New science initiative facility underway at UW

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LARAMIE, Wyo - University of Wyoming and state elected officials broke ground Friday, November 16 for a new facility that will enable world-class research and education in pillars of Wyoming’s present and future economy.

The Science Initiative facility will contain a 200-seat active-learning classroom, along with state-of-the-art research and laboratory space to support scientific imaging, biological and greenhouse research. The initiative emphasizes collaboration among multiple disciplines by assembling researchers into a single complex with shared instrumentation, technical support and collaboration spaces.

“This is a great day for Wyoming and the university,” said state Senate President Eli Bebout, one of the speakers during the groundbreaking ceremony, who described the project as “something we can all be proud of.”

He and other speakers noted that the Science Initiative and the new facility are products of years of effort by UW faculty members, university leaders and state officials to lift UW scientific research and education.

Gov. Matt Mead, who in 2014 appointed the Wyoming Governor’s Top-Tier Science Programs and Facilities Task Force -- which developed the Science Initiative plan along with a team of UW science faculty members -- credited the enthusiasm and collaboration of UW faculty members for making the building project happen.

“This will be a world-class place to learn science … a place second to none,” said the governor, who noted the Science Initiative’s efforts to change the way science is taught in the state through active learning and mentoring.

Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who co-chaired the Wyoming Governor’s Top-Tier Science Programs and Facilities Task Force, said the Science Initiative and the new facility will open the door to new technologies and businesses that will allow more of Wyoming’s young people to stay in the state for their careers.

“This will make a difference,” Freudenthal said. “The idea is that whatever careers our children and grandchildren choose, they’ll have the opportunity do it here.”

Vice President for Research and Economic Development Ed Synakowski said the new facility will help attract the best and brightest students and faculty members to UW.

“This will create a hub of activity that is unsurpassed,” he said. “It will be a true research and education engine for all of Wyoming.”

UW President Laurie Nichols described the new facility as an anchor for the university’s growing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) corridor for research and education. It will launch “a new generation of research in life and data science” and “a new era for science education” in Wyoming, she said.

Among the others who turned the ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt were Board of Trustees President Dave True; Carol Brewer, co-chair of the Wyoming Governor’s Top-Tier Science Programs and Facilities Task Force; Trustee John McKinley; UW Vice President for Finance and Administration Neil Theobald; and botany Professor Greg Brown, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The $100 million project -- $85 million from state appropriations, $15 million from UW reserves -- is scheduled for completion in early 2021.

Through life and data sciences research that impacts areas including mineral extraction, agriculture, tourism, resource management and high technology, the Science Initiative will have direct economic impact through efficient translation of ideas to the marketplace. Combined with the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative, the Science Initiative’s multidisciplinary research will propel UW into national prominence as a center for economically driven, research-based education in science, engineering, technology and mathematics.