The Department of Psychology inhabits an 82-year-old building that is cramped for space, has poor ventilation and barely meets federal requirements for providing accessibility to people with disabilities.
The Department of Biology occupies 3 floors in a 49-year-old facility that also has space needs and cannot accommodate todays teaching and research methods.
All this will change when the two departments move into a new $43 million Life Sciences Building under construction across from the College of Business and Economics in the loop formerly occupied by old Mountaineer Field.
The eight-floor, 190,000-square-foot facility, part of WVUs Master Plan, is scheduled to be completed in October 2001, says Terri Castor, project manager with Physical Plant.
“Things are moving well,”Castor says.”The foundation work is finishing up, and steel erection will start soon. The construction manager is also working on the installation of site utilities to the building.”
The facility is being built to better accommodate the teaching and research needs of the two largest departments in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The Department of Biology has 688 undergraduate students, 25 graduate students, 23 faculty and 14 staff. There are 600 undergraduate students, 80 graduate students, 22 faculty, three research associates and six staff in the Department of Psychology.
The buildings first floor will house a herbarium, building support spaces and other facilities. The next level will have general purpose classrooms, including a 250-seat auditorium, a 125-seat auditorium and two 60-seat instructional rooms. The Psychology Department will occupy the next two floors, and the Biology Department will have the upper three floors and a six-unit greenhouse atop the building.
Payette Associates of Boston is the architect for the facility. Dick Corp. of Pittsburgh is the construction manager.
p. Psychology tomorrow
p. Michael Perone, chairman of psychology, says the new building will be an improvement over the departments quarters in Oglebay Hall. Oglebay was built in 1918 for agricultural sciences and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“There will be more space than psychology currently has, and the space will be of a higher quality,”Dr. Perone says.”What we have here is an old ag-sciences facility that has been arranged in a makeshift fashion for psychology over the years.”
The extra space will accommodate expanded teaching and research labs and an additional computer lab, he says. In Oglebay, faculty and students do behavioral research in small, poorly ventilated rooms. There are about 90 computer stations in undergraduate and graduate instructional labs.
The Quin Curtis Center, which provides low-cost, high-quality psychological services to the community, will also expand in the new building, Perone says. Currently crammed into a renovated former classroom with offices doubling for therapy rooms, the new space will provide an administrative wing, five therapy rooms and three observation rooms.
Another important feature of the new facility is that it will be handicapped-accessible. In Oglebay, people with disabilities must enter the building through a basement entrance and use a 1917 freight elevator to go from one floor to the next. The American Psychological Association, which accredits the departments graduate program, has made continued accreditation contingent on improved access for the handicapped.
James McGraw, interim chairman of the biology, says the additional space and modern labs and equipment in the new building will enable biology faculty and students to conduct research they cannot do in Brooks Hall.
“Our research labs were designed in the 1950s for a science that was extremely different from what we have now,”Dr. McGraw says.”In the area of molecular biology, for instance, theres been a revolution in techniques that requires all kinds of new instrumentation. Brooks Hall simply was not designed to do molecular biology. The new building was.”
Another benefit of the new facility will be a greenhouse in the right location for absorbing sunlight. Attached to the greenhouse will be an ecotron, a place where researchers can control environmental factors.
“Right now, we have a small greenhouse placed in exactly the wrong place in the building, and we have just a few growth chambers in which to do our research,”McGraw says.”In the new facility, the greenhouse will be in the right place for exposure to sunlight. In the ecotron, we will be able to do such experiments as controlling temperatures to see how different plants and animals respond to global warming.”
Faculty will also be able to complement their lectures with the latest multimedia technologies, including photo images and films. Such a technological upgrade in the classrooms is a plus for biology, which McGraw says”can be a very difficult subject to teach with blackboard and chalk.”
Of mutual benefit
Perone and McGraw say the Life Sciences Building will have an impact on both majors combined.
“Stronger ties with biology will support students seeking double majors in biology and psychology, stimulate exciting new interdisciplinary research and allow us to forge new linkages with the Health Sciences Center,”Perone says.
McGraw adds,”I believe the building will be extremely important to helping the biology and psychology departments attract the best potential graduate students from the region. Those graduate students are so important to the mission of the departments because they do a lot of the research.”