Our New Catalyst
The new building strengthens MTSU’s ability to pursue a solid, focused research agenda, and it significantly raises our profile as a research institution
With a new $147-million Science Building now open for business, MTSU prepares to take its science and research efforts to the next level.
Anyone familiar with the programs and infrastructure at MTSU knows that the new $147-million Science Building, which opened Oct. 15, 2014, was as desperately needed as it was long overdue. And yet, when viewed in the greater context of other changes happening on campus, in Tennessee, and beyond—from an evolving University mission to the shifting of funding formulas, to the explosion of scientific frontiers—the timing couldn’t be better.
This project had been the number-one priority of the University even before President Sidney A. McPhee’s arrival 13 years ago. As the oldest and largest institution in the Tennessee Board of Regents, MTSU absolutely requires this building to continue its effort to provide Tennessee with qualified graduates for the workforce. About 80 percent of MTSU students will take classes in the new Science Building.
And this building is already helping produce more science graduates to fill high-technology jobs, prepare more teachers for math and science in K–12 schools, and enhance the economy of our region and state. It immediately makes MTSU more competitive for research projects, science scholarship, and entrepreneurial efforts.
MTSU’s enrollment has almost quadrupled in the last 45 years but with no increased space for science education until now. Wiser-Patten Science Hall and Davis Science Building were built in 1932 and 1967, respectively, and have a combined total of nearly 117,000 net square feet. The new building has more than 250,000 gross square feet for teaching, faculty and student laboratory research, and collaborative learning.
Rest assured, those two older buildings, which hold memories for generations of graduates now working in science fields and those who simply took science courses as undergraduates in them, will be put to good use. They are scheduled for significant renovations to bring them back to usefulness. They are to be emptied in January 2015 and ready for reopening by May 2016. About $20 million will be spent to get the job done.
A primary benefactor will be the Physics and Astronomy Department, which will take over the second and third floors and part of the first floor of Wiser- Patten. The Davis Building will house the Geosciences Department, which recently moved from Liberal Arts to Basic and Applied Sciences. Geosciences’ departure from Kirksey Old Main will open space in MTSU’s oldest and most beloved building for expansion of the Computer Science Department.
The Davis Building will also house centers that need additional space: the Center for Cedar Glade Studies and the Center for Environmental Education. Eleven new and a total of 18 advisors for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences will also be in Davis, and other spaces in the building will be used for research labs or future growth. These are just a few of the planned moves.
Consistent with our rich tradition of teacher training, the new Science Building is tailor-made for the science of education, designed to make learning and teaching more productive and compelling experiences. It follows ideas put forward by the nation’s foremost science and technology experts with regard to what works best for effective science and science education teaching. It includes discovery-based group-learning environments and spaces for informal discussion and collaborative interaction, all vital for establishing and promoting an ultramodern science education and research community.
Speaking of research, space in the new building will meet MTSU’s needs for many decades. Certain upgrades will be particularly transformative. In chemistry, for instance, modern fume hoods now allow experiments that were long prohibited in our older buildings. As a result, the new building strengthens MTSU’s ability to pursue a solid, focused research agenda, and it significantly raises the University’s profile as a research institution.
MTSU grants about 700 degrees in biology, chemistry, and related fields each year. Now that the new Science Building is in operation, that number could increase by 25 percent.
Science courses generate about 60,000 credit hours annually, and more than 13,000 students, majors and non-majors, enroll in biology, chemistry, and physical science courses.
Courses now offered in the new building serve academic programs beyond general education, biology, and chemistry. Nearly all of MTSU’s students will benefit from our much-improved science facilities.
MTSU’s new Science Building will be the portal through which we enter a new realm of science and research activity and compete for its rewards.
Has it been a long time coming? Definitely. But now the science and research fetters have been broken, and it’s time to get to work.
There’s a lot of science to be done!