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Academic Science and Laboratory Building

Botany students planting garden at SCSU science building

As the school year draws to a close, Southern students may be leaving campus, but not before they put down some roots.

A new campus installation – the Science Garden – is now in place near the Academic Science and Laboratory building, thanks to the efforts of students, faculty, and campus leaders. Susan Cusato, associate professor of science education and environmental studies, worked with students in one of her classes this semester to explore ideas for the garden, and students presented their ideas as part of their course work. In addition, Botany Club students contributed to the garden planning during the conceptual phase and grew some plants for the garden from seeds.

The Science Garden is composed of three primary raised beds, each of which is 4’8” x 4’8”. The beds are located in the courtyard between the new science building and Jennings Hall. Cusato’s students — Honors College students in HON 260: Pollinators — A Case Study in Systems Thinking and Sustainability — installed the garden on May 10. Students and faculty have taken responsibility for maintaining the garden, which has the potential to benefit several science departments as well as honeybees and other pollinators. The Office of Sustainability will maintain the beds during the summer.

Cusato says that she and Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski have taught the pollinators course together for about four years, and this year Cusato taught it on her own. The course is designed around the issues surrounding the decline of all pollinators worldwide but especially the threats to honeybees, because they are responsible for the pollination of much of our food supply.

As Cusato explains, pollinators face many threats, including pesticides, climate change, and mites, among, “but one thing we can do to help is help preserve their habitat. So planting pollinator habitat is something the students learned to research and design.”

Botany students planting in front of SCSU science building

In the class, students worked in pairs to design pollinator habitats. With help from some Southern faculty and community members, the students considered how to enhance the campus’ pollinator habitat by planting pollinator-friendly plants in gardens near the science building. The goal of the plantings is to attract bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other species.

Cusato says, “We are hoping that by enhancing habitat, students can begin to study the various pollinators on campus, can begin counts of specific pollinators and begin to examine the relationships between plants and pollinators. Students can collect and compare different pollen for specific traits. Blossoms can be analyzed for various compounds resulting in scent. As pollinators are attracted by scent, some plants have evolved intriguing ways to attract them, as the continued survival of that species depends on pollination.”

The planting of the garden is especially timely, given the fact that Governor Malloy recently signed legislation to protect pollinators, particularly in the area of preserving and developing pollinator habitat. The bill he signed had been unanimously passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives and addresses a range of concerns relating to pollinator health, from pesticides to parasites and habitat remediation.

Rebecca Silady, assistant professor of biology and faculty adviser to the Botany Club, credits the students in the pollination class with finalizing the details of the garden and with the actual planting of the garden, although she adds that Botany Club students took part in initial discussions about the garden and grew tomatoes, zinnia, and marigolds from seeds to contribute to the beds. Silady says the garden adds to the plant diversity on campus that she will be able to highlight in her course on plant taxonomy in the fall.

    Academic Science and Laboratory Building Ribbon Cutting

    Students engaged in scientific research at Southern now have a state-of-the-art facility and cutting-edge equipment that will better prepare them for the 21st century.

    A ribbon-cutting to mark the ceremonially opening of the university’s Academic Science and Laboratory Building was held Friday in front of SCSU’s students, faculty and staff, as well as local and state dignitaries, and business leaders.

    Academic Science and Laboratory Building

    The building – a four story, 103,608 square-foot-facility – will be the “focal point” for the university’s science programs. It connects with Jennings Hall, which has been the main science building at SCSU for more than three decades. Morrill Hall, also used by SCSU for science classes, labs and offices, is connected to Jennings. The three buildings provide the university with a new “science enclave.”

    “This signature building will truly enhance our ability to foster the next generation of Connecticut’s scientists,” said SCSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Certainly, the need for new facilities for our science programs was clear, as our enrollment in STEM courses has been steadily increasing, in step with workforce demand in these fields. By producing more graduates with much-needed expertise in science and technology, Southern will continue to be a key player in Connecticut’s economic revival.”

    Student Katherine Perez and Nanotechnology
    Katherine Perez, a physics major and New Haven Promise scholar, said the new building gives all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students the opportunity to explore the many different scientific fields.

    “This building was constructed for the sole purpose of giving its occupants the ability to think freely, to think outside the box,” Perez said. “The new laboratories are spacious and equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art equipment and technologies so that each student has the necessary tools to help improve their academic learning and research. (They) also provide students with the ability to conduct more collaborative research, which is an experience every STEM student should have since (it) is an important skill to have when working in industry.”

    Other speakers included Merle Harris, a member of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education; Steven Breese, SCSU dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; Ted Gresik, senior director, North America service, environmental health for PerkinElmer; Thomas Fleming, chairman of the SCSU Department of Earth Science; Kristin DeRosia-Banick, environmental analyst for the state Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture; and Pasquale Salemi, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Construction Services.

    The “L-shaped” building features a brick and glass exterior, as well as a skywalk to Jennings. Academically, the building will host teaching and research labs for physics, earth science, environmental science, molecular biology and chemistry. It includes a high performance computing lab for research in theoretical physics, bioinformatics and computer science.

    The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) Center for Nanotechnology is located on the ground floor. On the first floor, a saltwater Aquaria Room with a touch tank will be featured and will be a centerpiece of outreach to area schools and the community. In addition, a giant, model nanotube runs through the middle of the building and will light up dramatically as an additional attraction.

    Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, Touch Tank

    The Werth Center for Marine and Coastal Studies is housed on the first and second floors. The center has several new labs, including an analytic lab (where mercury levels can be determined) and a sediment coastal science lab (where levels of sediment can be tested).

    Other amenities include an outdoor rock garden showcasing rocks indigenous to Connecticut; a sustainable rain harvester system that collects and stores up to 40,000 gallons of water underground, which later is dispersed to reduce landscape watering consumption by 50 percent; rooftop telescopes operated via the third floor Astronomy Room; a pair of 50-seat general purpose classrooms, as well as office space and study/common areas.

    Rain Harvester

    Centerbrook Architect and Planners of Centerbrook is the architectural firm in change of the $49 million project. FIT Construction Inc. of Farmington is the contractor.

    “This building is filled with awe-inspiring science with far reaching implications,” said Christine Broadbridge, SCSU director of STEM initiatives.

    Broadbridge announced that SCSU is naming its model carbon nanotube in honor of PerkinElmer in recognition of the company’s leadership participation during the initial outfitting of the labs and for its recent collaborative efforts with the university.

    PerkinElmer, a company headquartered in Massachusetts with a facility in Shelton, Conn., and which delivers instruments and services designed to help improve human and environmental health, has installed hi-tech scientific laboratory instrumentation in the new building.