Faculty, designers and architects collaborate on designs for new TTU science building

By | March 31, 2017 9:15 am

Chair of the Tennessee Tech Chemistry Department, Jeff Boles, left, discusses plans for the new laboratory sciences building with faculty Brenda Wilson and Stephen Robinson.

It is set to be the largest academic building on Tennessee Tech’s campus totaling 165,674 square-feet, and it could be among the most collaboratively designed as well.

As planning phases for the university’s new laboratory sciences building have progressed, faculty who will be teaching in the building have worked closely with architects and designers to ensure that the space becomes one where collaborative teaching and learning combine with an inspiring atmosphere for students.

“This university has done an excellent job of involving a very large faculty contingent in the design,” Tech chemistry chair Jeff Boles said.

Faculty from chemistry, physics, environmental studies and the molecular side of biology have worked directly with building designers, going over all of the laboratories throughout the building in fine detail. More than 40 faculty voices have had an opportunity to speak on the design.

“The building took on a real interdisciplinary flair,” Boles said. “The designers and architects have worked with us to help us create a building where we are all somewhat together. We will have ample opportunities to interact.”

Having professors and students from various scientific fields of study all under one roof will breed a truly collaborative environment, which is something Boles says faculty at Tech have wanted for quite some time.

“The more often you are able to bump into one another and talk in the hall or an instrument room, the more likely people are to come up with ideas on how to collaborate, and the students, of course, would benefit from that,” Boles said.

“Spaces like that simply don’t exist right now. Sometimes space and opportunity are linked.”

Tech faculty have traveled to visit newly constructed science buildings around the country, letting the architects know what they liked and didn’t like in what they saw. Ultimately, they came up with a hybrid design that combines wide open spaces with some private office and research areas.

Instead of having every lab and every professor behind closed doors, the new building will feature research blocks and a concept called “Science on Display.”

Science on display is the appropriate use of glass in a building so that people can see what goes on. Instead of being hidden behind walls, things are much more visible.

“We wanted students to be able to see what goes on, and maybe get more excited about undergraduate research or studying in a certain major,” Boles said. “We want them to engage and realize that they can do it.”

This building’s design could do just that, Boles said.

“It would be great if the building helps them have more confidence in themselves, if just the way it is designed coupled with the activities that we carry out inside that building increases their self-confidence and their courage to get involved, that’s going to be a great thing.”

The new laboratory science building will also bring new instrumentation and technology to students, as well as the opportunity for professors to adapt their teaching to a more active model.

It features active learning laboratories, which will offer the chance to bring lab and lecture together in one room.

“We also kept an eye to the future when designing the spaces,” Boles said. “Changes in the way students learn have also been incorporated in the design, and these changes have been initiated by the faculty.”

As Tennessee Tech puts more focus on research, Boles sees the new facility as an opportunity to enhance the undergraduate experience and encourage an energy for research on campus.

“We already plan activities to break down the barrier between new students and faculty, to try and encourage them to get involved in undergraduate research,” Boles said. “I hope that in the new building, those barriers are easier to break down and that students will feel a much greater invitation to get involved with everything that goes on in the building.

“I see that building becoming a home away from home for students, where they can get their needs met to reach their goals. I would like to think that when they walk in the building they have a sense of knowing that they can get plugged in and they can reach their goals and beyond.”

The new laboratory sciences building will be located on Stadium Avenue, just north of Evins Hall. Groundbreaking for the building will be in fall 2017.

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