SU science building renovations underway

SU science building renovations underway Phase 1 renovations on the Fondren-Jones Science Hall at Southwestern University will add more than 20,000 square feet of laboratory and teaching space to the building.[/caption]

The science department at Southwestern University has undergone a series of improvements and updates in 2014 and anticipates more to come.

Construction on the Fondren-Jones Science Hall began earlier this year, and as of Dec. 12, the foundation for the new portion of the first phase has been poured.

Phase 1 will add 23,700 square feet to the southeast side of the 38,000-square-foot building. The science hall will house biology, chemistry and physics laboratories on the first floor, a molecular biology center with laboratories and a cell culture laboratory on the second floor, and teaching and research laboratories for biochemistry and organic chemistry on the third floor.

The first phase of construction could be completed by spring 2016.

Thinking Ahead, a campuswide fundraising campaign, is funding the $8 million project. Although the campaign began in 2006, the science building was not added until 2010 when trustees voted to include the renovations. The first major gift of $3 million for the building was announced in 2011, and the campaign was able to meet its $8 million goal by 2013.

The university is still raising money to meet its $16 million goal for the second phase of construction, which will renovate the original building and add a three-story atrium entryway. Once complete the building will have 103,000 square feet of teaching and laboratory space.

"We don't really have a date projected [for construction on the second phase]," biology professor Ben Pierce said. "As soon as the funds are raised, well start construction."

As the campus is now, the science programs are located in three separate buildings. Pierce plans to consolidate the programs under one roof following the renovations.

The university has also designated a portion of unused land for ecological research. Chemistry students began conducting experiments during the fall 2014 semester with water captured at the designated 25 acres set aside for studies.

University officials said the land, located near Hwy. 29 and Smith Creek Road, is ideal for ecological studies because of the variety of flora and fauna living there.