The start of the 2019 fall semester marked the opening of the new Jepson Science Center addition and the near completion of renovation work in the original Jepson science building.
In 1998, all four natural science departments, (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Physics and Earth & Environmental Sciences) moved from Combs Hall to the then new 75,000 square foot Jepson Science Center. As we have added faculty members, programs, and new equipment, the space eventually became insufficient to support classes and provide the highly valued independent research experiences for our students. Planning and design work for a new addition, which attaches to the original science center building on three levels, began in 2014 and, after almost two years of construction, we are now in the final phases of the project. During this past summer, the Physics Department and Earth & Environmental Sciences have completely relocated into the new, 40,000 square foot addition while chemistry and biology have expanded their laboratory spaces to fully occupy the original Jepson Science Center building.
Although the addition has an exterior design that reflects the classic architecture of our campus, it has a number of more modern updates including large floor-to-ceiling windows that provide natural light in both classrooms and laboratories. The wide, glass-walled connecting corridors between the original building and the addition provide students with gathering and study areas. On the third floor, there are large panel screens with laptop connections that allow groups of students to work on projects together.
The Jepson renovation has provided the sciences with several new seminar and classroom spaces. One of the new, 50 seat classrooms contains multiple wall-mounted computer screens that allow faculty to design more active learning opportunities. Students can quickly divide into teams and move their wheeled chairs to work in groups at the various workstations that surround the room. Earth and Environmental Sciences designed a suite of rooms that include a central classroom which is connected to a wet lab on one side and a clean microscopy room on the other. This allows for opportunities to blend lecture and hands-on activities during class times. On the third floor of the original Jepson building, biology combined several previously separate rooms to create a large, glassed-in molecular biology lab that provides space for many independent study students. In addition to the new building spaces, several significant new scientific instruments have also been added. These include a new laser system in physics and a nuclear magnetic resonance instrument in chemistry. Earth and Environmental Sciences has added a walk-in cold room to store field samples and access to a loading dock area that makes it easier to load and unload the department’s new research boat.
Most significantly, the building project has resulted in many new and larger research laboratories for each of the natural science disciplines in Jepson. Most of the laboratory doors are controlled by proximity card readers which allow students access outside of normal class hours in order to pursue research or work on extended class projects. Our returning students have been very excited to see the transformation of Jepson and the science faculty members are delighted to have spacious and updated laboratory facilities for their classes and to support independent research projects for many years to come.
Grant Woodwell, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences & Professor of Geology