Metro State science building has green light


Metro State University will break ground this summer on its new science building, thanks to state bonding funds. A rendering of Metro State University’s new science building shows how it will connect to the rest of the campus via skyway over East Sixth Street. (submitted graphic)

Will mean a busy summer of construction on East Side campus

Well, the funding’s lined up, and the contractor’s picked -- Metro State University will begin work this summer on a new science education building.

Construction is slotted to start in August, and will go through winter 2015.

The school intends for it to be up and running in time for the 2016 spring semester.

The $35.865 million facility will be paid for through state bonding passed in May. The building will be located along East Sixth Street and Mounds Boulevard, to the south of the rest of the campus, and will connect to the school’s Founders Hall via skyway.

Plans include nine student labs, as well as four dedicated research labs for professors and upper-level students. It also includes four general classrooms, two lecture rooms, and 18 offices.

This is a far cry from the current facilities at the school.

Students currently enrolled in science programs “are really squeezed into a couple of converted general classrooms,” said Tom Cook, director of government relations at the school.

The new building “allows us to properly serve close to 700 science majors that are enrolled now,” he said.

Becky Omdahl, dean of the school’s arts and sciences department, noted that the current spaces have only one hood fume per lab -- the new space will have many more hoods, allowing more time and resources for experiments.

“That’s so important -- giving students the opportunity to do more kinds of experiments,” she said.

Cook also said the expansion will mean the school will add “a wider menu of science programs.” 

An excercise science program was recently approved, as was a Bachelor in Chemistry. The School will also add a master’s of professional science program, at the request of local science-based employers.

Others will be rolling out too, Cook said.

The department has also been hiring new faculty in preparation for the transition. By the time the new building opens, Omdahl expects the current nine science professors will be up to 14 or 15.

Cook said the new facilities will also be good for younger learners -- the school regularly has area kids come and visit the campus to learn about higher education.

“Now they’ll be able to walk through a state-of-the-art science building ... and think ‘Boy, I could go into biology, I could go to med school.’”

The flexibility of the space will mean the facility should be poised to serve the growing student body at Metro State for a while, Cook said. But it is designed for another addition on the east side of the structure.

He said it also opens up possibilities for the school’s nursing program. Before, the school had only been taking transfer nursing students. Now, they’ll be able to provide the prerequisite classes for the nursing program in-house.

“That just wasn’t possible before,” Cook said.

Cook said that Metro State’s East Side campus used to be known as “the campus without walls” because of a lack of facilities. But with expansions underway this summer for a new student center, parking ramp, and now a science center, the term is much less fitting, he said.

“The university has really evolved.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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