MTSU to renovate science buildings

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The changing face of MTSU has shifted back to the center of campus momentarily as renovations and upgrades continue the boost to the university's science education offerings.

MTSU's older science buildings -- Wiser-Patten Science Hall, which opened in 1932 at a cost of $225,000, and Davis Science Building, which opened in 1968 at a cost of $1.7 million -- are temporarily closed. Construction company chain-link fences surround both as they await $20 million in renovations to replace outdated equipment and repurpose space.

To view video about the renovation project, visit

Campus Planning officials expect Wiser-Patten, with 41,500 gross square feet, and Davis Science, with nearly 75,500 square feet, to reopen in January 2017.
College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer, along with his faculty and staff, can hardly wait for improvements to lab and research space as well as student advising.

"With these renovations," Fischer said, "we will now have what I consider some of the best science facilities in the Southeast and maybe the country, offering students a wide variety of innovative programs, research spaces and learning environments."
Fischer is about to embark on his fourth academic year as dean of the college, which includes some 4,600 students (fall 2014) and 215 faculty members. A year ago, he enjoyed knowing the much needed and long-awaited $147 million new Science Building was about to open.
The overseer of 11 departments -- including biology and chemistry in the new Science Building and the signature concrete industry and aerospace programs -- Fischer wonders aloud how any prospective student with a penchant for the sciences can bypass MTSU.
"If you are a science student in this state, it makes no sense not to come here," he said. "The programs are growing and getting better and better. The quality of education is better."
Fischer credits university President Sidney A. McPhee for doing "an amazing job" with this venture, and believes the historical aspect of the Davis and Wiser-Patten buildings will be preserved. The renovations are part of the funding for the Science Building project.
"We're still keeping parts of those buildings that will remind the alumni of the history -- their time spent in those buildings," he said, adding the front steps and big window (in Wiser-Patten) will remain, but the offices along the sides will make way for student space where students "can have discussions, work together and hang out," he said.
Physics, geosciences, anthropology, others await additional space
Changes await a number of departments and programs. They include:
• The Department of Physics and Astronomy will remain in Wiser-Patten, utilizing the second and third floors and first-floor laboratory space.
• Geosciences, which has been housed in iconic Kirksey Old Main, will move to the second floor of Davis Science Building.
"Moving to Davis will enable the department to assign discipline-specific teaching and research spaces to the faculty and students," geosciences Chair Warner Cribb said.
• Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts will gain additional research lab space on the first floor of Wiser-Patten.
"It will be a great boon to our department," said Shannon Hodge, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. "We will have room for all of the research collections our archaeology faculty are working on: teaching collections; our archaeology, human osteology and zooarchaeology comparative collections and all of our field and laboratory equipment."
The changes are expected to enhance the anthropology department's record of placing graduating students in jobs in the profession and graduate schools, Hodge added.
• Historical archaeology and public history will share new lab space with anthropology. Grad students in public history will be using professor Bren Martin's courses in museum management and historical archaeology assistant professor Katie Sikes' new public history specialty, supporting ongoing historical African-American excavations at Clover Bottom Mansion in Nashville.
• The College of Basic and Applied Sciences forensic science program lab area will be on the first floor of Wiser-Patten.
• The Forensic Institute for Research and Education, or FIRE, will relocate from the Todd Building to Wiser-Patten's first floor. Noted forensics expert Dr. Hugh Berryman directs FIRE.
"FIRE is totally out of space and I have no lab at this time," said Berryman, who has traveled to Nashville to use the Davidson County Medical Examiner's lab for analysis of forensic skeletal cases. "This move will provide both. ... Lab space on this campus will greatly facilitate forensic work and student training."
• The Center for Environmental Education and MTSU Center for Cedar Glade Studies will be headquartered on the first floor of Davis Science Building.
• A new College of Basic and Applied Sciences advising suite will be featured on the first floor of Davis Science, alleviating tight quarters they've experienced in Keathley University Center for months and providing privacy for student and parent meetings.
• Lab space for engineering technology's third-year mechatronics engineering program is allocated for Davis Science's first floor.

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