Cox keeps iconic design, despite recent renovations

Almost 50 years since its inception, the Cox Science Building is undergoing renovations that include building a Neuroscience and Health Annex and an expansion of Cox’s plaza.

The Cox plaza, now a front lawn and patio seating area, will be converted to a larger landscaped terrace where students can enjoy more common space, according to Angel Kaifer, senior associate dean for research and graduate education.

The renovated space will also house a small amphitheater for a class of 20 to 25 students to take advantage of the weather.

“The project may take another two months,” he said. “It will better transition Cox from the rest of the university.”

The project is meant to enhance Cox without compensating its “iconic” 1960s, concrete design, Kaiser said.

“We do not want to change the concrete façade,” he said. “The renovations will make Cox more usable, more modern and more practical for its current use.”

Sophomore Kinja Thakor is more excited about the latest Cox update, the Neuroscience and Health Annex. She thinks that the presence of an on-campus research lab will lead to more undergraduates engaging in scientific inquiry.

“Having the Neuroscience Building so accessible will cause a lot of students to take advantage of it,” she said.

Located near the Ungar Building and planned for a summer opening, the 37,700 square-foot Annex will feature three floors with state-of-the-art technology and laboratories. The addition was funded by a $14.8 million grant awarded from the National Institute of Health coupled with funds from the Executive Vice-President and Provost Thomas LeBlanc’s office.

New forms of technology will include a human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) laboratory on the first floor and the latest in molecular imaging on the second. The building will mark the first introduction of human fMRI imaging techniques to the Coral Gables campus, according to Philip McCabe, director of the undergraduate neuroscience program.

“I am pretty excited because these facilities with high-tech human biological imaging don’t exist on campus,” he said.

The fMRI will also help researchers understand how to map brain activity and study anatomy, McCabe said.

The second floor will be biology-centered and will include a microscope that can actually  visualize interactions between proteins. Throughout this floor, a variety of cutting-edge microscopes will be available for collaborations with researchers across multiple on-campus departments and the Miller School of Medicine.

“It’s a fostering of the collaborative enterprises,” said Kathryn Tosney, chair of the biology department.

Rod Wellens, chairman for the department of psychology, feels similarly.

“One of the goals of the project was a building described as a transformational facility that would bring people from different disciplines together,” he said.

Though focused on neuroscience and the work of specific researchers who will have permanent labs there, the facility will be accessible to all researchers and students who may require neural imaging as part of studies in fields as broad as marketing and advertising.

In addition to research, the Neuroscience Building will offer graduate programs that will train future neuroscientists and health psychologists. Undergraduates interested in working with a faculty member’s research will also have opportunities to use these technologies, according to McCabe.