College of Arts and Sciences officials expect renovations of the Cox Science Center to be completed by the time classes resume for the fall semester of 2007.
Angel Kaifer, a chemistry professor, said the facility “is completely obsolete”.
Michael Halleran, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said university officials are also thinking about constructing an entirely new science building.
As former vice dean of CAS, Kaifer oversaw the project planning through the end of last spring and said the highest priority renovations should take place in the organic chemistry teaching labs.
“They are an embarrassment to the university,” Kaifer said. He also emphasized that there are other areas in need of improvement, such as the research and teaching labs.
The Cox renovation plan is estimated to cost roughly $35 million, but expenses could climb higher, Halleran said. He characterized the renovations as a work in progress.
Funding for the project will come from private budget funds, not private donations, Halleran said.
Current improvements include research labs for the biology, chemistry and geology departments. Specifically, additions include an electron microscope laboratory, a genomics and DNA analysis laboratory and a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy laboratory.
Kaifer said the university also plans to hire new faculty to replace retiring professors, noting that the departments of chemistry and biology have seen a lot of turnover in the last few years.
To accommodate the additional faculty and classes, Halleran said the construction and renovations crews will “hit the ground running.”
Kaifer highlighted what he said will be one of the less obvious improvements.
“The building will be safer [and] have a better air ventilation system, especially for chemistry laboratories,” he said, noting, “There are some materials we cannot work with now.”
Students seemed to be mostly positive about the proposed construction.
“[Renovations] would be great,” said Abby Goodson, a sophomore and marine science major. “This is by far the most unattractive building on campus. It would be nice to see something new.”
Shaghayegh Nowroozpour, a freshman and biology major, agreed.
“It’s better for the school,” she said. “Construction provides some opportunities for the students. More teachers mean smaller class sizes.”
Halleran and Kaifer said that the proposed building would do just that. The new facility would be based on a science, technology, engineering and mathematics program, called STEM, the original variant of which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
Halleran could not determine how long the renovations had been discussed, but said the idea dates back to summer 2005.
He also said construction and improvement is important for research universities, and placed the project in a broader frame outlining UM’s goals.
“The arts and sciences are very space-intensive-new facilities are not the only thing to consider,” Halleran said, adding, “Cox has gotten old.”
Jason Albrecht may be contacted at email@example.com.