said interdisciplinary research complements the University’s agenda for 2024, specifically the enrichment of the research ecosystem and fostering synergy among people and disciplines. 

Belo said the UST-WiTBIRIn would serve as a platform to facilitate these objectives.

“This interdisciplinary institute is envisioned to provide a setting for professors and students to work in synergy together,” Belo said in his remarks. 

“I am looking forward to standing at this very site in one or two years and joining all of you in the inauguration of the interdisciplinary research institute.”

Fr. Dexter Austria, O.P., the director of the Facilities Management Office, said the UST-WiTBIRIn would be similar to the Thomas Aquinas Research Center in the Sampaloc, Manila campus but “would be more contextualized on the subject matter, most especially on engineering and sciences.” 

Austria also told the Varsitarian that the two other buildings to comprise the USTARCO Trinity were still in the works as the University was still looking for donors. 

Several University officials attended the groundbreaking rites of the UST-WiTBIRIn, including Asst. to the Rector for UST Santa Rosa Philipina Marcelo, Asst. to the Rector for UST General Santos City Maribel Nonato, and Vice Rector for Research and Innovation Fr. Jannel Abogado, O.P. 

A time capsule containing a copy of the building plan, a Dominican cross, a rosary, and the day’s newspaper was buried beneath the site where the institute will rise. 

UST-WiTBIRIn will be the second building to be built on the Santa Rosa campus. In April 2023, the University inaugurated the UST-Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong Innovation Center, the first completed structure outside UST’s Sampaloc campus.


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