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Towson University Gradually Opening New Science Complex

The university has opened its new 320,000-square-foot facility for the spring semester, intended to enhance STEM programming and help the state meet growing workforce demands for math and science professionals.

by Cameron Goodnight, Catonsville Times, Ellicott City, Md. / April 8, 2021

(TNS) — A five-story, $162.8 million science facility is the newest addition to Towson University’s campus. Opened for the spring semester, the 320,000-square-foot Science Complex supports the rapidly growing Fisher College of Science & Mathematics.

The structure is now the largest academic building on Towson’s campus, featuring 50 teaching laboratories, 30 research laboratories, 50 classrooms, eight lecture halls and 10 collaborative student spaces.

While most spring classes are held virtually because of COVID-19 precautions, some students have been using the building to study since it opened. And more of the building’s classrooms will be used in the fall semester, when the university plans to return to in-person learning.

“The completion of the new science complex marks the result of years of planning and effort from our faculty, staff and partners,” President Kim Schatzel said in a news release.

She added that the Science Complex will boost the university’s STEM programming and will help to meet the state’s workforce demands.

The Science Complex offers the latest technology in its classrooms and laboratories.

Lecture halls have wide entry points for ease of mobility, and the building features large rain gardens for stormwater remediation. The center of the complex includes theater-style seating for presentations or events and access to a Student Success Center, which the school describes as providing students with the “resources and tools to succeed.”

“Science students are very excited,” said Dr. David Vanko, dean of the Fisher school. “The new complex will have interactive teaching, project-based instruction and authentic research experiences.”

The university describes Fisher College as having a fourfold mission: “to prepare students for careers and advanced professional training in the biological or physical sciences, mathematics, computer information systems or computer science; to participate fully in the education mission of the campus; to foster significant scholarly research; and to serve the well-being of the community, state, and nation.”

Construction of the facility, which started in 2017, was funded by state appropriations and private donations.

The facility houses the Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics. Jess Fisher attended the school in the 1930s and was a supporter of science and mathematics before his death in 2003. He was married to Mildred.

To build the Science Complex, 89 trees had to be removed. To offset that loss, the school planted 98 new trees during construction, according to a news release.

The former science building, Smith Hall, was built in 1965 and mostly comprised classrooms.

“The old building didn't have any public spaces,” Vanko said. “It didn’t have any shared spaces where students and faculty could sit down, talk or write on a white board.”

Among the features of the new building are an observatory and planetarium. In addition, an outdoor classroom leads to the Glen Arboretum, a 10-acre quiet space with trees and shrubs mainly native to Maryland. There is also a greenhouse located near the top of the building.

Vanko believes the “Glen” will serve as an educational extension of the complex.

“One neat thing about the building is it being adjacent to the Glen, which is a large wooded area on campus where we have Maryland trees, a stream, and other natural areas,” Vanko said.

With its significant increase in size over Smith Hall and its updated layout and technology, the new facility is built to encourage more integrated ways of working with students into the future, Dr. Ryan Casey, chair of the chemistry department, said in a previous news release.

Vanko agreed.

“The new complex will have the infrastructure for modern teaching, and students are going to be performing research and learn how to be a scientist,” he said.

(c)2021 the Catonsville Times (Ellicott City, Md.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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