Regional Science Education Center designed for growing biology, chemistry programs

Regional Science Education Center

The Regional Science Education Center taking shape at Northern State University will be a new home for Northern’s biology and chemistry programs, offering collaborative spaces – and enough room for years to come.

The state-of-the-art center was intentionally designed for anticipated growth, said Dr. Joshua Hagen, dean of the NSU College of Arts and Sciences.

“The chemistry and biology programs are going to grow, so we need to build this facility to accommodate them,” Hagen said. 

The Regional Science Education Center, which is being constructed at the corner of Twelfth Avenue Southeast and South State Street, will open in fall 2019. With its prominent location, the center will serve as a gateway to the Northern campus, and the facility’s benefits are numerous.

“The new science center will help faculty reach their fullest potential,” Hagen said.

“This building will help promote student success in all facets of academics and prepare them for careers in the science field and successful acceptance into graduate programs,” said Dr. Alyssa Kiesow, biology professor/department chair.

Home for Biology, Chemistry

The two-story building will house the biology program on the first floor and the chemistry program on the second floor. On each floor, the north wing will contain faculty offices and classroom space; the first floor will include a large, 80-seat classroom, while the second floor will contain two smaller classrooms.

The south wing will have biology labs on the first floor and chemistry labs on the second. Both floors will contain separate faculty lab preparation areas, with all labs accessible from the centralized prep space.

Those spaces are part of the building’s many benefits.

“The collaborative areas are something faculty has expressed excitement for,” Kiesow said. “This is going to make it a lot easier to do our job.”

Right now equipment sits on counters inside of labs in the Mewaldt-Jensen Building, which Kiesow said is limiting. In the new setup, machinery will be housed in a joint space, with labs organized around it so equipment is available to everyone.

“Accessibility is going to be way better,” she said.

Inviting Spaces for Students

The building will also include a lot of areas where students can work together. Hagen said this will be the first academic building on campus to have a main lobby/lounge area. They’ve tried to design it to be inviting for students looking for a place to study with lab partners or wait between classes, with comfortable furniture and information exhibitions.

The building will also include a cadaver lab that will no longer be a shared space. This lab will be its own room attached to the biomedical room, with separate access. It’ll have its climate control, set at 63 degrees year round, Kiesow said. There will also be locker rooms and showers for students to use after working with cadavers.

“It’s a better use of our facilities,” she said.

The center will have a classroom fitted to contain a GIS lab, and an imaging suite that will house Northern’s confocal microscope and two fluorescent scopes. An additional greenhouse will be used primarily by students, while the current greenhouse, connected to MJ, will be more for faculty use.

Landscaping will include Dakota native prairie grasses, and green space featuring benches and picnic tables. There will also be an outdoor classroom that could be used by courses such as ecology or plant systematics, Kiesow said, as well as possible summer programming.

Two new hires have been added for the upcoming center: biology lab manager and Northern alum Sienna Wessel, and chemistry lab manager/instructor Asa Toombs.

Community Outreach

The facility’s benefits will extend beyond the campus community. The building was also designed around a community outreach concept, Hagen said. All of the labs, with the exception of the cadaver lab, will include glass walls so that high school student tours and others passing by can see “science in action,” he said.

Besides showcasing research at Northern, that feature will also make it a safer learning environment, Kiesow said.

Overall, community and regional outreach opportunities will abound, she said, including the possibility of summer camps and teacher workshops, as well as interdisciplinary activities across campus.

“Our hope is to make it really a community effort,” Kiesow said.

For more information on the Regional Science Education Center and other improvement projects at Northern, visit the NSU Campus Master Plan webpage.