UW approves Science Initiative Building design


$100 million facility to foster interdisciplinary research

LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees recently approved the external and internal design of the planned Science Initiative Building, a $100 million facility geared toward cross-disciplinary collaboration and boosting the quality of science research and instruction at UW.
Designs for the building show large, long windows intended to fill research areas with natural light, as well as adherence to the Laramie campus’ architectural tradition.
“I think it accomplishes several things,” Vice President for Research and Economic Development Ed Synakowski said, addressing the board during its meeting earlier this month. “It borrows from designs on buildings such as Aven Nelson, other buildings on Prexy’s Pasture as well … It also is intended to project excitement. It has a leading-edge character to it – and accessibility.”
Gov. Matt Mead and the Legislature kicked off the Science Initiative in 2014, challenging UW to ramp up science instruction and research by addressing the university’s outdated laboratories and implementing several smaller initiatives.
One such initiative is UW’s Research Scholars Program, which pairs undergraduate students with faculty mentors to complete research. Emily Armitage, a biology research scholar studying the bacterium Gemmata obscriglobus, said undergraduate research was essential to her science education during a presentation to the board Nov. 16.
“I kind of think about it as if, when we were young, we were just taught to walk by just having somebody tell us how, but never got to try it on our own – it wouldn’t really work,” she said. “But when we’re given the opportunity to work in the lab directly with the materials we’ve been learning about is when that true understanding happens and when that true learning happens.”
The Legislature approved $100 million in one-time funds for the construction of the facility and $3 million to purchase the land, as well as an annual $2.3 million for other programs, such as the Research Scholars Program.
The Science Initiative Building is scheduled to break ground in 2019 and will take about two years to complete, UW Spokesman Chad Baldwin said.
The facility will house faculty from various departments and encourage and allow them to work together on interdisciplinary projects. This kind of space can be found at other top-tier institutions, such as Standford University, which hosts the James H. Clark Center.
“This is just clearly the model that all universities are going to,” Astronomy Professor Chip Kobulnicky said to the board, shortly before Armitage’s presentation. “Instead of an instrument in every professor’s laboratory, it’s a common core facility that has dedicated staff and equipment. It will boost the productivity, strengthen grant proposals, strengthen extramural support and, over time, attract top faculty and top students.”
The facility is being designed by firms Perkins + Will and GSG Architecture and will dominate the plot of land located between Ninth and 10th streets and Lewis and Bradley streets.
“As important as any building is, this one really occupies a conspicuous place on campus, being on the northwest leading corner,” Synakowski said.
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