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‘An interdisciplinary place;’ Lamar’s Science and Technology Building almost finished

By Lorenzo Salinas

l.v.salinas@panews.com

Construction is nearing completion on a Lamar building that would provide interdisciplinary opportunities for both students and faculty.

The Science and Technology Building is an 83,131-square-foot facility that would be the first new building dedicated solely to academics for Lamar University in more than four decades.

It is a hefty project with a hefty price tag: $60 million.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Lynn Maurer discussed some uses of the facility, as well as bids for its valuable real estate inside.

“I’ve toured it twice and it is quite impressive,” she said.

Over three-fourths of it is planned for biology laboratories, interdisciplinary research laboratories and innovation/maker spaces.

Maurer is also the chair of the space selection committee for the Science and Technology Building, in which faculty submit research proposals for what they would do with the building space.

“We’re not deciding space for classes; we’re looking for research space,” Maurer said.

“This would be for maker space, research space and even office space for the people who are working there,” she said. “We’re looking for innovative research projects and, particularly, for research projects that would call for collaboration and interdisciplinary work.”

Maurer listed several fields such as biology, chemistry, health, engineering and technology that could benefit from the new building and its lab spaces.

Maurer emphasized important research opportunities not only for faculty, but for students as well.

“Undergraduate and graduate students will have hands-on opportunities in the STEM disciplines; so, it’s very exciting,” Maurer said. “It would be not only a collaboration among faculty but a collaboration between faculty and students.”

In addition to the goal of higher education, Maurer expressed the possibility of engaging local businesses with the building’s research capabilities.

“We’d also like to have collaborations with area businesses and area industries. Sometimes that leads to internships… and students around here may want to go straight into a profession,” she said.

“So, that’s another exciting thing to do with the Beaumont community, with the Golden Triangle community. There’s so much research that could be done.”

Maurer credited the vision of the Science and Technology Building as an “active, dynamic and creative one” to both president Kenneth R. Evans and provost James Marquart.

“It’s a vision to show Lamar’s not only outstanding, but (that) it’s bringing students into the STEM disciplines,” she said.

Maurer said it would be an important part of attracting more women and minorities to science and technology fields that have typically underserved those populations.

She also brought up the possibility of using some of the space for research that would not involve technological tools at all. Fields like the humanities and fine arts could even find potential use within the building.

“This is a way we could be open and see what research in the various disciplines could lead to, in new and creative ways,” Maurer said.

“We are anticipating not just my college — which ranges from the humanities to the hard sciences — but we also have interest from the fine arts and communication schools…

“This could truly be an interdisciplinary place.”

The Science and Technology Building is scheduled to have the interior done by November. Official move-in date for faculty and students should be January, in time for the Spring 2019 semester.

According to a 2017 press release, the Science and Technology Building “will enhance science education and build on the legacy of teaching and student engagement at LU.”