Envisioning the Academic Science Building
This fall construction began on the University of Kentucky’s new Academic Science Building. Scheduled to open in Fall 2016, the building’s design places integrated, engaged learning as its centerpiece.
In the following interview College of Arts & Sciences Dean, Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, talks about the purposeful design of the new building.
Q: The Academic Science Building has been described many times as “integrative.” What does that mean?
Science by nature is an integrated study of the world. Scientists draw upon multiple disciplines and techniques to answer questions and make discoveries. Teams of researchers come together – often with different theoretical and methodological perspectives, different training, and in the case of research universities, from different career stages (e.g., undergraduates, graduates, post-doctoral scholars, and faculty members). Knowing this, we purposely designed the new building to enhance the integrative aspects of 21st century science. For example, all levels of instruction will be housed next to each other so that introductory undergraduate students work directly with more advanced undergraduate and graduate students and faculty in the creation of knowledge. Such proximity will allow for the most advanced instrumentation to be shared and available to all. Similarly, faculty from multiple disciplines (e.g., Chemistry, Biology, etc.) will be housed collectively to foster inter-disciplinary work and thought, rather than being siloed in separate buildings based on disciplinary lines.
Q: Why is it so important to integrate research and lab space with classrooms and student study areas?
Studying science is the gateway to a host of career options. It is also one of the cornerstones to an educated mind. For many, however, the study of science is difficult. To be able to train our students appropriately and ready them for the 21st century job market and world, students need to succeed in their science-based studies. The building’s design not only allows for, but fosters, enhanced student learning. By housing faculty offices, laboratories, classrooms, study space, and tutoring all in one location, class work will naturally spill out into laboratories, impromptu study sessions, scheduled office hours, among other interactions. In essence the formal curriculum, the co-curriculum, and the student support offerings will be married under one roof – with the goal of creating a community of science.
Q: How will the Academic Science Building foster undergraduate education?
Every science student on campus, and the vast majority of all undergraduates at UK, will experience 21st century science with 21st century laboratories and instrumentation. All key gateway science courses in general and organic chemistry and biology as well as more advanced laboratory courses will be housed in the building. Greater success in these classes will serve science majors across campus, as well as the many non-science students who will take these as general UK Core courses. For students coming to campus in the next few years, this will be transformative for their education.
Beyond student reach, the building itself is designed to foster active, inquiry-based learning. Hallmarks include active-learning laboratories, advanced instrumentation, flat classrooms with movable work spaces, lecture halls with multi-media presentations and demonstrations capabilities, IT-enabled discussions, visualizations and simulations; and a myriad of informal learning spaces that facilitate interaction and knowledge exchange. At every planning stage, the building’s defining principles are enhanced student success and scientific integration.
Q: How does that relate to graduate level research?
Science today is multi-generational. Research is conducted in teams, made up of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, scientific staff, and faculty. Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are key components to any scientific enterprise. Not only are they training to become the future workforce, but they are making discoveries and contributions in their own right. Thus, the Academic Science Building is designed to facilitate their role in the discovery and application of knowledge as well as foster collaboration. Graduate students will serve as teaching assistants in classes; their offices will be located in the new building; and their research will be conducted in the laboratories. Their role as mentors, instructors and researchers will only be enhanced by the increase in quality of the facilities they utilize.
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts on the new building?
The new Academic Science Building will stand as an embodiment of science and science education in the 21st century, breaking down barriers and building connections. As a state-of-the-art facility, built with the latest green technology, the building will be the epicenter of the university’s scientific community, linking the medical campus with the academic campus – connecting North campus and South campus, integrating disciplines, knowledge, and ways of learning in innovative and important ways. When the building opens in the Fall of 2016, it will anchor academics at the University of Kentucky for the 21st century. We’re excited to get started.