With a pair of overlarge scissors, chemistry professor Scott Miller cut the ribbon Tuesday on a three-year-long, $130 million renovation of Yale’s Sterling Chemistry Laboratory.
For Yale chemists, biologists and physicists, the revamped lab space heralds a new era in science research and education at the University. For administrators, the expanded laboratories anticipate the growth of Yale College over the coming years. And for students, the renovations create new places to socialize and more elbow room around the labs.
The changes to the stately 93-year-old Gothic building at 225 Prospect St. include three new glass-enclosed teaching labs, stronger electrical and plumbing systems and 31,600 square feet of additional space. The renovations were primarily interior and left the outside of the building largely unchanged. The second floor now contains both biology and physics teaching labs, and the third floor holds new chemistry spaces. Many of these areas are flexible, meaning they accommodate diverse kinds of teaching.
“We are now best equipped to educate our talented students, our scientists-in-training, for the demands of modern research laboratories in academic and industry settings,” said chemistry lecturer Christine DiMeglio, who will be teaching in the new labs. “It is an exciting time to be part of the chemistry teaching team at Yale.”
An earlier, more ambitious $500 million plan to overhaul most of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory and demolish the nearby Kline Chemistry Laboratory was scaled down after the 2008 financial crisis. Yale has been planning changes to the site for over a decade. Still, despite the smaller budget, University President Peter Salovey said in a statement published by YaleNews that the new labs fit the needs of Yale’s science departments, while also helping shift the center of campus north toward the two new residential colleges, set to open in 2017.
Over 100 students, faculty and staff gathered in the new labs at the opening ceremony Tuesday. In attendance were Salovey, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Tamar Gendler and University Provost Benjamin Polak.
For science students like Andrew Saydjari ’18, a chemistry major, the renovations create new, comfortable spaces for studying and socializing close to the heart of Science Hill.
“It’s finally a nice social space,” Saydjari said. “Before, to study somewhere, you had a 20-minute walk down the hill.”
The new labs have more fume hoods per workspace, and the ventilation is better than in the old labs. Furthermore, Saydjari said, the new labs make large, entry-level lab courses safer and more comfortable for students.
“It’s a space that we should start showing off more and should be featured in campus tours,” Saydjari said. “But more importantly, it’s going to make classes better.”
A bright future may lie ahead for the sciences at Yale, but the past two years of renovations have been logistically challenging. An army of cranes, construction trucks and power saws clogged the area surrounding the old labs. Classrooms were relocated out of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, and corridors were occasionally closed.
Even as Yale reaches into the future with the new labs, Sterling Chemistry Laboratory has a rich scientific past of its own. Groundbreaking discoveries in thermodynamics, chemical biology and reactive molecules took place in the labs, Miller explained at the opening ceremony Tuesday.
“Laboratories are sacred places … places were we try very hard to connect observation to explanation,” Miller told the crowd Tuesday, according to YaleNews.