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Loyola to open “flex lab” with space next to Bar 63

Courtesy of Jennifer ClarkThe new "flex lab" space on Broadway will feature lab space for a variety of disciplines.

Plans are underway for Loyola to build a new lab to be utilized by students from various science majors on North Broadway Street, between Bar 63 and the Life Storage building.

The new lab building was originally purchased by Loyola in 2011 and was used as a temporary storage space until it was torn down this past summer. Construction is beginning this week and the final building is expected to be finished by July, according to the assistant vice president for campus planning, Peter Schlecht. The estimated cost of the lab is $4.7 million, according to Schlecht.

Plans for the building at 6335 N Broadway St. arose from Loyola’s need for additional lab space to house students from different science departments, according to Jennifer Clark, Loyola’s associate vice president of community planning.

“It’s being designed as a flexible lab, meaning that it won’t limit or exclude any of the sciences,” Clark said.  “Each discipline kind of has its own labs right now, but what were moving towards in the future is designing future spaces to accommodate various disciplines.”

Enrollment is currently high in most of Loyola’s science departments. Because of this, Dr. Michael Burns of the biology department said the lab is a necessary addition that will make it much easier for the departments to have lab spaces that can accomodate large numbers of students.

“We have a high enrollment in the biology department, and as of now we’ve been kind of squeezed for lab space, so I think this is exactly what we need,” Burns said. “It also sounds like the building will be pretty long-lived, so if the demand for chemistry labs goes up 10 years from now, they have the ability to expand instead of being limited by what labs they currently have.”

Although students will be sharing a common space, the building won’t necessarily be a community lab, having students from multiple departments working at the same time. Scheduling when the lab will be used and by which courses will be up to the faculty and department heads, according to Clark.

Clark believes the main benefit of having more integrated lab spaces will be encouraging interdisciplinary research and learning among Loyola’s science majors.

Some students from Loyola’s biology and chemistry departments said they feel the current lab setups are segregated and give little opportunity for collaboration among different majors. The flex building offers hope for students to work with and learn from others in fields aside from their own.

“I think that this lab will create a more cooperative learning environment for students and eventually lead to a deeper understanding of what we’re studying, which is what science is all about,” Ashlin McCormick, a first-year biophysics major, said.

Students already in interdisciplinary fields said making labs more integrated is a great way to make research more efficient and allow students to study more topics that overlap into other fields.

“I do think the building is necessary, especially with the way science is advancing nowadays,” Omar Zahra, a second-year double biochemistry and molecular biology major, said. “For biochemistry majors, labs should be an even mixture of not only biology and chemistry, as well as other sciences.”

Other science majors said although integrated labs are a great idea, they feel Loyola has already put so much money into specialized facilities that another lab for these departments seems unnecessary.

“We already have fairly expensive biology and chemistry labs on campus,” Taylor Drew, a first-year biology major, said. “An integrated science lab would be great if these facilities didn’t already exist, but since they do, the lab feels redundant. I think the money should go towards something else.”

The high cost of the building has some students especially concerned. They feel like Loyola has focused too much money on new buildings and not enough on making repairs or improvements in the facilities already on campus.

“I feel like Loyola spends all their money on buildings,” Emily Daly, a first-year molecular and cellular neuroscience major, said. “$4.7 million is a lot of money that could be put towards something else, like updating the older science labs. The lab itself seems like a good idea, but they probably don’t need to spend as much on it as they are.”

Although it will be a while before any students and faculty are able to use the lab, Clark said she hopes the school will continue moving in the direction of creating more integrated spaces for students.

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