February 19, 2016
Venigalla Rao, Claudia Bornholdt, and L.R. Poos at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new lab.
Venigalla Rao, Claudia Bornholdt, and L.R. Poos at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new lab.

Classes are meeting in a completely new, modern laboratory that opened this month in the Department of Biology. The new molecular biology lab “is designed as a research-oriented teaching laboratory in which undergraduate students collaborate as a team to answer real-life research questions,” said Venigalla Rao, professor and chair of the biology department.

“The students will use the laboratory not only during the scheduled class time but also to continue their experiments under the guidance of faculty members. This approach allows the students to delve more deeply into a problem as they are expected to design experiments as well as test their hypotheses using modern molecular biology and cell biology tools.”

Located on the third floor of McCort-Ward Hall, the lab features seven octagonal work stations. The design of the lab allows for collaboration among students and enables faculty members to easily roam the room and check in with students during experiments.

Associate Professor Ann Corsi teaches Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology in the new facility. The sophomore course meets twice a week for four hours each class.

“The students have been so excited to meet in this new state-of-the-art facility,” she says. “They are here for a long time. So in addition to this being a great place for experimentation, they are also reacting positively to the comfort of the space. It’s physically comfortable, right down to the chairs,” she said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held Jan. 29 to open the new lab was attended by biology faculty and students, President John Garvey, and representatives from the University’s Office of Facilities Operations. Rao invited L.R. Poos, former dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Claudia Bornholdt, current acting dean of arts and sciences, to cut the ribbon officially opening the lab.

Ann Corsi teaches Investigations in Modern Cell Biology in the new lab, which is designed to encourage student collaboration.
Ann Corsi teaches Investigations in Modern Cell Biology in the new lab, which is designed to encourage student collaboration.

Rao noted the support of both deans in making the new lab a reality.

Poos said that the event offered “reason to reflect on the University’s history of excellence in the hard sciences.” He said evidence of that excellence can be found in the “research, the grants, and the recognition awarded to the science departments.” He noted that the biology department fosters a “symbiotic relationship between teaching and research,” and that the new lab is a testament to that relationship. He cited the department’s ability to leverage the success of its biotechnology program, which was started in 2010. The master’s program has been so successful that its net proceeds were reinvested in the department to fund the new lab.

Bornholdt congratulated biology faculty members as well as staff in facilities operations for working collaboratively and creatively. She noted the pleasing aesthetics of the room, the attention to detail, and the recycling of wood from the old, demolished lab for use in paneling and storage areas in the new lab.

Garvey closed the ceremony by offering his own congratulations to all involved in making this “beautiful, thoughtfully designed space” possible. He said the space was designed “with students in mind. This new lab will enhance the undergraduate experience of our biology students and help us continue to attract the very best students to our program.”

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