Enormous Moving Task Under Way For Sciences Building
by Judy Long
The Baylor Sciences Building finally has its first residents, as Baylor scientists began moving their offices June 1 to the 508,000-square-foot facility.
While BECK construction workers put the final touches on the two-year, $103 million project, biology department faculty relocated shelves of books and boxes of files to their new offices in the sciences building, which will open for classes in August.
"We have talked about this day for a long time," said Dr. Ben Pierce, the professor of biology who worked closely with the chairs of five science departments while overseeing academic planning for the new facility.
Once completed, the Baylor Sciences Building will be one of the foremost science teaching and research facilities in the country, bringing biology, neuroscience, physics, chemistry and geology together under one roof. The four-story facility also will be home to five multidisciplinary research/education centers on pre-health education, molecular biosciences, drug discovery, reservoir and water education, and scientific analysis and computing.
"One of our goals at the very beginning when we started the planning for the building seven years ago was to create bridges between the traditional science departments here at Baylor to encourage multidisciplinary collaborations in both teaching and research," Pierce said.
Relocating faculty offices and labs is no small task. In fact, chemistry's move will last almost the entire month of July.
Still, many were pleased to see the enormous relocation begin smoothly.
"I'm thrilled," said Dr. Jim Karban, who left the chemistry department to become director of science facilities for the Baylor Sciences Building. "The building will be such a beautiful place to work. I spent the last 22 years in the basement [of the Sid Richardson Science Building]. It's great to have windows."
However, Karban said the sciences building is more than just beauty. Significant safety features - from state-of-the-art ventilation to a software program that tracks every chemical in the building - can be found through the facility. As director, Karban will oversee the shared areas of the building to facilitate the smooth interface of the five science departments.
Biology professors Rick Duhrkopf and Bob Baldridge were among the faculty members who moved in June 1. Duhrkopf said the building is absolutely gorgeous -- "It's just the hassle of moving in," he said, while unloading a cart of books onto the new shelves.
"I started packing two weeks ago, and I still have two labs to pack and move," Baldridge said.
Dr. Joseph White, assistant professor of biology, said he is looking forward to the physical proximity with colleagues in geology and with the Center for Applied Geographic and Spatial Research (CAGSR).
"I already work closely with Steve Dworkin and Joe Yelderman in geology and with CAGSR, and I expect the proximity to breed even greater productivity," White said.
White also said he is pleased with his new lab, which is significantly larger than the one he is leaving behind in Sid Richardson. There are 150 labs for research and teaching in the Baylor Sciences Building, as well as an additional 70,000 square feet of research space set aside for future expansion.
The building's design also will encourage interaction between students and faculty from the various academic disciplines, Pierce said. The center of the building features a four-story atrium, filled with tables, couches and chairs that will serve as a central gathering place for students and faculty. Common areas throughout the building are designed to enhance communication and the sharing of ideas.
"If we're to prepare students to be the next generation of world leaders in science and healthcare, it's critical we provide them experience working in a multidisciplinary environment, and this new building will do that," Pierce said.