In mid-September, the University of Alberta’s Augustana campus opened five new science lab spaces, just in time for students to begin lab classes in the eleven-week term.
“For too long Augustana science faculty and students have put up with antiquated labs,” Dean Allen Berger explained of the project, which has been a long time coming. “With the new spaces in biology and chemistry, we will now have modern labs that we can be proud of.”
Modern, as well as stylish. The new spaces, which include two biology labs and a chemistry lab for classes, another research chemistry lab and a chemistry office and preparation space, are designed to be transparent, accessible and innovative, as well as simply brighter and more aesthetically pleasing. With light green trim and painted strips on the floor of the chemistry lab, and purple and gold accents in the biology lab, every design decision was backed by innovative thought. The green and gold represent a nod to the U of A colours, while the painted green strips on the floor of the chemistry labs also attach rooms and workbenches (known as “pods”) to each other, mimicking the shape of a chemical bonding structure and essentially tying everything in the lab together—practically and theoretically—espousing the cleverness of the scientists on the design team.
In another visually appealing move, glass windows open the lab up to the hallway so that passersby have the opportunity to have a glimpse at whatever experiment is taking place. Professors and students can also write on this glass and every other glass surface in the lab.
“We’ve made every wall a teachable space because we have a writing surface on every wall,” notes David King, chemistry lab technician and one of the four Augustana committee members on the project.
The spaces are more than just pretty and convenient. “They’re up to speed and modern, but also designed for innovative teaching,” explains professor Peter Berg, Chair of the Science Department. “The workbenches can be used for small groups which allow for a greater variety of teaching methodologies. The space is also designed so that it can be easily converted for other purposes in the future.”
The new labs are phase one of a much larger and more ambitious science extension project, wherein a new science/classroom building is imagined. With a new building, the recently updated lab spaces can easily be turned into research spaces.
Some of the other improvements include better ventilation with the addition of more ductwork, air conditioning, and fume hoods, which are automatic and run constantly while being more energy efficient, to the point that they will take the equivalent of energy used by three houses in a one year period off of the Camrose power grid. The labs also boast LED lighting and built-in accessibility, which includes a lower bench for those in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues, and a lowered fume hood that opens horizontally instead of vertically—initiatives that are the first of their kind in labs across the University.
Perhaps most exciting is the sheer number of students that will get to experience these labs this year: about 1 in 3.
“The labs used to be a very dark, scary, unknown space on campus but now it’s one of the first places people want to see,” King relates, who now looks forward to coming to his office space every day. “It almost feels like we’ve become part of campus now that we’re so out there and the spaces are so bright. To have the students able to work in a space that is innovative and well-designed is what I’m most excited about.”
This Friday, November 3, Augustana will host a Grand Opening of the new Science Labs and new Learning Commons beginning at 2 pm in chemistry lab C 165.
*Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that one biology lab was redone. Two biology labs were redone, and the correction has been added.