SCSU Counts Down to Hi-Tech Science Building

science building groundbreakingThe future academic and laboratory science building at Southern Connecticut State University will be a significant step forward for the landscape of the campus and an impressive leap for scientific study in Connecticut.

On Sept. 20, the university celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony for that building, which will be a four-story, 103,608-square-foot facility that will be the "focal point" for the university's science programs. The project has been under way for the last several months and is being designed to enhance both the quality of those programs, as well as to educate a larger number of students.

"It will be a state-of-the-art structure that will provide greatly enhanced, career-based educational opportunities for our students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines," said SCSU President Mary A. Papazian. "By producing more graduates with much-needed expertise in the fields of science and technology, Southern will be meeting a vital area of workforce demand and continue to be a key player in Connecticut's economic revival."

Gregory W. Gray, president of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, pointed to the commitment of SCSU and the entire Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (ConnSCU) system to a strong program in the STEM disciplines. He said the building will bring science education to another level at the university. He also said a world-class institution requires outstanding students, faculty and staff and facilities.

"We have great students, a great faculty and staff, and now we need to have a world-class building with world-class equipment," Gray said.

Other speakers included: Yvette Melendez, interim chairwoman of the board; Peter J. Werth Jr., president of the Werth Family Foundation, which recently agreed to donate $3 million to SCSU; alumna Jacquelynn Garofano, who is now a senior engineer and research scientist with United Technologies; William J. LaRochelle, head of Key Opinion Leader Management with Roche Sequencing Solutions; Steven Breese, dean of the SCSU School of Arts and Sciences; and Vincent Breslin, SCSU professor of science education and environmental studies.

Physically, the two wings of the facility will be configured in the shape of an "L" and located next to Jennings and Morrill halls, which currently house the university's science departments. Together, the three buildings will form a "science enclave."

A brick and glass exterior will line the building –- a structure that will feature a covered skywalk connecting it with Jennings on the upper floor. A connector will also be built on the ground floor. A hallway already connects Jennings and Morrill.

Academically, the building will host teaching and research labs for physics, earth science, environmental science, molecular biology and chemistry. It will include a supercomputing lab for research in theoretical physics, bioinformatics and computer science.

The Werth Center for Marine and Coastal Studies – recently named in honor of the Werth family following a $3 million gift from the Werth Family Foundation -- will be housed on the second floor.

The center will have 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).

The CSU Center for Nanotechnology will be located on the ground floor, where the laboratory space is designed to isolate the building's vibrations -- considered important when dealing with microscopic materials.

A saltwater aquaria room with a touch tank will also be featured in the new building and will a centerpiece of outreach to area schools and the community.

Other amenities include an outdoor rock garden showcasing rocks indigenous to Connecticut; six rooftop telescope stations strategically placed to eliminate interference from city lights; a pair of 50-seat general purpose classrooms, as well as office space and study/common areas. Scientific displays will be located throughout the building to showcase faculty and student research.

The facility will meet the LEED-Silver certification, a designation by the U.S. Green Building Council for buildings that are environmentally friendly. "We will be able to capture the rain water and use it for the irrigation system in that area," said Robert Sheeley, associate vice president for capital budgeting and facilities operations. "And the roofs will be pitched to accept solar panels."

Centerbrook Architect and Planners of Centerbook is the architectural firm in charge of the $49 million project. FIT Construction Inc. of Farmington is the contractor. It is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015.