Student researchers test out newly renovated science research lab

Jul 15, 2013

A Kroehler Science Center lab that has been home to dozens of student and faculty research projects  now boasts a renovated interior that’s more conducive to collaboration and long-term projects. The lab was completely gutted to redesign the space and accommodate new flooring, updated furnishings and improved storage and shelving.

“It’s much easier to collaborate with people from different labs and overall, everything is much more organized,” says Scott Blaszak ’14, a biology major. “The redesigned space is better situated for conducting research.”

Plans for a new science center were very much in mind as the existing lab space was redesigned, chemistry professor Jeffrey Bjorklund says. Existing research stations were too small and spread out, which discouraged collaboration, he says.
“Instead of research space being dedicated to a specific faculty member, stations are now devoted to a certain type of research,”

Bjorklund says. In addition to accommodating greater numbers of student researchers, an added benefit of the redesign is that students engaged in similar work are more likely to help each other answer questions and solve problems related to their research, he says.

The space permits teams of students to work together, along with faculty. Equipment is organized above each research station and is easily accessible.

“I was in this lab last summer before it was renovated,” adds Kelsey VandenBerg ’14, a biochemistry major. “This summer we had to make some adjustments because we’re all used to doing things a certain way but now it’s really nice to work in here.”

Chemistry professor and director of undergraduate research Nancy Peterson agrees that the new space is increasing collaboration among students and faculty.

“The research space allows for students to work closely with each other,” Peterson says. “They can’t help but learn more about what everybody else is doing in the lab. This has been great for my students who are learning some techniques for the first time and learning from more experienced researchers.”

Bjorklund notes that the redesigned space is a type of experiment itself—to test the concept prior to designing research spaces throughout a new science center.

“This is an opportunity to find out what works well and what doesn’t, before those concepts are applied in a new facility,” he says.