After two-plus years of heavy construction, scheduling conflicts and laboratory musical chairs, Yale STEM finally has a stable home-base. A little over a month after the Aug. 30 grand reopening of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, the building is bustling with the spirit of eager Yale students and esteemed professors alike.
According to professors and students who have used the renovated labs, science at Yale is now an entirely different experience. Beyond the Collegiate Gothic exterior lie floor upon floor of brand new, flexible, interdisciplinary teaching laboratories that can be used for biology, chemistry and physics. Modern equipment such as individual venting hoods for each student and large glass windows make the new space more functional and sleek, said Steven Girvin, deputy provost for research. But while those studying and working in chemistry and biology have highly commended the new equipment and space, physics students and professors still have to wait several months after the grand opening until their new labs are complete.
Scott Strobel, deputy provost for teaching and learning and professor of molecular biology and biophysics, said that the new and improved SCL labs are “fabulous, state of the art teaching spaces” that are “high quality, safe and attractive.”
Strobel taught a lab course last summer called “Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory,” that took place in Osborn Memorial Laboratories. He described the conditions of the old space as “terrible.”
He explained that OML had insufficient ventilation and air conditioning, bad lab coats and he could not supervise the entire class at the same time due to spatial issues.
Kimberly Wei ’20 said she is excited to be part of the first class to use the labs. According to Strobel, “those who had to work in previous spaces will be jealous.”
The Physics Department, however, might still be jealous. It is hard to miss the expanse of blue fencing that still surrounds SCL, indicating the construction work that still needs to be done. It is even harder to miss the hard hat-clad construction workers, closed corridor signs and distinctive sound of a power drill, all of which can still be found inside the building.
Beside professors’ offices and research space which are still being built, the physics labs — which will be on the second floor in SCL — are still not complete.
Girvin, who helped coordinate the facilities plans and renovations, said that physics labs were temporarily relocated to the top floor of J.W. Gibbs Laboratory, which, as he explained, is an old, out-of-date building. Labs are currently being held in classrooms in SCL.
This final stage in the construction process will be available for move-in in late December, and advanced physics labs will take place in SCL physics laboratories next semester.
Prospective physics major Zoe Aridor ’19 explained that over the course of renovations, including during this semester, the Physics Department has suffered. According to Aridor, the physics equipment had been stored in Gibbs, but the students were unsure about the instrumentations’ quality. Gibbs was not an adequate space for students’ experiments, she added.
In fact, classes have been moved out of Gibbs this year as Yale is tearing down Gibbs in the near future and rebuilding improved biology laboratory facilities — to be completed in 2019 — in addition to the soon-to-be ready labs in SCL.
The construction has also made some physics classes nearly impossible. Physics Lab 206, a modern instrumentation course, had to be relocated this semester to a classroom space, shared with Physics Lab 205, instead of a lab space in SCL. Working inside a cramped classroom made certain lab activities very difficult.
“We would have to have the liberty of drilling holes into the walls in Sterling to attach the necessary equipment, but we aren’t allowed to do anything to the room,” Aridor stated.
Girvin attributed the complications to the inherent nature of a “multiyear construction project.” He noted that timing and class locations were difficult mainly because it was “a big project.”
Though construction is still an issue, especially for the physics department, the end is finally in sight.
“It was complicated, but we got it done. There was enough space in the building to swing things around internally,” Girvin said.
While physics students still have much to look forward to, the new interdisciplinary laboratories are “quite an engineering feat,” according to Strobel. Either way, tour guides can get ready to show off SCL on recruitment tours for prospective students, he added.
In May 2013, the renovation project was priced at $130 million.