Ansin to house science labs

by Bridget Reed Morawski / Beacon Correspondent • October 29, 2014

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Courtesy of Elizabeth Demski
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Courtesy of Elizabeth Demski

Emerson College is not only seeking innovation in communication and the arts, but now in the science department. The college is currently planning to build a fully-equipped science lab, expected to open by late February 2015, said Elizabeth Demski, associate vice president for research and creative scholarship. 

The science lab will be located on the seventh floor of the Ansin Building, according to its current plans, with the goal of enabling students and faculty to conduct research independently and in the classroom. According to Demski, up to 30 students will be able to make use of the space at a given time.

All workspaces within the lab are planned to be completely adaptable, allowing teachers to configure the classroom to their liking, according to final blueprints provided by Demski.

Local architectural firm isgenuity was chosen to plan and build the science lab after administrators on campus sought suggestions from other local universities, according to Demski. The firm has worked with Suffolk University and Boston College on educational projects in the past, and with a number of medical and scientific research institutions in the Greater Boston area, according to its website. 

While the college intends to assign some courses to the renovated space, other classes may offer an additional lab component. For classes that don’t have an active need for the lab, special projects could be booked and carried out in the space, Demski said.

Senior writing, literature, and publishing major and science minor Jennifer Morgan said the laboratory could expand possibilities for future students, adding it could have been helpful for her during the completion of her minor.

“I think it would add a really beneficial method of learning for people that are more hands-on,” said Morgan. “I think it would have been cool to see other students who get really bored in lecture-type classes and see people come out of their shells and use their skills.”

Margaret Poydock, a senior political communication major and environmental studies minor, said she sees how lab equipment could have been helpful in science-related courses she has taken. But she said those classes have suited her learning style without the lab. 

“I’m more of an audio-visual learner, so I don’t benefit as much, I think, from projects that consume my time instead of just listening or reading,” she said.  

Amy Vashlishan-Murray, an assistant professor who teaches science courses at Emerson, said she thinks the new equipment and space will enhance her ability to teach. 

“Emerson is known for how well its curriculum blends theory and practice,” she wrote in an email to the Beacon. “A lab space will mean that students can participate in the practice of science and engage in faculty research in a way that hasn’t been possible before.” 

Though 17 classes have been identified by Demski as having an active need for the lab, Demski notes that depending on the nature of specific courses, the lab will be open to other students and staff. 

Demski said she has been actively bringing this project to fruition over the past two years, working with a number of faculty to secure the necessary funding and administrative support for the effort. 

Demski declined to comment on the total cost of the project, but said the funding came from fees that the college takes from grants that professors obtain. This means that the funding is not coming out of Emerson’s budget, but out of money that the faculty has received for special projects, according to Demski.

“We’re starting out just with getting the basic lab in place and the basic equipment in place, sort of making the lab available so that other stuff can happen,” Demski said, listing microscopes and Bunsen burners among the new equipment. “And that will help faculty get grants for that purpose, the fact that that exists.” 

According to Demski, the lab is expected to be available for student and faculty research projects late in the spring semester and summer sessions, with full classroom usage in the following fall semester.