Microbiology professor William Roesche doesn’t have to go far when he works with a student on a research project at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.

His office in the new Unified Science Building is right across the hall from a small research lab, where on Tuesday he worked with student Chris Kotwick of Manahawkin to see if they could kill anaerobic bacteria with essential oils.

“We’re trying to develop natural products that could be used in wound healing,” he said.

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The new 66,350-square-foot science building, which was formally dedicated Wednesday, is already in use by faculty and students who find the light-filled structure a major improvement from the basement labs of F-wing.

“This will make my life so much more productive,” said Elizabeth Pollock, an assistant professor of chemistry, who was teaching students lab methods Tuesday. She said the labs are more open, making them safer because she can see everything every student is doing.

“It’s a better lab/class environment,” she said. “And I can have research right next to my office.”

Dennis Weiss, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said the new building focuses on chemistry and biology, plus the marine and environmental science classes. He said they have already added more labs and classes, which helps with student scheduling, giving them more options and time in the labs.

“I firmly believe the place where students learn the craft of science is in the lab and in the field,” Weiss said. “It’s not all black and white that you read in a book.”

The $39.5 million center includes $6 million in state-of-the-art scientific equipment, some of which is still arriving.

Justine Ciraolo, Director of Academic Labs, spent the summer setting up the labs with help from students. It’s been a lot more work, she said, but also a lot more fun as she gets to work with the latest equipment.

Chemistry professor Marc Richard said students will also get access to a lot more new technology.

“Everything we are getting, the students get access to all of it,” he said.  The expansion will also provide faculty with more opportunity for research projects, much of it with students.

The college’s original science building was built in the mid-1970s and last upgraded in the early 1990s, Weiss said. It will remain in use for now, but could be replaced by an addition to the science building that would be built with funds from a state bond voters approved in November.

The new center is only about two-thirds the size originally planned, but was all Stockton could afford to build with what remained a college Board of Trustees bond. The science center only got built at all because the recession helped drive down the cost of some other college projects.

Student Elizabeth Ayoola, of Galloway Township, a senior biology major who plans to go on to medical school, said she has a chemistry lab in the new building and loves how much more modern and spacious it is.

 “It felt more like a real-world lab,” she said. “We look like real scientists.”

Jennifer Allen, a junior from Egg Harbor City, has been helping set up the labs, but doesn’t get to use them because she’s a physics major. She admitted to being a little jealous.

The building was designed to incorporate sustainable construction methods and materials and uses geothermal heating and cooling systems already on campus. EYP Architecture and Engineering designed the building, while The DOBCO Group served as general contractor; Bovis Lend Lease was the construction manager.

Roesche said he’s impressed by more than just the science.

State law requires that public projects spend 1.5 percent of their construction costs on public art. At the science building that means $525,000 was spent on art projects.  Outside the entrance near the Campus Center is  a huge water molecule sculpture by Larry Kirckland. And two eye-catching colored-glass installations, the Wave and Sun Sails by Ray King reflect through the many windows.

“The art is really pretty,” Roesche said. “It makes you happy to be in such a pretty place.”

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