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Vol. 4 No. 3 | Jan. 18, 2007
Impressive new science lab
Northern Arizona University added another prize to its trophy case of new buildings as the impressive new science laboratory on north campus opened in part this week.
For students interested in medicine, dentistry, research or teaching, the new building is where many of them will take their first steps toward their professional careers.
"It's so exciting for our students to be able to work and learn in modern, well-designed labs that incorporate the best of lab education facilities," said Laura Huenneke, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.
When completed, the three-story, $36 million facility will house 90,000 square feet of biology and chemistry research and teaching labs with state-of-the-art safety systems, replacing some of the university's oldest labs.
There are no big lecture halls or other so-called "dry" classrooms in this building, Huenneke explained. Rather, the laboratory building will be segmented in three key areas: teaching and instructional lab space for chemistry and biology, as well as space for specialized research.
The chemistry labs are the areas that opened to students on Tuesday, while the biology space, most of which is still being finalized, will be fully occupied after the semester ends.
Finishing touches also are being put into place on the building's biology and chemistry research labs, and users of those spaces are expected to move in around spring break.
Stephanie Hurst joined the chemistry faculty in August to conduct research on DNA probes and also solar energy conversion, and said she can't wait to get started once she gets settled into her new space. "This is a fantastic facility," she said.
Students will also have access to a complete range of modern equipment and instrumentation in an environment built around shared space and common areas that were designed to encourage collaboration between students and faculty, and also between academic disciplines.
Coupled with the cozy café and coffee shop that greets students and visitors, the building's aesthetic design provides a welcoming atmosphere for working and learning. Planners even showed a bit of whimsy by adding scientifically inspired artistic touches throughout the building, including amoeba-shaped designs dotting the floors and metal cutouts accenting the stairwells that could have been inspired by DNA molecules.
"The new building incorporates something the old buildings were never designed to do and that is to encourage interaction," Heunneke said. "The casual seating, the common spaces that allow for intermingling between classes, the coffee shop—all these were designed to keep people talking even outside the classroom setting."
Huenneke said there was an intentional focus on creating such an interactive atmosphere. "Increasingly today, science is a collaborative enterprise," she said. "Science is no longer done by some lonely person toiling away in isolation. Modern science and engineering involves teams of people who bring unique perspectives to the table. A building that houses different departments is perfect preparation for an innovation-based economy."
Lectures will still be held in the old buildings, as will many of the required classes, like math, physics and environmental sciences, so students will be moving back and forth between these buildings very freely. "That's how we designed it," Huenneke said.
She envisions that such interaction will extend beyond those housed within the new building. "My hope is that all of us on north campus will use this as a place to meet and mingle," she said.
A number of sustainable and recyclable features have been incorporated into the building's design, making it a "green" building by LEED standards, although it is not officially certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
In one example, the sandstone from NAU's Hanley Hall, which was demolished in 2005, was incorporated into the north and west sides of the new building, preserving the legacy of Hanley Hall and the Hanley family while also making good use of recyclable materials. "It's exciting to see the new blended with the old," said Mark Flynn, executive director of Capital Assets and Services. "It's transitional of where we were to where we're going as an institution."
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