Tator Hall’s makeover

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Emily Flamme

Recently-hired science professors at Quinnipiac are almost ready to move into their renovated labs in Tator Hall.

“We are very tight on space, so when somebody new comes in, it’s not like there’s an empty space for that person to move in to,”Diane Stock, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

[media-credit name=”Emily Flamme” align=”alignnone” width=”300″][/media-credit]The university made plans to renovate the labs after the faculty were hired last fall. After over a year since the renovations were envisioned, the labs are now almost complete and ready for student use.

“They’ve been doing final punch list items, but they’re close,” Stock said.“They’re empty rooms at the moment, but they’ll be able to be moved into soon.”

Professor Morteza Khabiri, a new biology professor who moved to Hamden this summer, is getting a lab.

“It should be ready in three, four weeks,” ” Khabiri said. “I will move in, and then I have to order the supplies, so it will be officially ready for next semester. The students can come to the lab and do some research. It will be in two parts. One part will be a computational part, bioinformatics, and the other structure of biology.”

Even though the labs are not ready, Khabiri has students doing preliminary research with computer programs because the intention is that students get to use these labs as a learning tool.

“Some students now do computational stuff,” Khabiri said. “You don’t need the physical space, so for right now they are doing research through the computer. Students will understand how to work with protein structure, DNA structure and how to simulate things in a solution, how to analyze the genes, how to deal with gene regulation inside the cell under a specific condition.”

The labs are being renovated for the new faculty that are moving in, but Stock has made it clear that the new setup will benefit Quinnipiac students.

“At Quinnipiac, we like to think we have a faculty-scholar model, a teacher-scholar model,” Stock said. “Ideally, all of our faculty are working with students. That can be either research in the summer or during the term. The faculty lab spaces allow those faculty lab members to work with a group of students.”

The new labs are part of the larger university-wide strategic plan which involves several new rooms and updates in the equipment.

“There’s several different spaces,” Stock said. “A microscope room, faculty research lab for a new biology faculty member, common equipment room, and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) room.”

The plan involved a lot of rearranging and remodeling. Several spaces in Tator Hall and Buckman Center have been repurposed into the new labs.

“That suite of things was one of the backstage green rooms for Buckman Theater, a room that was actually renovated last year that ended up not being used for reasons that had to do with HVAC (heating, cooling & ventilation). It was also a faculty office, and a room that was being used by the art department for sculpture and storage and things,” Stock said of one of the new rooms on the first floor.

The plan was difficult to execute due to the shortage of space. Stock expressed her desire to have a dedicated building for labs.

“We in [The College of] Arts and Sciences and I believe in School of Health Sciences dream of a science building,” Stock said. “A building would be nice, so we can not have to scramble like this. It always works out, but makes for a stressful summer.”

Stock said that there are plans in the works for a new building that will allow for more lab space, so more research can be done at Quinnipiac.

“I think it is part of the strategic plan to have a classroom space with labs, possibly in the Pine Grove is what I hear, in the three to five year time frame,” Stock said. “It would be useful for many reasons because of the age of the facilities and if we want to have more experiential opportunities to work with faculty members.”

For now, the renovated spaces in Tator Hall will be where the science department will do their research. Professor Martine Mirrione is receiving a new lab to conduct research about mental health and how the brain is affected.

“This fall, I am mentoring six undergraduates, and three grad students,” Mirrione said. “Research experience is critical for science majors, and students who join my group become proficient in many techniques and skills that are not traditionally taught in courses. I very much enjoy mentoring research students, and am thrilled to finally be moving into a space where we can perform more advanced experiments.”