UVic Torch -- Autumn 2008
Autumn 2008,
Volume 29, Number 2

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Tech In The Park A new gateway to science
Chemistry grad student Katie Coopersmith, BSc ’07, in one of the building’s bright new labs.
Photography by JO-ANNE RICHARDS

Build it, and they will come…from offices and labs across campus, from old army huts and points in between. “They” are the members of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences who, until now, were spread across no fewer than seven locations around campus.

Their new home under one roof is the Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Building. The largest of the three new buildings to open this year—at over 12,000 square metres and with a project budget of $66.6 million—rises between the Elliott Building and Ring Road. Support for the building included a $10-million donation from Bob Wright, founder of the Oak Bay Marine Group. A formal ribbon cutting was set for November.

Bringing together the School of Earth and Ocean Science’s faculty and students will foster collaboration, reflected in open-plan design of bright new labs. SEOS also shares space in the new complex with the federal government’s Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis. It’s the first such arrangement in Canada and Dean of Science Tom Pederson says it can only add “tremendous intellectual capacity to the overall earth-system research effort” in SEOS.

The new science facility also features top-notch laboratories for the Department of Chemistry, a new astronomical observatory, a centralized staging area for field trips and sea-going researchers, and improved animal care facilities.

Katie Coopersmith, BSc ’07, working toward her PhD in medicinal chemistry, says the difference between the new and old labs is “like night and day.”

The labs house about 55 research personnel and up to 10 synthetic chemistry research groups. The new facility relieves critical pressure on lab space in the Petch and Elliott buildings.

Department Chair Tom Fyles, BSc ’74, says the labs are “a fantastic place to do synthetic chemistry. We have specialized systems to handle chemical wastes so that essentially nothing but water goes down the drain. The fume hoods are big and bright yet do not draw as much air. This is about as ‘green’ a synthesis lab as you can get.”

Entering the science building for the first time, a visitor notices the roominess of the main lobby, which could accommodate large gatherings. Ian Blazey, the administrative officer for the Faculty of Science, points out a series of display cases and two large flat panel screens—the start of what the faculty hopes will become a visual “gateway” to UVic science.

Blazey leads the way up a short flight of stairs to the building’s main, 350-seat lecture theatre. It features outstanding acoustics, wireless web and ramps for carting larger teaching aids.

Topping it all off, students in Astronomy labs are already using the 18 rooftop telescope mounts. The new, main telescope won’t be installed for several months, but its dome is far easier to access than the Elliott Building’s spiral staircase—and it includes a wheelchair ramp.

In a building that defines order and structure, it’s puzzling to find, one floor below the astronomy section, a series of exposed grey iron beams. They extend diagonally from the floor of a staff room and disappear into the ceiling. Blazey resolves the mystery by pointing out that the beams play a critical role by supporting the observatory’s sturdy concrete housing.

As it is in science, so it is on a changed campus: around every corner, there’s a new discovery to be made.

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