Southeast Missouri State University gets grant for science labs

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A science lab renovation project at Southeast Missouri State University got a boost from the federal government, the university announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the university a $2 million grant. The funds will be used during a five-year period to buy equipment, retrain faculty and renovate biology labs at Magill Hall on the north side of campus. About $1 million will go toward laboratory renovations, which are part of a $39 million science lab improvement project.

"This is not going to be enough to do all that is necessary," Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins said.

Dobbins said the university has been pursuing state funding sources for $37 million of the renovations. The project includes improvements to Magill, Rhodes and Johnson halls and the construction of a new 28,000-square-foot facility, he said.

Southeast initiated a student fee in 2006 to help fund lab renovations. The organic chemistry and physics labs have been improved since then, said Dr. Chris McGowan, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

The federal grant will focus on biology facilities in Magill Hall, which is nearly 50 years old. The laboratories will be updated to reflect current teaching methods, Dobbins said.

"There have been many changes in science since 1960," he said.

Fixed tables and chairs will be removed so the classroom can be configured for experiments, McGowan said.

"Rather than having someone at the front of the room lecturing, the students will be involved in activities," he said.

McGowan said $70,000 from the federal grant will be put in an endowment to fund the maintenance of science facilities. The university will use $400,000 to buy new lab equipment and $30,000 will be used to fund faculty retraining on new teaching methods, he said.

The grant was awarded through the competitive federal Strengthening Institutions Program, which provides funds to universities that meet requirements regarding students receiving need-based aid.

McGowan said he hopes to begin lab renovations in the spring. The anatomy and physiology labs will be renovated first to accommodate an influx of students caused by recent changes in the nursing program, he said. Students must complete prerequisites, including anatomy, before entering the program.

"This is sorely needed," McGowan said. "The whole building has been sorely in need of repair."

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