University of Arizona finishing $42-million renovations on state of the art Chemistry Building

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 7:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Inside the renovated Old Chemistry building at the University of Arizona, you’ll find the holy grail of collaborative learning and research possibilities.

The building is filled with history, including some of the 1936 original building, the entrance and parts of the 1948 addition and of course new space for future possibilities.

“The plaque here is from construction when they built this in 1936, it’s the same construction company that’s renovating this now,” explained Mike Gibson, the Construction Project Manager. “So I think that’s kind of a cool tie back, 85-years-later they’re working on the same building.”

A big focus of the building was accessibility. Craig Aspinwall is the Department Head of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and he said students with disabilities had a hard time getting to their classes in the past.

“If a student had a disability or a mobility issue, in the past they would have to go all the way around the buildings behind us and it would take a substantial amount of time,” said Aspinwall.

Gibson said that’s why they made sure this new building was accessible to everyone.

“This is where the doors always were,” explained Gibson. “Now we have a ramp coming up, so it’s very accessible, easy to get into.”

The goal was to merge history with new opportunities. All of the classrooms are collaborative and they’re not only for chemistry and biochemistry students. Aspinwall said all majors could have classes in the renovated building.

“These types of learning spaces are very different than what I had as an undergraduate, and from what most people did. They’re not just sitting and listening to a lecture for a period of time. Students are engaged with one another, engaged with instructors, and preceptors and other instructional staff in the class and they’re walking around,” said Aspinwall. “They’re actively participating in the learning process instead of just being fed information.”

Seven collaborative classrooms will range in size from 30 to 200 seats.

Aspinwall said a lot of the research that will go back into the building will be based around theoretical research and stem research.

“So much of the infrastructure in the renovated part of the Old Chemistry building is geared around understanding how students think, and then turning around and helping them to learn better if you will,” said Aspinwall. “So, there’s going to be a really good feedback between the faculty in this building and the classrooms they’re using.”

Leaders hope the space will help recruit students. In fact, they left a time capsule under the building for students in generations to come.

“Everyone wrote little notes about what the old building meant to them, put all that in there and it’s all in a sealed can somewhere under this floor,” said Gibson.

You can expect to see students in the classrooms in the spring semester. The community will celebrate the grand opening in the new year.