Integrated Science Complex promotes transparency and teamwork
Integrated Science Complex promotes transparency and teamwork
G eorgia College’s Integrated Science Complex (ISC) is not your grandfather’s idea of a traditional lab—where doors are shut, and people isolate in their own workspaces guarding projects from prying eyes.
And glass. Lots of glass.
“This building was designed to be science on display,” said Dr. Indiren Pillay, chair of Biological and Environmental Sciences. “There is a paradigm shift in people’s schools of thought. I grew up in the era when everybody had their own lab with the doors closed, and they seldom shared resources. But that’s not the way science really works. Shared resources make a lot of sense. It creates a collaborative nature and, if nothing else, science should be collaborative.”
“The efficiency will be unmatched,” he said. “The building epitomizes a sea-change in the way we think as scientists at Georgia College. This building is a monument to that.”
As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Eric Tenbus said he discourages territoriality. The science complex promotes an environment for shared ideas—perfectly aligning, he said, with Georgia College’s liberal arts mission and spotlight on undergraduate research.
As much as science will be on display in the new building, art will be too. The first exhibit is part of the collection of Jim and Karen Fleece.
“With the art that hangs on the walls and the science activity that’ll be on display, the ISC is the perfect embodiment of the College of Arts and Sciences’ mission, scope and collaborative spirit. We cannot wait to move in and get started,” Tenbus said.
Visitors first notice the ISC’s architectural design—striking for its wide expanse of floor-to-ceiling glass. This glass is throughout the inside, as well. ‘On display’ means exactly that: a continuous exhibition and demonstration of science.
A wall of windows wraps around laboratories on each floor, allowing people to walk the hallway perimeters and peer in. They see experiments in-progress, professors working alongside students, problems being solved, labs being cleaned. They see flasks bubbling in chemistry, beakers of liquid, petri dishes of bacteria, students at microscopes, groups gathered around dry erase boards filled with equations, botanists sifting soils and seeds.
“People are not going to look in the windows and see white coats all starched and clean,” Pillay said. “It’s going to be messy. It’s going to be real. It’s going to be science.”
“We want to inspire our students to look differently at science. We want to inspire our community to look differently at science,” he said. “We want to encourage more kids to get into science for the right reasons.”
“Dr. Saladin's amazing generosity will support both undergraduate and graduate research within the department,” Pillay said. “This consistent means of support helps us purchase research supplies and instrumentation for students, as well as provide travel support for professional journal publications and conferences, so students can disseminate their work.”
Other major milestones also contributed to the construction of the ISC.
A recent grant from the National Science Foundation helps underrepresented and disadvantaged students pursue majors in chemistry and physics. The purchase of important advanced equipment, like the scanning electron microscope, was another breakthrough.
The $22.1 million complex is the product of forward thinking. University President Dr. Steve Dorman noticed congestion at Herty Hall and pushed for new construction. Johnny Grant, former director of Economic Development & External Relations, put together a proposal for the University System Board of Regents in 2016, calling for the construction of 43,000 new square feet where the ISC is today, across from Herty Hall on Montgomery Street.
Herty was built in 1954 and underwent several renovations, the last one in 2011. But the sciences continued to flourish, rapidly outgrowing improvements. Bio-science majors had increased 107 percent in 12 years, Grant reported, and 86 percent of all students took courses in Herty. By 2016, the number of nursing students being taught at Herty was at an all-time high. Lack of storage space was a concern. Halls were used for class presentations and as study space for students.
In short, Herty was bursting at the seams.
Most chemistry and biology teaching and research labs will now be at ISC. Both departments will remain at Herty for class lectures and a few teaching labs. Physics and astronomy have moved to Beeson Hall.
This immediately frees up space.
But the ISC was also developed for the future.
Everywhere, there are signs of originality, creativity and flexibility. Project Manager Mark Bowen said planners kept some aspects of the new building—like certain moveable lab tables—flexible to accommodate new visions and projects. He’s excited about innovative touches like sliding dry erase boards that move to reveal touchscreen TV monitors and hidden shelves.
Another resourceful space is the Linear Equipment Room (LER). It’s a wide hallway in the middle of each floor that opens to multiple labs along both sides. All scientific equipment will be stored in these LERs: refrigerators, freezers, equipment to identify the structure of organic molecules, imaging and microscopy suites, water purification systems, incubators, sterilization equipment and spinning centrifuges.
Not many universities have this concept of a linear inside hall and windows that let people see the science within. It’s different from the old academic approach—but exactly like real-world work spaces students will encounter in graduate school. Authentic scientific laboratories are like this, as well.
The new science complex seems to have it all.
In addition to spiffy new labs and equipment halls, students lounge on comfy couches in spacious, windowed alcoves. Faculty have their first break room with an amazing view. Even landscaping is utilized. There’ll be a pollinator garden for butterflies and bees; an ecosystem of shrubs and trees used in experimentation; and a cement bio-swale that retains water and becomes a manmade pond in the rain. On a third-floor balcony, flats will be used for botanic research.
“We know employers want students who’ve had high-impact experiences in their educational journeys,” Tenbus said, “and undergraduate research activities with faculty are some of the most impactful experiences a student can get. We are hiring the best professors we can recruit, and they come here with the expectation to continue their research and work with excellent students.”
“Thus, we embrace the teacher-scholar model at Georgia College, which,” he said, “the new science center puts on full display.”