KENNESAW — In Kennesaw State University’s old science laboratories, Katie Bales and her classmates had to perform experiments on tissue in the same place other students were experimenting on bacteria — which lead to studies that weren’t the most sanitary.
“That would compromise our environment,” said Bales, a graduate molecular biology student from Villa Rica. “It would waste our time and the school’s money.”
But in the school’s new $21 million College of Science and Mathematics Science Laboratory Building, which had a ribbon-cutting Thursday morning, space isn’t a problem. The 73,000-square-foot, five-story building features six teaching labs and 17 research labs.
“It’s just having more of an area to perform our research,” Bales said. “We’re not having to run around like chickens with our heads cut off.”
Thursday’s ceremony took place in the atrium of the new building, which ties into the existing science and computer science buildings. Gary McNay, with the Perkins + Will architecture firm, said the Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building uses natural lighting and a chilled beam heating and air conditioning system. The “green” technology is intended to save $170,000 per year over a standard building.
Dr. Mark R. Anderson, dean of the 2,700-student college of science and math, said KSU has been looking to expand its science building since the 1990s but didn’t break ground on the structure until May 2011. He added that the new facility was one of the features that helped lure him from the University of Colorado Denver this summer, and he expects other faculty and prospective students to be similarly attracted.
“There’s no difference between the education you can get here and at Georgia Tech,” Anderson said. “If somebody wants to major in biology or chemistry, they would have the same opportunity here.”
The new building will be used with KSU’s two new master of science degree programs, one for integrative biology, which started this fall, and the other for chemical sciences, which starts in fall 2013.
While students won’t use the new science building for lab classes until the spring 2013 semester, some professors started performing research there a few weeks ago. Assistant biology professor Dr. Marcus Davis, who studies prehistoric fish to help find ways to prevent arthritis in humans, said he is looking forward to using the building’s new confocal microscope.
“It’s an impressive piece of equipment,” he said. “It’s something used at a major research institution. It allows us to probe deeper into cells to see how genes are developing, to ask the type of questions we couldn’t ask before.”
Dr. Jared Taglialatela, also an assistant biology professor, likes the communal atmosphere in the new building, which includes the atrium that will soon have its own coffee shop.
“It’s nice, the way it’s been done with the open space,” he said of the state-funded building. “One of the big things is to foster collaboration. To have people from different subcultures come together is going to be important moving forward.”
The school hasn’t decided what to do with the building’s fifth floor, which is vacant to be available for future expansion.
“We don’t know what our next move is, but we have the space to do it,” Davis said.
Colin King, a junior biology major from Canton, said he plans to attend medical school to learn to become a neurosurgeon after he graduates.
“This is the perfect lab for that,” he said. “This will assist in not only your research methods, but for a person with a career in neuroscience, this is as good as you can get. It’s almost cherry picked.”
KSU wants to renovate the older parts of the science building eventually, Anderson said, but the school will need to find funding.
“We would like to be an R1 (research) institution,” he said. “We’re laying the groundwork.”
The new building was built by Choate Construction of Atlanta.
Thursday’s ceremony, which took place in the building’s atrium, was also attended by KSU President Dr. Dan Papp, Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, Commissioners Helen Goreham and JoAnn Birrell, and Cobb Chamber CEO David Connell. After the ceremony, dignitaries had a ribbon cutting at the base of the atrium’s staircase, which runs along a wall of glass overlooking an undeveloped courtyard.