08-01-2021 Education - Flipbook - Page 6
6 A Special Advertising Section of Baltimore Sun Media Group | Sunday, August 1, 2021
Towson University's new 320,000-square-foot Science Complex is TU’s largest academic structure.
New Science Complex provides high-tech
opportunities for students at Towson University
By Gregory J. Alexander, Contributing Writer
owson University’s Fisher College of
Science & Mathematics has seen a
tremendous growth in enrollment –
up 130% between 1998 and 2018 –
and TU recognized that Smith Hall,
which was built in 1965 and expanded in 1975,
could no longer adequately accommodate the
burgeoning science and math college, nor could
it meet the needs of today’s highly technical
nature of math and science.
“The original building was a 20th century science building built for what was then
a teacher’s college that was not well suited
for the research and teaching our students
deserve in the 21st century,” says David
Vanko, dean of the Fisher College of Science
& Mathematics. TU responded, and earlier this
year, it opened a highly sophisticated, state-ofthe art, 320,000-square-foot Science Complex,
TU’s largest academic structure.
The new Science Complex includes 50
teaching laboratories, 30 research laboratories,
50 classrooms, eight lecture halls, 10 collaborative student spaces, an outdoor classroom leading to the Glen Arboretum, a rooftop greenhouse complex, a new planetarium and an
observatory. Vanko says that some classes were
held in the complex in the spring and summer
semesters, and the bulk of all classes will be
housed there this fall.
Vanko credits the enrollment surge of the
STEM majors at TU to the “recognition of the
highly technical nature of jobs in today’s workforce and society as a whole.” He says that all
STEM majors at Towson are growing, especially
biology, chemistry, physics and forensic chemistry on the science side, while computer science, cybersecurity, mathematics and software
engineering are in-demand fields that TU’s
mathematics programs address.
Vanko says one of the many advantages to
the Science Complex is the ability for students
to collaborate together, an element lacking
in the old building. Additionally, the Science
Complex is now adjacent to the mathematics
building, allowing for increased interaction
between the two areas.
Vanko is also excited about the high-tech
research and laboratory features of the Science
Complex. “Students, especially undergraduate
students, who have done research and used
sophisticated equipment and instruments and
learned proper safety techniques will benefit tremendously when searching for a job.
Internships and high-tech research performed
at Towson will prepare them to seamlessly transition into the workforce,” he says. Vanko adds
that employers in the STEM fields are looking
for people who “can hit the ground running”
with little to no training, and TU’s programs
provide that advantage for students. Likewise
for graduate students. “We need to provide
opportunities for cutting-edge research,” he
Towson, like many universities, has a close
relationship with the commercial sector to
ensure that it is providing the education, skills
and experience for its students that will prepare
them for today’s workplace. To illustrate this
collaboration, two of the laboratories in the
Science Complex were funded by and named
after two companies in the forensic science and
DNA fields – Verogen and Qiagen.
The “heart of the complex” is the Science
Commons, says Vanko, a large atrium with
skylights and theater-style seating for presentations, lectures, award ceremonies, and events.
“The Science Commons will also allow for
increased events that are open to the public
like our popular Saturday Morning Science
that aims to attract kids to the STEM fields,” he
says. The Science Commons also contains the
Student Success Center where students can get
assistance with tutoring, study or tap into the
resources from the TU Career Center, which
has a concierge desk in the Science Commons
dedicated to helping science and math students
with finding internships and jobs after graduation. There is also a Technology Services desk
onsite to help solve any computer issues, for
example, and a coffee shop.
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The Rooftop Greenhouse has a collection
of plants used in botany classes for experiments and research such as plant genetics. The
planetarium and rooftop observatory with a
telescope will be ideal for the monthly events
open to the public.
Other features of the Science Complex
include a lactation/nursing room, lecture halls
with wide access ways for ease of mobility,
large rain gardens for stormwater remediation,
and the latest technology in its classrooms and
laboratories. An outdoor classroom leads to the
Glen Arboretum, a living museum and classroom next to the Science Complex, while other
classrooms overlook the arboretum.
Vanko adds that science faculty at TU are
also science education faculty involved with
teaching secondary-level teachers in the STEM
fields. “It’s an important part of what we do, and
the outreach we do to local schools provides
opportunities to work with local schoolchildren,” he says.
Vanko notes that while Towson University
began as a teacher’s college, today TU does
a significant amount of research via federal
grants from National Science Foundation, the
National Institutes of Health, National Security
Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.