November 2, 2017

Purdue begins plans for landmark new science teaching lab facility

stemlab facility A proposed new College of Science facility dedicated to STEM teaching labs would allow for integrated teaching of biological sciences and chemistry and provide state-of-the-art lab facilities for Purdue students. (Purdue University file photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Science education at Purdue is poised to take an important step forward with the announcement of plans to build what would be the first new facility dedicated to teaching labs constructed on campus in nearly 50 years.

On the West Lafayette campus, roughly 60 percent of entering freshmen are pursuing a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree, and courses in science form part of the core curriculum for every student on campus. Purdue’s explosive growth in STEM fields places the university among the top three in the nation for the number of STEM graduates produced annually.

Plans for the new building would allow for the first time the integrated teaching of biological sciences and chemistry, strengthening links between these departments and within the College of Science and beyond, for Purdue students in all majors.

“As a leading STEM university, Purdue must have the facilities to match the rapidly evolving sciences, and I can’t emphasize enough the pressing need we have for this. In fact, it is the single most important project that we are considering, and waiting isn’t an option,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “As our economy becomes more and more STEM-based, Indiana and the nation will need a growing number of people grounded in STEM disciplines in order to stay competitive. This new building will play a crucial role in achieving that goal.”

Campus facilities currently housing the College of Science biological sciences and chemistry teaching lab areas — Lilly Hall of Life Sciences and Brown Laboratory of Chemistry— were originally occupied in 1950 and 1970, respectively. More than 9,000 students annually take chemistry laboratory classes in Brown and more than 5,600 take biology laboratory courses. While these buildings have served the campus well, Daniels said the growing need for lab teaching space and the chance to integrate these disciplines have obviated previous proposals to renovate and modernize the teaching labs in Brown.

Patrick J. Wolfe, the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science and the William F. and Patty J. Miller Professor of Statistics, said the ambitious scale and timeline of the new teaching labs show that Purdue recognizes the importance of its students and puts them first.

“We commissioned a College of Science master plan last year, which identified this need as critical, and so I’m very pleased at how quickly we’ve been able to move,” he said.

Wolfe said given the rapid global evolution of science, the university must stay ahead of developments with top-flight facilities to help students succeed in modern science and STEM fundamentals.

“For the thousands of Purdue students who study in our labs each year, this flagship building means not only state-of-the-art, forward-looking teaching spaces that ignite a passion for science and reflect our reputation for innovation, but even more importantly the chance to experience a newly reimagined, integrated multidisciplinary science curriculum that enhances connections across the sciences and across campus,” he said.

As a first step, the university is soliciting proposals from qualified construction firms in preparation for the project, which will require approval from the university’s Board of Trustees and other governing bodies. Prospective construction timelines, sites and project costs have not yet been finalized, but it is anticipated that support will come from donors and university funds, and Purdue may also seek additional assistance from the state.

Sources: Mitch Daniels,

Patrick J. Wolfe,

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