The University of West Florida broke ground Friday morning on a new, state of the art laboratory science annex. At a small ceremony near the construction site, UWF President Dr. Martha Saunders said the new, 26.26 million dollar building has been a long time coming. "The growth that we've experienced means that we need to expand so that we can continue to offer our students [the] high quality education and research opportunities that we're known for."
The project is an expansion of the UWF Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering. The new Laboratory Sciences Annex, which will be connected to the Life Sciences Laboratory on the Pensacola campus, will provide additional space for classroom and wet research lab needs.
"Right now, we're at capacity" said Dr. Alan Schrock, a Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the UWF Chemistry Department. He says the addition will not only help teach more STEM students at the university, but it will also upgrade facilities that are decades old. "Our general chemistry will be expanded, and our upper division labs will be modernized. We have old facilities. We do our best in teaching through those old facilities, but here we get brand new, state of the art facilities. They're clearer. They're safer. they have better industrial hygiene. it's just better."
During the short groundbreaking ceremony Dr. Saunders thanked the people who helped guide the project along, including District 1 senator Doug Broxson. He says getting the money for a project like this is a team effort. "You have to have a good team that comes from the university, which you do. And they come over and we almost have a place for them to stay in our office, they're over there so much. You find a good project (and) we've always have great projects from the university. Then you go to the chairman and say 'this is important to our district'. And you say 'I'd like for you to help me watch it through the process'."
"It takes more than a village to make this happen, it takes an army" said Dr. George Ellenberg, UWF Provost and Senior Vice President. He spoke about what this expansion means for the university as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. "So as we look to the next 50 years, this is a great way to begin that journey. This facility will provide the basis for continuing and enhancing numerous programs that integrate classroom and hands-on learning and research that is critical to student success, to faculty success, and to the success of our university and our region."
Construction on the facility has already begun. Dr. Saunders says the project should be complete by the summer of 2019.