Science Learning Building grand opening celebrates new labs, closer coffee

(From left to right) Chancellor Tom George, Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Erika Gibb, Department of Biology Chair Wendy Olivas, Department of Chemistry Chair Cynthia Dupureur, Associate Professor of Biology Bethany Zolman, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Teresa Thiel and Interim Provost Chris Spilling cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Science Learning Building at UMSL as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Ron Yasbin pronounces the building officially open. (Photos by August Jennewein)

(From left to right) Chancellor Tom George, Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Erika Gibb, Department of Biology Chair Wendy Olivas, Department of Chemistry Chair Cynthia Dupureur, Associate Professor of Biology Bethany Zolman, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Teresa Thiel and Interim Provost Chris Spilling cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Science Learning Building at UMSL as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Ron Yasbin pronounces the building officially open. (Photos by August Jennewein)

For senior biochemistry and biotechnology major Victoria Rogers and fellow University of Missouri–St. Louis students, the new Science Learning Building on North Campus most notably provides all new laboratories and high-tech equipment.

“But it’s more than that,” Rogers said in her address to donors, faculty, staff and students at the grand opening of the building on Thursday evening. “Every student needs that space on campus where they can feel at home, a space where they can feel comfortable grabbing a bite to eat with friends before an exam, studying and just hanging out. This new building truly gives science students that home base.”

Nearly 300 attendees of the grand opening poured on to the steps and back into the halls of the new Science Learning Building as College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ron Yasbin addressed the crowd in the solarium area of the "Town Center," which connects the SLB to Benton and Stadler halls, forming the science complex.

Nearly 300 attendees of the grand opening poured on to the steps and back into the halls of the new Science Learning Building as College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ron Yasbin addressed the crowd in the solarium area of the “Town Center,” which connects the SLB to Benton and Stadler halls, forming the science complex.

With 18 new laboratories, all new study areas, a solarium “Town Center” connecting the building to the Benton-Stadler science complex and the addition of a Sodexo Simply to Go Café, the Science Learning Building has everything students need to call it their academic home.

Even Chancellor Tom George expressed some gratitude for closer coffee.

“I was ecstatic,” George joked. “It makes you feel good just to walk in here and have a place you can get a cup of coffee.”

But as excited as George was about that, he was even more thrilled for the much-improved space the building provides for science learning.

“We’ve got the absolute best programs in the region,” George said. “The best faculty, the best students, the best staff. But we did not have the best facilities, and we wanted a facility that would go along with the caliber of our programs and the people who teach and learn in the programs. Now we have that.”

Nearly 300 attendees of the opening got to witness the traditional ribbon cutting alongside nifty experiments during their tours of the four-story, 75,000-square-foot facility. One such experiment was by students of Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy Erika Gibb. They demonstrated how the current from falling water could create enough charge to cause a small light bulb to flicker.

And while tours were happening, actual learning was taking place, too. A biology laboratory class was in session, and grand opening attendees even got to witness cell and molecular biology doctoral student Kimia Kajbaf prepare petri dishes for undergraduates to observe nematode mutants in a class scheduled for later that evening.

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The Science Learning Building is four stories and 75,000 square feet, with 18 labs, seven new study areas, a solarium and a new Sodexo Simply to Go Café.

Recognizing the need for the new Science Learning Building, UMSL’s University Assembly Budget and Planning Committee recommended using internally reallocated funds to finance construction bonds over a 30-year period for the $35 million project. The internal money became available when an expected cut in state funding did not materialize.

George considered it a “must-do” to improve the science learning facilities at UMSL, which he said previously paled in comparison to even some local high schools.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ron Yasbin went beyond the sciences, considering how the building will help shape non-science majors as well.

“This building is not only for educating students who are in the sciences,” he said. “But it’s also for educating students who are majoring in other disciplines. We have developed some exciting ways of teaching non-science majors about science, and the excitement of this building furthers those efforts. Hats off to my colleagues who have come up with interesting courses, like the beer brewing/chemistry course that has gained national attention.”

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Associate Teaching Professor of Music Education Gary Brandes conducts the UMSL Brass Ensemble as they perform for the grand opening of the Science Learning Building. The performance marks the integration of the arts and sciences at UMSL, a key movement of the College of Arts and Sciences currently. Arts performances will continue to play in the new science building via large screen monitors to be mounted at a later date.

An accompanying building in the science complex, Benton Hall, will now begin its season of maintenance and repair thanks to the new elbow room the SLB provides for temporary rehousing of science departments and classes. George no­­ted that Benton and Stadler halls are the oldest university-built buildings on campus. The repairs come thanks $25 million in state, University of Missouri System and UMSL funding.

But for now, students are simply happy for the new building they have.

“Our success as students can be directly attributed to the resources provided here at UMSL,” Rogers said as she closed her remarks. “That’s why this occasion is so important. Thank you on behalf of all UMSL students.”

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