New core science facility to provide modern and collaborative teaching, research spaces
With the official opening of Memorial University’s new Core Science Facility (CSF) scheduled for September, units moving into the building are busy this summer packing up and moving equipment and supplies.
The 480,000 square feet building is the university’s biggest infrastructure project for the St. John’s campus since 1961. It will provide modern and collaborative research and laboratory teaching spaces primarily for the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
“The new Core Science Facility at Memorial University represents an investment in the future economic and social success of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Mark Abrahams, provost and vice-president (academic) pro tempore, Memorial University. “The new infrastructure is necessary for Memorial to compete on a global platform for research, faculty and students that will contribute to growing the economy of the province.”
The teaching and research space will be occupied primarily by the departments of Biochemistry, Biology and Chemistry in the Faculty of Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; as well as labs from the pan-university Core Research Equipment and Instrument Training (CREAIT) Network.
The building will also contain Technical Services’ Cryogenics Facility, the Faculty of Science’s Central Chemical Stores Facility and an aquatics facility that is part of Memorial University’s Animal Care Facilities. The Ocean Frontier Institute, a collaboration among Memorial, Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island, will eventually be housed in the building, as well as other entities, yet to be determined.
Dr. Jonathan Anderson, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is excited about the new teaching labs, particularly the Senior Design Studio/Lab, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ McNaughton Centre and the computer lab designed for computer security.
“These spaces have been purposely designed for students to use in learning and showcasing their work,” said Dr. Anderson. “The computer lab, for example, has been designed to facilitate practical cybersecurity labs, allowing students to practice tools and techniques that wouldn’t normally be allowed on a university network. Our spaces have also been designed to support “flipped classroom” and hybrid approaches to learning, including configurations for students working individually, in pairs and in larger groups.
“We also have design studios and a student project lab that will allow students to really feature the exciting projects they’re working on — from software and electronics to satellite ground stations — to the hundreds of people who will walk by them every day.”
The new facility will also offer wonderful new opportunities for research. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Drs. Stephen Czarnuch and Sarah Power will finally have space to do biomedical data collection. Dr. Czarnuch is looking forward to conducting three-dimensional motion for skeleton mapping while Dr. Power will be able to study biosignals for brain-computer processing.
Dr. Andrew Vardy, a jointly appointed professor with the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, will also be using the new building for his robotics research. One of the labs in the CSF has been purposely designed for robotics and drone research – one of the first of its kind in an academic building.
Dr. Sherri Christian is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry. The cancer researcher and immunologist says the new building will give Science students access to the most modern types of equipment and ways of doing research and promote inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches to science.
“One of the biggest differences is going to be in collaboration,” she said. “There are really great spaces between the pavilions and Biochemistry will be sharing these areas with Biology and Chemistry.
“On every floor there are places for casual meetings or to have your lunch or coffee, and because they’re shared by the departments, I think it’s going to facilitate discussions that probably would never have happened otherwise. Not only are we going to be able to collaborate better and more effectively within the department, we’re going to be able to collaborate more effectively between departments.”
Dr. Tom Chapman, the head of the Department of Biology, is thrilled to be moving in to the new building.
“When I finally got the chance to tour the CSF last January it took my breath away,” he said. “It was amazing. There was a real feeling of pride, and that changes how people do their jobs.
“Some of the features in the building will also change how we function and what we can accomplish. Because the pandemic has kept us out of the building for the past year, we are only starting to get an understanding about these and over the last few weeks our research groups have come together to have important conversations about how we will use some of the shared spaces. So, I think the building’s vision, which was to break down barriers between research groups, is already happening.”
Dr. Travis Fridgen is the acting Dean of Science. He says the Core Science Facility will be an important part of campus life when the university returns to face-to-face teaching and learning in September.
“We are all very excited to welcome students back to campus and into this new building,” said Dr. Fridgen. “This facility will be critical in enabling Memorial University and the Faculty of Science to recruit and retain world-class faculty members, who will provide the best education for our undergraduate and graduate students.”
Adds Dr. Dennis Peters, acting Dean of Engineering and Applied Science, “The new Core Science Facility will better accommodate the education and research activities of the faculty’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,” he said. “This collaborative space is key to helping us compete on a global scale and contribute to the future economy of the province in our key research areas such as cybersecurity, communications technology and biomedical engineering.”