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Chemistry laboratories to be renovated

Chemistry laboratories to be renovated

The UW System approved last week a grant that will allow funding for renovations to three chemistry labs in the L.E. Phillips Science Hall.

The renovation project came after the chairs of the different science departments discussed the matter, and the encouragement of Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies Michael Wick.

Wick said that the department is lucky to receive a grant such as this and that everyone involved is very appreciative of the accommodations.

“When we applied, they said there wasn’t a place for it (in the budget) due to a difference between laboratory and classroom renovation funds — but this has both classroom and lab needs,” Wick said. “We are pleased that the system saw the blur between a classroom and a lab.”

Wick said that 20 percent of an incoming class declares as pre-nursing, creating a large demand for chemistry courses 103 and 104 (general and organic chemistry).

“We have probably 800 that take (general chemistry), plus another 200 that take it the next semester,” chemistry department chair Michael Carney said. “So, that is 1,000 students a year that will be impacted by these changes.”

The construction project will include the “rearranging” of three labs on the fourth floor, according to Carney. This includes moving ventilation hoods and adding versatile storage cabinets.

“Largely what we are doing is like what you would consider for a kitchen,” Wick added. “It’s a remodel of the cabinets. But in this case, the cabinets are expensive and there is a lot of infrastructure with the hood movement.”

Currently, the three chemistry labs have cabinets and drawers that only allow one student to use them at a time. With the remodel, Carney said, the supplies will be more communal and will accommodate more student usage.

Carney said that in addition to the lab remodels, curricular changes for chemistry classes are in talks as well.

“A big goal of the proposal was to increase flexibility for students to take chemistry. We are also going to undergo changes to courses as well as reduce credit and lab hours (by reducing 4 hour labs down to 3 hours),” he said. “But, our overall goal is to accommodate more students and reduce the times it takes to get a degree at UW-Eau Claire.”

Both Wick and Carney said that the renovations will not only ease class congestion, but will allow the chemistry department to function until the demolition of the building, set to take place between 2023 and 2028.

The current building was constructed between 1964 and 1969, according the university’s website. Additionally, a series of renovations throughout the years have kept the building as current as possible.

However, the university’s Master Plan calls to attention that “Phillips Science Hall has insufficient space and facilities to support the growth of multi-disciplinary science and technology education,” and that “the sciences will move to a riverfront complex that is built in phases,” along with an outdoor classroom.

Wick said renovations such as this will keep the chemistry department usable until the construction of the new building in completed.

“There are all of these demands on these classes and Phillips doesn’t have room to grow,” Wick said. “There’s no time to wait for new science building.”

The start date of the project has yet to be determined; it is pending upon the release of funds from the UW-System’s accounts. Carney predicted it will be within the next fiscal year, with construction occurring during summer break and Winterim.

“We’re thrilled about this,” Carney said. “Perhaps it’s because the changes we’ll get on the floor are only going to benefit the students.”

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