MTSU geosciences students feel like they attend another university. Students in the nationally acclaimed Forensic Institute for Research and Education, physics and astronomy, and mechatronics engineering programs love their expanded laboratory and classroom spaces.
With a grand reopening Wednesday, Feb. 15, the university publicly unveiled Davis Science Building and Wiser-Patten Science Hall, which underwent renovations totaling $20 million to $25 million the past two years.
To accompany the $147 million Science Building that opened in fall 2014, MTSU now possesses some of the finest science facilities — being branded as the Science Corridor of Innovation — in the South and nation.
University leaders say the renovations of Wiser-Patten Science Hall, which opened in 1932, and Davis Science Building, which opened in 1968, will add to MTSU’s stature in research, help recruit students and faculty and boost entrepreneurial efforts and future job placement for undergraduate and graduate students.
“With these renovations, we now have what I consider some of the best science facilities in the country, offering students a wide variety of innovative programs, research spaces and learning environments,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.
Students and faculty have gained about 110,000 square feet of science space. Wiser-Patten maintained its historic look and has refurbished front steps, while planners and construction crews created additional natural lighting and kept much of the original wood floors.
The Strobel Connector and other areas will provide more collaborative space for students and faculty. Both have first-class labs, and many flat-screen televisions will add to the learning experience
McPhee said the two “magnificent structures, restored and improved to a state far beyond the condition they enjoyed in their former prime, join the jewel of our campus — the 250,000-square-foot Science Building that houses our biology and chemistry departments, as well as home to many of our key research laboratories.”
Noting that he’s extremely pleased with the work performed by Turner Construction Co., McPhee told the crowd that the company has agreed to sponsor the “Great Tennessee Eclipse Event” this summer that “will give students from area schools a chance to see these buildings up close, engage with our faculty and see a once-in-a-lifetime event. Vice president and general manager John Gromos represented Turner at the ceremony.
Dr. Robert “Bud” Fischer, College of Basic and Applied Sciences dean, said he’s ecstatic about the present and future.
“When you talk about the Science Innovation Corridor, I think of it as science, but science in a broader sense,” Fischer said, adding that the corridor includes James E. Walker Library, with all of its science holdings and Dean Bonnie Allen’s implementation of the new Makerspace area, and continues to the John Bragg Media and Entertainment Building, home to recording industry, “where music is an art, but there is also the science of music.”
Interim Provost Mark Byrnes said the “renovation of these historic buildings will enable them to continue to be centers of scientific learning.”
“As interim provost, I am excited about the learning that will happen in these newly refurbished spaces,” Byrnes added. “As an MTSU alumnus who took his required science courses there around 1980, I am excited about the buildings looking so good in 2017.”
Dr. Hugh Berryman, nationally recognized director of the Forensic Institute for Research and Education, said FIRE’s staff and students are very pleased to have space in Wiser-Patten.
“We are especially excited about our new forensic anthropology laboratory, which provides an area to consult with law enforcement and medical examiners on forensic skeletal cases,” he said. “It also provides the space to educate students in osteology and forensic anthropology techniques using our newly acquired skeletal collection.
Berryman noted that the space will facilitate student research projects by providing technical equipment, including an X-ray fluorescent analyzer, surgical microscope with digital photographic equipment and microscribe digitizer. The proximity of the research laboratory to the smart classroom will promote training of MTSU students as well as presentations to area middle and high school students, he said.
For Department of Geosciences chair Warner Cribb, the difference between their space in Kirksey Old Main to their new home in the renovated Davis Science Building is like night and day.
“Our students feel like they are going to school at a different university,” he said. “It gives them a sense of community.”
Physics and astronomy students and faculty adapted quickly to their space and the fact they are now in one building: Wiser-Patten.
“Our space nearly doubled,” said Dr. Ron Henderson, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Our teaching labs and faculty research labs are in one building.
“We are happy with all the dedicated student study areas. … About 40 giant windows were unbricked, bringing in natural light. This completely changed what the building feels like.”
Advising space for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences also increased immensely, officials said. Fermentation science, a new School of Agribusiness and Agriscience program, has featured space.
With a gift from presenting sponsor Turner Construction, MTSU and the Department of Physics and Astronomy will host the Great Tennessee Eclipse Event Monday, Aug. 21. Thousands of pairs of safety glasses with the Turner logo will be given to every student in Rutherford and surrounding counties.
The solar eclipse will offer a rare view of nearly 100 percent across the Midstate, including Nashville and Murfreesboro. Schools from the region will be invited to campus to view the eclipse and visit the science buildings.
Tours of the Davis and Wiser-Patten facilities and the College of Basic and Applied Sciences advising office followed the program, which included recognizing the family of Dr. Eugene Strobel, former associate professor in biology. Professor Emerita Katherine Strobel and their daughters Amy, Jane and Mary Ann Strobel attended the event in the Strobel Lobby.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)