New Biological Sciences Building receives mixed reviews from faculty, students

Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 6:34pm

While construction work seems to appear everywhere on the University of Michigan's Central Campus this fall, a shiny new addition on North University provides relief from the constant demolition and renovation: the Biological Sciences Building.

The buildings interior is open, with natural light pouring in through the large windows facing onto the transportation center. It contains state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories and faculty offices. The different departments are in close proximity with each other and in some cases share labs in order to encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary research.  

The building project was approved by the University Board of Regents in 2014 to give the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department a better working space, as the 103-year-old Kraus Natural Science Building was deteriorating. In 2017, the Museum of Natural History announced plans to join the EEB and MCDB departments in the new building. The BSB now also houses the paleontology museum faculty and staff. The Ruthven building, which formerly housed the museum, will be the new headquarters for University administration when Fleming Building is demolished

For post-doctoral student Torey Arnold, the building change is welcome. Arnold is a cell biologist who researches the changing cells and tissues of frogs in metamorphosis. He appreciated the building’s aesthetics and convenience.

“It’s made everything more efficient, putting everything closer together,” Arnold said. “It’s also gotten me a better view (from my window).”

Engineering junior Weihong Chou said he spends time before his biology class in the BSB, expressing his admiration of the building’s design. 

“I really love the glass,” Chou said. “I like how clean everything looks.”

But the building shift was not an enthusiastic transition for everyone. Catherine Badgley, an EEB professor and researcher in the Museum of Paleontology, used to teach at the North University Building and misses the way both NUB and the museum allowed her to interact with her department.

“I’m not yet convinced that the change is positive,” Badgley said. “I really enjoyed the way I interacted particularly with my students in the museum building, where I could every day go into a lab area, we could meet around a big table, discuss informally, we could have regular lab meetings, we could have lunches, things like that. And that’s not possible in this building, at least not yet, without scheduling a room that is sometimes already booked for other people’s meetings.”

Badgley said she’s still waiting to see how everything turns out and if the previous department synergy will return. She acknowledged, though, while certain things have been lost, the building has created many new opportunities for workspace and research. 

Students and faculty agreed the arrival of the BSB will require some adjustment. But at least on its sleek surface, it’s hard to deny the BSB is, as Arnold put it, “cool.” 

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