Tag: lab design

Lab Plans

by gwilson on Nov.18, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

lab concept

Lab concept: equipment/support spaces around periphery of lab

Last summer, I wrote about the lab renovation competition to be held this fall.  The main spaces delivering BIMS programming – labs for molecular- and genetics-based courses and for microbiology- and immunology-based courses – were selected for renovation.  The goal was to use the renovation event as a way of freeing programs from the confines of their spaces so that the programs define the spaces instead of the spaces defining the programs.  This post represents something of an update on where things stand.

McMurry VP Brad Poorman oversees facilities and is working closely with local architect Rick Weatherl to define and plan the scope of the project.  BIMS faculty have a general idea of what they want to see in the spaces being planned, and Brad and Rick are the ones to figure out where and how that will be done.  Our recommendation is to have experts in lab design brought in as “subcontractors” to insure sufficient experience and expertise are available to guide them and us.  Below are some general specifications for building great spaces that are flexible and functional and support science as BIMS plans to teach it in the future.

  • The main labs will be dual purpose, for teaching lectures and for teaching labs.  They will comfortably seat around 20 students, with an emphasis on comfort so that lectures in these rooms are the norm and not the exception.  Much of the actual hands-on work will be done around the periphery of the room, where utilities and equipment are found.  The structure is such that non-BIMS courses could be taught in the lab by closing off access to the peripheral spaces.  Such features make these labs true dual-purpose spaces, where lectures and labs are taught as the need arises.
  • Adjacent to the main labs (and through doors that can seal off access when not desired), incubation and project spaces will allow students to check on their results and continue on projects without bothering other classes being taught in the main labs.  When doors between them are open, students use those project spaces for their incubation, for storage of some equipment, and for setting up their projects.  Supplies and media needed by students will be placed here after being prepared in the Prep Kitchen.  When doors are closed, the incubation and project spaces are separated so two populations of students can work without interrupting one another.  These spaces also will support student and faculty research projects, which now must be done in the teaching labs due to lack of space.
  • New Prep Kitchen spaces.  BIMS labs require a great deal of preparation, and having adequate space for that work is essential.  Much of it now is accomplished in a teaching lab, and the kitchen cannot be accessed without traveling through a teaching lab.  There will also be adequate storage of consumables for the courses.
  • Shared major instrument room.  Some pieces of equipment are used rarely in teaching normal classes, but are occasionally used by individuals in a variety of courses.  Such pieces of equipment would be located in an instrument room shared by the BIMS labs.  The LI-COR DNA analyzer and other equipment used in the research done by students and faculty would be moved from teaching labs (where now housed) to a more appropriate spot.  Because the instrument room will be connected with student project setup areas, those students working on research projects will have ready access when such equipment is needed.

This model, concentric circles of spaces – (1) teaching labs, (2) student project/incubation/supplies spaces, and (3) Prep Kitchen/storage and major instrumentation room – promises to bring McMurry appropriate activities taking place in appropriate spaces, allowing appropriate access to students and research opportunities for all.  The spaces are not based on individuals or courses, but on shared activities undertaken as we teach our students and involve them in our research.  Right for today and flexible for the future, these labs promise to be the standard by which future lab renovations are compared.

Construction should begin in May, with a goal of moving in by the start of classes in August.  My advice?  Come to Homecoming 2010, when we anticipate the new labs to be dedicated!

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