Tag: lab design


by gwilson on Apr.13, 2010, under A Day in the Life...

d-dayIt’s one thing to plan new spaces, but another thing to transition from where you are to where you will be.  Countless hours have gone into designing spaces, getting quotes on equipment, and thinking through efficient and effective use of space.  Now that such things are largely under control and winding down, attention is shifting toward moving out of the spaces so the work can begin.

There is a very narrow window of time during which everything has to be done.  We end classes the first week of May and the fall semester starts mid-August.  So anything we can do to hasten the start of construction is important.  We are already in the process of ordering cabinetry and equipment.  May should be the time for demolition and asbestos abatement.  Planning is underway for storage of equipment and supplies from the affected spaces during the process.  Our miniaturized version of D-Day planning is going well.

To help provide as much time as possible for construction, we have been given the green light to end our lab courses early.  My microbiology course will finish a week or so early, and is actually done in the lab.  We will finish the semester using VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology to accomplish much of the same work in simulation that we would normally do in the wetlab.  Dr. Benoit is similarly finding ways to complete his courses’ use of the Micro lab ahead of schedule.  Edvotek kits for his immunology course have been a lifesaver!  Dr. D’s work in the genetics/molecular lab will likewise wind down in the next couple of weeks, and her headstart on packing nonessentials is well underway.

trapezeLike trapeze artists using perfect timing to leave one swing in order to catch the other, we are doing all we can to help the construction folks move in and complete their work easily and quickly.  Then, we hope to be able to complete the maneuver by moving back in during August.

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Spring Break is No Break

by gwilson on Mar.20, 2010, under A Day in the Life...

springbreakerThere is a long-storied tradition in college education that about mid-way through the spring semester students are given a week off to catch up on sleep, rest, and schoolwork.  The hope is that with this time off, students will be renewed and ready to refocus and finish the semester with a bang.  But who am I kidding – many students use the time to work on their tans and act inappropriately on the beach or attack a ski slope.  I guess these forms of escapism are useful in building focus for the remainder of the year.

What is less commonly mentioned is the fact that faculty need this break, too.  For every dozen or so tired students needing to rest and catch up, there is a faculty member who needs it just as much.  At McMurry we are just concluding spring break and will return to classes on Monday.  Although rest and re-creation have been part of the formula for faculty, so has the “getting caught up” part of the equation. 

Besides the normal “getting caught up” in our classes – grading in particular – the break has also been filled with other job-related activities.  At the top of the list has been creation of the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam.  One important component of our on-going program assessment and provision of evidence of student learning is the Junior Exam taken by all junior BIMS majors (thus the name :-) ).  It is an online exam composed of questions taken from all BIMS courses during the freshman and sophomore years.  My responsibility is to collect these questions and input them into Moodle to create the exams.  Students will take them as often as needed to obtain a passing score.  Questions range from basic to advanced and cover all learning goals for BIMS majors.  My goal is to have it ready for students by April 1st so they may have a month of unlimited attempts.

Also occupying Spring Break has been nearly daily work with our architect to refine the floorplan and equipment list for the microbiology and molecular biology labs to be renovated this summer.  Though space will be tight, the facility will be a showcase of utility and student-centered learning spaces. Don’t worry- there’ll be plenty of updates on this as time goes on and everyone will be invited to the grand opening in the fall.

Can’t wait til Spring Break is over so I can take a break!

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Lab Planning

by gwilson on Feb.20, 2010, under A Day in the Life...

new lab design febCampus architect Rick Weatherl brought the floorplan for the lab renovation by yesterday for me to review.  We are at the stage where we know pretty well where the walls will be.  Now we have to figure out how to make those spaces as efficient and effective as possible for course delivery.  We’ve gone from what the spaces might look like to now having to consider how do we make them work.

One feature we chose to include in our design was a concept first seen at a Project Kaleidoscope  facilities conference at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.  UST had just completed a $39M building and hosted the meeting to show off their facilities.  Being a microbiologist, I’ve always been on the lookout for effective lab designs that would work for my courses.  Their microbiology lab had several features I thought particularly useful, and when combined with some of the things I liked best about the Texas A&M lab renovation from my time there gave me an overall approach to the new labs that we all believe will help us deliver exciting and effective courses.

micro and related febIn particular, we wanted our labs to allow faculty and student research.  So, we developed spaces for students to set up projects (see PROJ at left) that would not interfere with other courses being taught in the same lab (a UST feature).  We also wanted an anteroom where students could come and check on their cultures and do day-to-day work while other labs were in session (an A&M feature, see PREP at left).  And we wanted our labs to be useful not just for hands-on labwork but also to be comfortable enough to also serve as our lecture space (a UST feature).  We are adding a few ideas of our own – flat panel TV/monitors on the walls instead of digital projectors for greater definition when projecting bacterial images; cardswipe entry to allow students into zones of the spaces for conducting research after-hours.  We’ve also decided printing out research posters (our students often do this as their lab report format) makes little sense when they can be fed by computer into flat panel monitors on the walls in the halls.  So, our labs will be high-tech and versatile.  As our architect put it, “When someone walks into the front doors of our building, those flat panels would scream, ’science is going on here’.”  No longer will this be a static, lifeless place.

It is exciting to be part of this transformation of spaces.  But it is even more exciting to be part of a program that is fearless about trying new approaches to find what works to build student learning.  The spaces are different for a reason and purpose because our programs are different for a reason and purpose.

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