Higgins Seen As Faculty, Student Draw

Biology, Physics to gain larger, modern facilities

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

When the renovation and expansion of Higgins Hall is complete, the Biology and Physics departments will be in a far better position to conduct research and attract the best faculty and students, according to their chairmen.

The Board of Trustees earlier this month approved funding for the three-year project, which had already received permits from the City of Newton. Construction - which will involve the total renovation of the existing structure and the addition of a new wing - is slated to begin shortly after the conclusion of the current academic year.

Architect's drawing of Higgins Hall as seen from Middle Campus. The addition to the front of the building echoes the Gothic style of other nearby buiildings.
"We are obviously pleased to have trustee approval for this project," said Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella. "It is the largest single project that the University has undertaken. Beyond that, it is hands-down the most complex project because we are involved in an addition to a major science facility, as well as the renovation of the original building in two stages. And all of this has to happen while the normal activities of teaching and research of the Physics and Biology departments continue uninterrupted."

The project will provide Biology and Physics with larger, modern labs that will allow them flexibility in meeting the teaching and research needs of faculty and students. By clustering faculty offices and labs of the respective departments together, the facility is designed to foster collaboration and communication among faculty.

The project will increase the building's size by about 100,000 gross square feet, according to Space Management Director Joyce Saunders. One of the building's most important features will be adjustable laboratories that can be expanded or reduced to meet each department's needs, she added.

A researcher with a growing project may be able to expand laboratory space, for example, while another researcher with a project winding down could be allotted less space.

Physics and Biology each will have labs dedicated to teaching, as well as separate labs for research. Some will be used to involve more undergraduates in the advanced work conducted by faculty and graduate students.

Physics will have seven labs each for teaching and research, while Biology will have nine teaching labs and 17 research labs. Square footage of lab space will increase dramatically, Saunders said.

The Physics Department's seven new research labs are "part of the attraction we have now as we try to recruit new faculty. We couldn't be in a better situation," said Prof. Kevin Bedell, the department chairman. "We already have ability in theoretical physics, but this gives us experimental ability.

"Within the physics community, Boston College is known as one of the few universities that takes this seriously and invests in it."

Bedell added that the department already has been showing off plans to prospective undergraduate students admitted through the early admission program.

Biology Chairman Assoc. Prof. William Petri said his department's facilities also will be showcased to prospective students. He added that the new building "incredibly improves" the department's ability to recruit faculty.

"We can show the faculty where they can develop a research program that will be supported," he said. "Faculty research can be expanded."

The building also will feature labs specifically designed to teach the most promising undergraduates advanced scientific techniques in biology with the goal of generating publishable research, said Petri. Other labs will be 50 percent larger than they are now, he noted, allowing the department to meet the burgeoning demand for student research space. "There will be room for not one or two, but three or four students per lab," Petri said.

The building will feature a pair of two-story lecture halls, as well as six classrooms for general University use, one more classroom than currently exists, which will allow for smaller class sizes.

In addition, the School of Education's teaching lab in the building will be retained, although moved. Similarly, the machine shop - which supports science labs - and the Geology and Geophysics Department's flume will stay in Higgins.

The building also will include Biology's and Physics' computer labs and seminar rooms, the animal care facility utilized by Biology and Psychology, a roof-top greenhouse for Biology, and the pre-medical program's offices.

The exterior of the building, as seen from Middle Campus, will change markedly, Saunders said. A number of classrooms and labs will be located in a new wing to be constructed on the front of Higgins. The facade will echo the architectural style of nearby Middle Campus buildings. The addition will be connected to rest of the building by an atrium that will offer a view of a glass-enclosed, two-story Physics lab.

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