Additional areas to work, updated lab spaces and opportunities for collaboration are some aspects of the Experimental Sciences Building II that can benefit Texas Tech researcher’s in their scholarly endeavors.
With the completion of this building, which will get a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 3 at 1070 Canton Ave., researchers may get the chance to further their studies with the use of updated facilities.
Joseph Heppert, vice president for the Tech Office of Research and Innovation, said the ESBII will be used by multiple Tech researchers of multiple disciplines.
Genomics, plant science, human sciences, agriculture, human diseases, chemical sciences are just some of the subjects that will be studied at the ESBII, Heppert said. There will be about 25 faculty members represented in the new facility.
“I think it’s going to be a really exciting mix,” he said.
Throughout the nation, Heppert said there is a need for modernized lab spaces.
“That old infrastructure really isn’t appropriate to support the modern science that is happening across the country,” he said. “ESBII is a great step on this campus toward helping to address part of the need for modern lab space that will support modern research.”
Older labs do not meet quality and safety safety standards that modern labs can meet, Heppert said. Discussions with department chairs and deans at Tech have been conducted to figure out how to fulfill the need to improve teaching labs.
“It’s critically important that we upgrade those facilities and give students an outstanding experience that they can build on as they move into either doing research in other laboratories on campus or as they move out into their careers at a private sector,” he said.
The ESBII is not the only facility Heppert said will work to provide improved research opportunities for people on campus.
“Our plan is to build a new Academic Sciences Building, ASB, which will be connected to the chemistry and the sciences buildings, the physics building there just off of the [Engineering Key],” Heppert said. “That building will help both provide excellent spaces for undergraduate laboratory education, and it will integrate some of that new additional research space that is desperately needed on campus.”
The state of some undergraduate labs shows the need for more modern facilities on campus, Heppert said. The ESBII will provide more opportunities for undergraduates wanting to engage in research.
For current labs, a variety of methods may be used to ensure that research methods are carried out effectively and safely.
Heather Coats, senior safety officer of lab safety at Tech Environmental Health and Safety, said her section of the EHS oversees lab safety procedures on campus and tests equipment in campus labs.
She said the department helps those running labs review safety requirements outlined in the EHS Lab Safety Manual and utilizes a laboratory safety survey to inspect each teaching and research lab.
“This is also something we use to do inspections,” she said regarding the checklist. “So, every year, our team surveys every laboratory space on campus. Right now, that’s about 800. Once ESBII comes online, it will be closer to a thousand or so.”
The checklist consists of different safety and equipment requirements, such as how chemicals are stored, how fume hoods are maintained and how refrigerators are marked, Coats said. The use of this checklist can be helpful for those maintaining labs.
“It’s also available for the faculty members and students who work in those laboratories to use to inspect their own spaces,” she said.
Regarding helping Tech researchers improve their understanding of these requirements, she said the establishment of the ESBII can be beneficial.
“If you have a well-kept space that’s brand sparkling new, I think you’re more likely to want to take care of it compared to if you have an older space where your cabinets are stained or your floors are stained,” she said.
At a subconscious level, Coats said the availability of a cleaner, more modern lab space could lead one to promote a safer lab environment.
In addition to helping researchers’ mindsets, Coats said the introduction of the new ESBII labs on campus prompted the lab safety section of EHS to fulfill safety requirements in advance.
“So, we’re also part of the planning process to make sure that the requirements that are outlined are met in those spaces,” she said.
Regardless of how the ESBII will benefit the Tech community, one may consider what all went into the construction of the facility.
Billy Breedlove, Tech System vice chancellor of Facilities Planning and Construction, said the ESBII is not a normal facility to construct.
“That’s a research facility,” he said. “So, with all of the specialized equipment put in there, the building infrastructure’s unique because it is a research and lab space.”
Because the ESBII consists of labs for researchers on campus, Breedlove said the building is different than other buildings for multiple reasons.
“For example, all the air that comes into that building is 100 percent fresh air,” he said. “So, you’re constantly pumping fresh air into that building. As you can see there’s a lot of duct work on the roof of that.”
Despite the obstacles in the ESBII’s construction, Breedlove said the result of the construction was good.
“It’s just really a science, research building that just adds some complication to that,” Breedlove said. “But it turned out really nice.”