Faculty moves into new Bishop Gerber Science Center

Aug 16, 2017
Bishop Gerber Science Center

Faculty and staff are in the final stages of moving into the new Bishop Gerber Science Center, which will open when fall classes begin on Aug. 28.

Movers began the process of transporting furniture, office and classroom items out of Heimerman Science Center in early June. Then on June 16, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the university gathered to say farewell and watch as the Heimerman Science Center was demolished.

David Shubert joined the Newman faculty as professor of chemistry and dean of arts and sciences in 1987 and had his office in the Heimerman Science Center up until June of this year.

David Shubert in his new office.

“We had a one-week window to get everything out of Heimerman,” Shubert said. “Everybody was on board and we all worked like dogs for two weeks.”

Shubert is now in the process of setting up his new office on the second floor of the Bishop Gerber Science Center.

“When you’re packing, the destination for everything is a box,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a box with some logic behind it, but ultimately if you get your stuff in any box, mission accomplished.

“When you’re unpacking — and keep in mind this is 52,000 square feet of space — when it comes out of the boxes it doesn’t just go anywhere, you have to figure out exactly where it goes. And it’s not like the new building comes with labels on all the drawers. There’s a certain degree of, ‘Okay, where is the right place for this to go?’”

While almost every classroom, office and furniture piece in the Bishop Gerber Science Center is new, there were some antique pieces saved from Heimerman — one of which is an old chemistry lab bench that Shubert repurposed as a stand for his aquarium.

Shubert’s biggest moving challenge, he said, was transporting the aquarium to his new office.

Shubert uses a lab bench from Heimerman to hold his aquarium in his new office.

“Water weighs way too much to pick up, and you can’t expose anything in there to air because the sand and rocks are all impregnated with bacteria that would die when exposed to air. And when they die they decompose and produce ammonia, and ammonia kills fish.

“Trying to catch the fish was a challenge, and I had to drain the water low enough and pull out everything I could and get it into buckets of water, so it was an ordeal.”

Shubert said many people helped with the moving process, including professional movers hired by the university and student Jonathan Serrano-Ramsey, who spent his entire summer helping with the move.

Serrano-Ramsey is a biology major with a concentration in pre-medicine. He began working in the biology department as a teacher’s assistant, but eventually became the lab coordinator for microbiology and general biology. Throughout the moving process, his role has been to make sure everything goes where it is supposed to, he said.

“At first I was part of the move to get things out of Heimerman,” Serrano-Ramsey said. “But in the Bishop Gerber Center, it has been my job to make sure things go to their correct labs. I also have to figure out the flows of labs — organizing objects in drawers and cabinets based on where students might walk to go get supplies.”

Serrano-Ramsey organizes several shelves with petri dishes.

Serrano-Ramsey said he is most looking forward to using the new facilities and technology that are available to students. “The new technology allows us to do more experiments at deeper levels in the labs,” he said. “It is much more precise and there are more opportunities for varying levels of research now.”

Shubert also looks forward to using the new facilities and is most excited to teach lab again, he said. “The laboratory facilities have been brought up to a point that there isn’t much they can’t do, and the kind of technology and infrastructure have widened up the potential for experiments that can be done.”

Shubert explained that one of the constructs of the building is to point students toward working with each other more.

“It’s important for students to be learning from each other and less important for us faculty to be lecturing them, and the architecture and amenities make that process better,” he said.

seating area
A seating area in the Bishop Gerber Science Center.

Student Ellary Placide said she likes the new science center because it is more tailored to the students. “There are a lot more lounge areas and sitting areas, so it makes studying on the fly easier than having to go all the way back to your room or home. And it’s a nice building, so you can’t complain about that.”

Serrano-Ramsey will continue to organize classrooms and offices in the science building in order to have it ready by the first day of classes.

He said, “I think all students are going to be very excited to see all the work that got put into this building by the professors and everyone else. I think they will also see a dream kind of come true because it’s been a long time since they’ve had a new science building.”

Placide added, “It’s definitely inviting to all majors, not just the sciences. There is so much space, so no matter what your major, just take some time to come hang out in the new building.”