Tag: rick weatherl
This week, the population of the BIMS labs has shifted from students to construction workers as demolition gets underway. The project is a multi-stage event: demolition, asbestos abatement, infrastructure improvements, construction, installation of cabinets and furniture and equipment, and resupply of the spaces with materials for teaching and research. We are at step 1 and need everything done by August 15 or so. Within two weeks, we will be past asbestos abatement and on to the infrastructure changes. Before long, new walls will define the new configuration of spaces and the finish work of installing cabinets and floors and equipment will begin.
We are ahead of schedule in some ways. Labs got packed and moved well ahead of schedule. Crews made rapid progress in the removal of casework and lab benches yesterday. These photos don’t show halls lined with cabinets that will be recycled in other locales or the pipes and wires that are being removed to be repositioned and replaced. There’s no turning back now! Still, much is left to be decided with some key bids still outstanding. Architect Rick Weatherl and McMurry Vice President over facilities Brad Poorman will have their hands full, as the science renovation is one of at least half a dozen projects to be accomplished on campus this summer, from updates in the apartments to improvements to the Radford Social Hall and others scattered across campus.
As far as science labs go, plenty has to happen between now and mid-August when we move in to prepare for the fall semester. Pray for fair bids, timely delivery, no construction delays, and safety for all involved!
Campus 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.
In 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.
BIMS faculty met last week with our VP in charge of facilities (Brad Poorman) and campus architect (Rick Weatherl) to discuss preliminary plans for this summer’s BIMS lab renovation. Mainly, the meeting was to determine whether the rough layout of spaces as proposed would accommodate the course and program needs.
The layout calls for two labs to fit in the space where the freshman biology, microbiology, and student research lab behind Dr.Beasley’s office are now located. Going into those spaces would be a molecular lab, the micro lab, and between them would be a student project room where the microscopes, incubators, refrigerators/freezers, and other equipment would be found. The intent is for this space to become the place students go to check their results and do off-hours work on projects. By moving these functions out of the labs themselves, students can do their follow-up work while other classes are in session in the labs. Since our courses are becoming more research oriented, this move will allow extended student involvement in research projects instead of corralling those activities into three hour blocks once a week. Labs will also be made more lecture-friendly so that both lab and lecture can take place in the same location – moving in and out of lab and lecture functions seamlessly will now be possible. More flexibility, more utility will result from these modifications.
Other first-floor spaces will also be affected. The prep area and S108 classroom (where Biology lectures are frequently taught) will house an upgraded prep area and an instrumentation room for our research microscopes, DNA sequencer, and other specialized equipment. The freshman lab will be moved to the current location for the molecular lab (S115), which will be expanded and feature more storage space. These changes will make the BIMS and freshman labs and support areas the showcase on campus for what all science facilities will some day feature – thoughtful, flexible, and student-friendly spaces for engaging students in learning and practicing science for the 21st Century.