JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 3, 2002 – In a classroom on Union’s campus, a biology professor is teaching students on the various types of insects found in the West Tennessee region. Down the hall, another class is learning about the different forms of bacteria that exist in the area. Still another class is learning how to put it all together in the form of genetic engineering – learning how to control insect populations with various bacterial methods while conserving the resources around us. Research biologists are being born.
Science, seen and unseen, plays a huge part in how we eat, work, travel, the clothes we wear, and even the furniture we sit on. In an increasing technological age that demands our dependence on the sciences, Union University is building for the future – designing a high-tech new science building that will serve the needs of future research chemists, pharmacists, nurses, doctors and engineers for decades to come and in turn, serve the West Tennessee community and beyond.
In a recent meeting in November with the university’s newly formed Board of Regents and science building advisors, the university announced the projected design of the new building which is the final piece of the first phase of Union’s campus master plan set in motion back in 1997. The groundbreaking, which will occur Friday, Dec. 6 across from the new performing arts building, Jennings Hall, is a significant event representing two years of hard work and thought which went into the initial planning of this important building.
Made initially possible by a $2 million gift from Roy White, $500,000 from Jackson-General Hospital and an anonymous pledge of $1.4 million, the two-story science building will house biology on the first floor and chemistry on the second – with other science areas such as physics, engineering and computer science to be added later. Project completion is scheduled for 2005 with classes to begin in the new building in August of that year.
“The sciences as much as anything else we do at Union symbolize the university’s commitment to excellence,” said Union President David S. Dockery at the meeting. “We are very excited about where this process is going and we are very hopeful for the next two years.”
According to TLM Associates, who were awarded the architectural and engineering aspects of the campus master plan, a science building is one of the more difficult buildings to design due to the complexity of the laboratories and the ventilation challenges. Union science faculty and administrators have spent many hours visiting other science facilities on other university campuses, and a nationally known consultant was hired who specializes in designing science buildings.
“We want to provide a space where serious learning can take place among science majors as well as an appropriate place for Union students who are taking the required science core classes,” said Union Provost Carla Sanderson.
Barbara McMillin, dean of Union’s College of Arts and Sciences, spoke highly of the work that the science faculty in particular has done so far in planning the building to meet class and curriculum specifications
“I cannot estimate the number of hours that this faculty has invested in getting us to this point,” said McMillin.
Thinking ahead for the future has also been an important part of the process, examining what equipment will be needed both now and later.
“If it’s a piece of equipment that sits on a counter, we need to know so that we will have the counter space for later down the road when we finally obtain that particular piece of equipment,” explained McMillin, pointing out the complicated details that must each be thought through one by one.
Special features of the 42,000 square foot building include a green house for the biology area, bulk storage areas for hazardous chemicals, large state-of-the-art lecture rooms, a microbiology/immunology lab, as well as lab areas for physiology and human gross anatomy, with storage for human cadavers that are used by the human gross anatomy class in the summer. The roof also has unique features for the special ventilation needs of the chemistry labs.
“Union has always been good as an academic resource and as an important part of this community,” said Madison County Mayor Jerry Gist. “Any addition can only serve to benefit West Tennessee. The latest figures, particularly showing the university’s economic impact on this region rang loud and clear – we’re looking forward to great things.”
Sara B. Horn,