The New Building
Take a look inside the new Life Sciences Building.
By Estée Crenshaw
The new Life Sciences Building (LSB) is one of the most inspiring and feasible places to study on campus. The hallways are filled with life—in the form of over “300 varieties and various cultivars of plants,” according to Plant and Wildlife Sciences adjunct faculty member Norah Hunter, who was a leading force in obtaining the plants. Study areas are composed of soft furniture, sturdy tables, whiteboards, and large windows revealing magnificent mountain views. Assistant dean and director of Student Services, Shauna Anderson Young, described the new building: “It’s student friendly everywhere.” And sure enough, the many sit-and-talk areas beat stepping over a latticework of outstretched legs in the Widtsoe Building. Take a look inside the new Life Sciences Building. The student study areas are designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration among students. Two large study areas on the second floor are set between classroom labs of varying subjects, allowing a space for cross-discipline interaction. In the Widtsoe Building there were few places for groups to sit and talk, eat lunch, or do homework. The implementation of study areas gives the Life Sciences students a place to stay and interact. And thanks to high-density wireless networking, there is a large enough server for each student in the building to have up to three wireless devices accessing the Internet at the same time. There’s really no need to go anywhere else.
With the entire second floor of the LSB dedicated to teaching and learning, the Student Services location is more central than ever. “We’re hoping we will see more students,” said Jeanne Gubler, advisement supervisor. At Student Services, students can meet with an advisor to set up their graduation plan, rearrange their schedule, or change their major. The difficult curriculum of Life Sciences majors can often take up as much time as a part-time job, and Gubler expressed the need for students to take the time to plan their schedules carefully in order to be successful. “Students don’t know that we have a lot of the answers,” said Nicole Morris, Student Services secretary.
By placing Student Services near much of the student activity in the building and in one suite rather than many, the staff hopes Student Services will become a more integral part of the student environment. “We want our students to feel comfortable here, to have everything they need,” said Gubler. Indeed, the central location of the Student Services office will help ensure that students get the help their rigorous schedules demand.
The biology lab is connected to the tutoring lab, but it specializes in helping students taking Biology 100. Biology 100 is a required class for many non-majors; however, students who discover that they have a deeper interest in the life sciences while taking this class can venture a short walk up the hall to Student Services and change their major.
Regarding the new biology lab, Stephanie Burdett, Biology 100 course manager, said, “The setup fosters flexibility.” The room is filled with round tables and computers, and it shares the high-tech, private study rooms with the tutoring lab. Burdett said that before moving into the new building, “we were always somewhere else on campus . . . it was hard for students to find us.” Previously, the biology lab was located in random locations, including the Kennedy Center. Burdett hopes that with the new location, more students will come in and get help with questions they have. TAs can be found in the lab all day to assist students with their assignments.
One important quality of the tutoring lab is its convenience. The tutoring lab is strategically placed right outside the classroom labs on the second floor and is next door to Student Services. The tutoring lab works as a centralized learning center that brings together tutors of different majors and makes them available to students. Tutors are available any time of the day to help students, and they often have experience in everything from molecular biology to genetics.
The setup of the tutoring lab mirrors that of the biology lab, including having a row of computers for students whose homework requires access to specific software or the Internet. In between the tutoring lab and the biology lab are three small rooms for groups to meet and work together on projects or have an even quieter space to work. These rooms have large touch screens that are interactive with individual laptops and iPads—improvements that make collaboration simple.
With such easy access to help from tutors and technology, students are sure to find the tutoring lab a convenient part of their education.
Prior to the construction of the new building, computer labs for life sciences students were scattered throughout campus, ranging from the Clark Building to the Smith Fieldhouse to the Widtsoe Building. In the Life Sciences Building, new computers with the necessary software have been combined into one main location and are available to faculty and students alike. These computer labs can be found in the southeast corner of the second floor in rooms 2142, 2144, and 2146.
The computer labs are designed to accommodate the varying needs of teachers and students. Complete with collapsible walls fitted with whiteboards, the room can be divided into three separate classrooms or left open as one large room. In the labs, students can take tests, attend classes, complete assignments, or use the open-access computers for other tasks.
Danny Yeo, College director of IT, said that the new labs “give us a lot of flexibility and a lot more elbow space.” Yeo explained that the new design and setup of the computer labs are more conducive to teaching and learning than computer labs for life sciences students have been in the past.
The new classroom labs “save three hours a day in lab teaching,” according to Dr. Shauna Anderson Young, assistant dean in the College of Life Sciences and director of Student Services. The large labs can hold twice as many students and contain new fume hoods, centrifuges, refrigerators, incubators, safety showers, eyewash sinks, increased counter and table space, and even new pipets. “It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done for us,” said Professor William Zundel of the Microbiology & Molecular Biology Department.
Connected to each lab is a smaller room used to prepare samples for class, an accommodation that was not available in the Widtsoe or Martin buildings. This feature adds efficiency to the classrooms because professors no longer have to go in early or stay late to prepare or correct samples for their classes, an endeavor which can be time-consuming. Classrooms time is also spent more efficiently because of the new touch-screen projectors (two in each classroom) and surrounding whiteboards that make learning even more hands-on. Zundel believes these changes are “going to make the classroom [a] much more cohesive” environment.
In what biology professor Dr. Jerry Johnson calls the “great lab concept,” many faculty and student research labs have become a shared space. Johnson said this space allows for “a ton of flexibility to grow and expand research.” In shared labs, all of the equipment is available for all faculty members to use. Faculty members will no longer have to ask colleagues for permission to borrow certain equipment that before was only available in specialized labs. Johnson said, “It offers us a lot more support to use resources we may not have even known about.” When a faculty member needs a large space, they can reserve certain portions of the lab. Then, when they finish their project, they give up that space for someone else to work.
However, to make this shared space function properly, Johnson said faculty members and their students are going to have to “trust each other and work together.” Not all departments have chosen to use this model. However, Johnson is optimistic, “Our hypothesis is that because we have designed our space this way, we’ll ask better questions, which will lead to better science.” While faculty members enjoy using the new labs and all their features, they’re also asking the question, “What am I going to do with this gift?” Johnson recognizes the blessing of having access to the new research labs and said, “We are stewards of [these labs].” And certainly, it only takes one walk around the new research labs to see that there is much to be grateful for.