Heiser Expansion adds science labs, classrooms

Heiser Legacy

Imagine walking down a hallway and looking through glass panels into a biology or chemistry research lab, outfitted with the latest equipment, selected by the professors themselves.

Go a few more steps and look into a physics teaching lab, with two dozen students running experiments with computerized data collections system.

A little further down the wide hallway, a few teachers and students brainstorm on a project. And then out the door at the end of the hall is a second-floor deck where students work on reports and chat about problems sets and programming.

The scenes are perhaps just a year away, in the building now rising in a parking lot on the Bayfront side of the campus. The new Heiser Natural Sciences building began construction in mid-August and is scheduled to be completed by September 2017.

It’s easy to describe the building in numbers: 22,000 square feet, adding 50 percent more space to the Heiser complex, thanks to state funding. The total cost of the project is $9.7 million.

But Katherine Walstrom, professor of chemistry and chair of the Natural Sciences division, said the building was planned around an idea — collaboration.

“That’s exactly why we designed the building the way we did,” she said. “Right now, we’re sort of in silos, in the different hallways in the current wings. And so we purposefully mixed things up … There’ll be a lot more mixing, between the faculty and between the faculty and students.”

Among the facilities planned for the Heiser addition:

  • Three biology research labs
  • Chemistry teaching laboratory
  • Physics teaching laboratory
  • Computer Science reading room
  • Chemistry/Biology support space
  • 15 faculty offices
  • Division and division chair offices

Bringing together the various sciences should pay dividends. “The increased collaboration, hopefully, will foster interdisciplinary research projects and maybe external grant funding,” Walstrom said. “Also, we’ll be able to train many more STEM students. That’s a goal of New College and also the state of Florida.“

The new building should make it easier to accommodate current faculty and to hire new professors. Now, Walstrom said, three biologists share one research lab space. With the addition, two will move into their own new lab spaces, and the third will be able to expand in the current lab.

The design includes office space for 15 faculty members, freeing office space in the existing building that will be used for applied mathematics research space and collaborative space. The new building also will include a classroom that can be converted into lab space when needed for a future hire.

State support for the project goes beyond just the construction cost.

“There will be new research equipment that will go into the research labs, and new teaching equipment – new microscopes, for example, computers for physics lab, new instruments for general chemistry lab. Also, there will be better, bigger microscopes for demonstrations in the biology lab,” Walstrom said. “It’ll be really exciting to have the new equipment.”

The building itself will feature advanced technology to make it environmentally friendly. Project manager John Milton said state funding is sufficient for the design to shoot for the second-highest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard.

“We’re shooting for the silver certification,” he said. “We have to do certain things like use reusable materials. We have to build into the building things like water conservation, we have to be efficient with the energy we use, we have to recover energy where we can.”

New College is planning a groundbreaking and memorial for the building’s namesake, Gen. Rolland V. Heiser, former president of the New College Foundation, on Oct. 18. More details will be available soon.