Science! New Labs a Successful Experiment
Science Lab Renovations Expand Opportunities
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
A timed experiment – that’s what you could call the renovation of the science labs in the R. Joe Dennis Learning Center. The desired outcome was the best equipped small science department in the state ready to serve students at the start of the fall term on August 29.
You can also call it a successful experiment. Spearheaded by Drs. John Kyndt, Tyler Moore, and Scott Pinkerton, the labs were ready to go as students rolled in. Built by Hawkins Construction and designed by HDR, the project broke ground on May 15.
“The construction crew did a heck of a job getting done on time. They really put in the work,” Pinkerton said.
The three professors put together a wants and needs list and developed a business plan to explain how the upgrades would impact the University. University President Dr. Mary Hawkins pushed the group to think big.
“The University made the decision to go with a much more intensive upgrade. What we ended up with was a facility that is really top notch,” Pinkerton said. “We were given cart blanche to just make a wish list and start to look at what we really wanted and needed to kind of be modern in our science education. What should we have to educate these students to a level that would really make them competent and competitive in the science arena?”
Examples of the new equipment include:
Spectrophotometers — an instrument that measures the amount of photons (the intensity of light) absorbed after it passes through sample solution.
Compound microscopes — a microscope which uses a lens close to the object being viewed to collect light (called the objective lens) which focuses a real image of the object inside the microscope. That image is then magnified by a second lens or group of lenses (called the eyepiece) that gives the viewer an enlarged inverted virtual image of the object.
DNA sequencer — used to determine the order of the four bases: G (guanine), C (cytosine), A (adenine) and T (thymine). This is then reported as a text string, called a read. Some DNA sequencers can be also considered optical instruments as they analyze light signals originating from fluorochromes attached to nucleotides.
The end results will be a student base that will be exposed to the latest and greatest in order to make them competitive in the marketplace.
“You can already see that when they’re coming in. They feel like they’re a part of a real modern lab a state of the art lab,” Kyndt said.
One of the goals of the project was to make science more accessible, Kyndt explained.
“The biggest thing we set forward was ‘Science on Display’,” he said. “So having science more visible to students — showing what we’re doing and getting people curious. Breaking down the idea that science is in some ivory tower and nobody can watch it or touch it. Science is not a scary thing. It’s something that we have fun with and you can come join us.”
A hands-on approach with a greater emphasis on research will benefit students.
“We want to integrate more research into our teaching activates and more research into our extra-curricular activates,” Moore said. “We wanted to build a space in which we were able to do that.”
In addition to the new science equipment, each one of the labs is outfitted with technology to enhance the academic experience. Each of the classrooms has a standard projector and each lab will have four drop-down monitors. Each station will function as its own computer is actually its own computer with Apple TV.
“It’s really a pretty well integrated system,” Pinkerton said. “A student could take an image off the microscope and put it on the TV and share it with the entire class.”
While the labs and open and available to students, there is still more work to be done.
“We’re still in the purchasing phase for a lot of our equipment,” Pinkerton said. “A lot of the more expensive equipment we still haven’t purchased yet just because they are major capital items. A DNA sequencer is not a cheap piece of equipment.”