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Release: Immediate

Ceremonial ground-breaking held for new UI biological sciences building

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Springtime in Iowa - time to start turning the soil! Today we are planting a seed that will continue to grow into the next century. In the spring of 2000, at the dawn of a new millennium, a new biological sciences building will be rooted on this spot."

So said University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman Tuesday afternoon, March 31, at a ground-breaking ceremony for a new UI biological sciences building to be located at the corner of Iowa Avenue and Dubuque Street, just east of the existing complex of buildings that make up the UI Department of Biological Sciences.

Even as Coleman and other dignitaries were turning over ceremonial spades of dirt, construction workers have been busy drilling 50-foot holes for the 227 concrete pilings that will support the four-story building. The structure will have 57,000 gross square feet of space and will provide four new classrooms, a high-technology lecture hall, state-of-the-art research laboratories and a fourth-floor greenhouse. The building is expected to be completed by the spring of 2000.

In the century coming to an end, the field of biological sciences has changed profoundly from an emphasis on classifying and dissecting to a concern for "dynamic life processes, all the way down to the molecular level," Coleman said.

"Our new building has been designed for the new age of biological sciences. As we begin to lay the groundwork for a structure that will bring the biological sciences into a new century, we do so in a spirit of reverence and respect," the UI president said. "Our imaginations are fired with excitement about the learning that will go on here - the discoveries that will be made, the lives that will be changed, the new possibilities that will be opened for other scientists and students, far into the future."

Gary Gussin, professor and chair of biological sciences, said the new building is part of a plan for remodeling the entire biological sciences complex with the aim of making a good education even better. "With the modernization of our facilities, especially the new teaching laboratories, we'll be able to provide the quality of laboratory instruction needed for our students to go on to advanced careers in research, teaching and the health science professions," Gussin said.

Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, also praised the new facility, saying, "In addition to the benefits this project provides directly for our undergraduate students, it will also be a real boon for the research capabilities of our faculty and graduate students. It will help us retain the excellent faculty we have now and will help us recruit the best faculty and graduate students in the future."

The construction of the new building is the first phase of a two-part initiative to renew thebiological sciences complex. Also as part of phase one, workers are currently remodeling the old Biology Annex, which will house the departmental library. The estimated cost of phase one is $17.7 million.

The second phase of the project will involve the renovation of the Old Biology Building, which was built in 1902 as the first home of the UI College of Medicine. Renovation of Old Biology will include complete replacement of electrical service, plumbing, heating, air conditioning and ventilation equipment. It will also involve the installation of new windows, remodeling of classrooms, a well-equipped lecture hall, and the modernization of undergraduate laboratories. Phase two of the overall project will include work on two other components of the biological sciences complex, which were built in the 1960s with federal funds. Those buildings house faculty offices, classrooms, additional teaching labs, and research labs. That portion of the project will include fire safety improvements as well as the replacement of inadequate heating, ventilation and air handling systems.

UI students have been enrolling in biological sciences in record numbers. More than 600 undergraduates list it as their major, double the number of about five years ago. The department attracts more than 3,000 students from seven of the UI's ten colleges. It also offers a wide array of graduate programs and conducts research across the full spectrum of biological sciences, from cell, molecular and development biology to neurobiology, physiology, and population biology.

The new building was designed by Brooks, Borg and Skiles, a Des Moines architectural firm. McComas Lacina of Iowa City is the general contractor.