Renovated Science Labs in Boggs

Physics and biology laboratories move to first-floor spaces

September 10, 2019 | Atlanta, GA

Editor's note: Here is an update on the information at minute 1:36 in the video: The Center for Relativistic Astrophysics, which currently occupies the next space to be renovated, is now slated to move into the Klaus Building to form a new interdisciplinary research neighborhood focusing on astrophysics and planetary sciences. 

Relentless construction in Georgia Tech makes it hard to keep track of what’s done and what’s just started. Earlier this year, the renovated first floor of the Gilbert Hillhouse Boggs building opened for business without fanfare. In the spring 2019 semester, upper-level laboratory courses in physics and biology quietly moved to spaces fashioned out of old offices and research labs.

On the outside, Boggs looks the same as it was in the 1970s, when it was built. But come in and you might exclaim, “Wow! I had no idea Boggs could look like this,” as Juan Archila says he has heard many people say. As the College of Sciences’ director of facilities and capital planning, Archila was heavily involved in the building’s makeover. 

Repurposed Mingles with State-of-the-Art

The main drivers of the Boggs first-floor upgrade are safety, accessibility, and sustainability. “We now have windows between the biology labs,” Archila says. All door also have windows, “to create transparency and to promote safety and accountability.” For students with disabilities, labs now have benches that are shorter than standard.

Budget for the project was tight, Archila says. In the spirit of sustainability and economy, usable materials were reused. “We didn’t completely gut the old spaces,” Archila says. “We repurposed and moved a lot of the cabinetry.”

Amid the repurposed cabinets are state-of-the-art equipment.

“Last year we received Tech Fee Funds to purchase nine Class II Biological Safety Cabinets,” says Alison Onstine, laboratory manager in the School of Biological Sciences. Each cabinet is six feet long and can accommodate two students working side by side. These equipment expand the hands on experience for students in handling cells, as well as organisms that require Biosafety Level 2.

More equipment is forthcoming, including an ultra-low-temperature freezer for specimen preservation, fluorescent microscopes, incubators for microbial work, and additional physiology equipment. 

Improvements in Learning and Instruction

Upper-level biology lab courses are now in Boggs, including genetics, microbiology, cell and molecular biology, anatomy, and physiology. Labs for advanced physics courses, as well as electronics and optics, also have moved to Boggs.

The advanced physics labs were previously taught in two small rooms in the Howey Building, says Claire Berger, a professor of the practice in the School of Physics who teaches the lab courses. In Boggs, “we have so much more space! It is clean and well-organized.

“It allows for more experiments to be set up and in better conditions. For example, the labs now have three separate dark rooms, equipped with water sinks, for the optical experiments.

“The labs are also less cluttered, therefore better in terms of safety. Because the teaching environment is less noisy, we can have one-to-one teaching on each of the individual experiments, as well as group teaching with a large, well-lit white board.”

The biology labs now in Boggs previously were taught in spaces spread across three floors of the Cherry Emerson Building. Now they are in one floor, sharing preparation rooms and equipment. “In Boggs, we have a strong nucleus that brings together the biology teaching lab community,” Onstine says.

“We have, for the first time, office spaces for teaching assistants and instructors to meet with students in close proximity to the labs,” Onstine says. “Additional benefits include two new shared equipment labs accessible to everyone, bringing our most advanced equipment within easy reach of students – including a bench-top flow cytometer, fluorescent plate readers, real-time PCR machines. These equipment spaces located between two teaching labs have promoted an open plan which we hope will create more connectivity between our core upper-level lab courses.” 

With the advanced chemistry labs in the second-floor, Boggs has become an interdisciplinary space for upper-level science majors, Archila says. “People who are focused on different majors see each other. That’s when you realize that a lot of people are attacking the same problem, just from different angles. It makes sense for Georgia Tech to establish that culture from the very beginning.”

“We are fortunate to share the floor with a new neuroscience teaching lab and to be one floor away from the chemistry teaching labs,” Onstine says. She thinks this layout will foster interaction and interdisciplinary research among students of different majors.

For More Information Contact

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences