Creating a Habitat Where Science Thrives
CONTRIBUTING TO THE WHOLE
"Everybody recognizes that when one department gets stronger, the other departments get stronger because of it."
When scientists aren't joining forces, they often are focused on individual specialties that contribute to a larger body of knowledge. These pursuits require dedicated space and the right, accessible equipment. It might be a "mudroom" right off the loading dock, where those who do field work in rivers and streams can conveniently store waders, rakes and other tools of their trade. For Janzen, whose specialties include inorganic and environmental chemistry, it's quiet fume hoods and high-purity water at every sink where he might want to was his glassware.
Derek Straub is thrilled to have his air quality measurement equipment out from under the football stadium, where it was housed for his first semester at SU. [In the new building,] there is an air quality sampling area up on the roof," he explains. "There's an indoor area where I can put some continuous gas phase samplers, measuring ozone and carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. And there's a little outdoor area where I can put pumps and filter packs and things like that to get integrated samples. So I have space to do both of those things, which will be very useful for both research and teaching."
Some biologists, too, do work that is better kept apart. "The other biologists in the building are mostly ecology," Peeler explains. "Tony [Alfieri] had started out with an open design for their labs, and they didn't feel like that was appropriate for their work. They were each doing such different things, and they weren't using common equipment. So their part of this floor is their individual labs.
"We have one faculty member, [Associate Professor of Biology] Carlos Iudica, who does vertebrate natural history, more or less. He's sometimes here opening up coyote stomachs to see what they've been eating. That's not really something you do in a big common lab and expect other people to hang around. And if [Professor of Biology] Matt Persons is studying spider behavior, it's hard to do if someone is gutting a coyote [nearby]. We tried to keep it flexible, but at the same time, we did base it on what people were doing and the kinds of things they needed to be successful scholars."
"There's lots of outside light and lots of outside views. It seems like a very comfortable building, and I feel good walking in here."
Everyone mentions the light. It slants through so many windows in all directions—sometimes floor to ceiling—that one might never bother to flip a switch.
"I have used this light in my office maybe twice, on the stormiest of days, and that's it," says Kathy Straub. "And I almost never put the shade down. I just love the sun."
Winegar appreciates her bliss. "In Fisher, [the Straubs' shared] office was in the basement, where windows are scarce and below ground level. Environmental scientists deserve to know what the weather is."
"We usually taught, too, in a small classroom in the middle of the basement with no windows," Kathy says. "That was what we were used to. We taught in the [new building's] seminar room for part of last semester, which isn't even the brightest of rooms, but it's got windows. And you could have the shades up and tell what time of day it was. It's really nice."
Where there is light, there is food. The building's ground-level café, The Periodic Table Featuring Bleecker Street, will fill the corridors with the aroma of freshly baked artisan breads destined for New York-style paninis and ciabatta sandwiches to accompany seasonal soups, tasty salads and warm pastries. "It will be similar to a Panera Bread," says Robert Ginader, food service director. Plans call for a small seating area and operating hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sufficiently fueled, faculty and staff may be inspired to bike to work or take a run during lunch hour. A spacious, stylish shower room on the first floor makes human-powered transport an option. Those who can't muster that much energy can still enjoy perks if their care is fuel-friendly; a designated green parking lot next to the building is available to qualifying stickered autos.
Finally, there is food for the soul, visual touches that make the everyday work of a scientist more artful. From brightly colored arches that crisscross hallway ceilings, to glass cases displaying glittering minerals and rocks, to windowed labs that put daily science on display, the facility ignites imagination.
"One of the important things art provides is that it makes spaces come alive," Shane says. "If you go into the lobby, you'll see those twisting ribbons that are abstract DNA molecules. They are intended to make the space come alive with visual interest, color and texture. Their reflections off the glass and the transparency add considerably to the life within the space."
A SCIENCE SANCTUARY
If the new science building is, in fact, its own ecosystem, then the outlook for its inhabitants' success is bright.
"It's a bright, warm, wonderful building, a gorgeous building," Janzen says. "We've removed every last reason for a student to ever leave it."
"It's a major investment for the university," Peeler says. "We were aware of that through the whole planning process. I really appreciate, and I think all of the science faculty here really appreciate, what that investment means. It's going to benefit lots of students—and not just science students, because everybody's going to take a science course."
"The way a building comes into the landscape is important, and what it does for the campus, creating a sense of place," Shane says. "I think this building works well in the landscape and is a positive feature on campus. But it's not important that I think so; hopefully others will think so, too."
Karen M. Jones is assistant director of media relations.