Government to give $20 million for Bio Sciences building renovations

The BC provincial government has committed $19.95 million towards the upcoming upgrades of the Biological Sciences Complex at UBC.

“The programming in this facility supports a range of sectors from resources to health through to tech that are vital to our economy,” said advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson in an e-mailed statement. “Giving students, faculty and staff access to new, modern facilities ensures continued growth and further opportunities.”

The funds are contributing to an $80 million renovation of the building’s north wing and centre block. The BC government previously contributed $30.9 million to the renovations of the west and south wings in 2011.

According to managing director of UBC Infrastructure Development John Metras, the primary objectives behind the renovations of the building are to update the old teaching laboratories for students in life sciences and to address the issue of seismic risk. The updated building will be brought up to current seismic standards and provide students with “modern, well-equipped teaching laboratories” that will benefit students from a wide variety of life sciences.

“We’ve got students in botany, zoology, microbiology, immunology, biochemistry, molecular biologies, cellular and physiological science — it’s a full range of life science programs that are being covered here,” said Metras. “It’ll essentially provide much better facilities for teaching.”

The updates will also create new spaces for research, including a new bio-imaging lab where students use advanced microscopes to analyze bioimages such as cells and molecules. Other additions are a hummingbird lab — which is a controlled environment where students and teachers can study birds in flight — as well as graduate student and post-doctoral fellow offices.

Fifth-year integrated sciences student Emily Smith did her honours lab in the current bio-imaging laboratory of the building. During her work, she had some complaints about the facility.

“When you have more than one person working on a task at once in the same room, they can cause air currents that make getting ultra-thin sections near impossible,” she said. “A lot of the work requires intense focus and even small mess-ups mean you need to start fresh. But it’s kind of like having a loud roommate, you get used to it.”

Although she will be finished her research and graduated by the time the renovations are finished, she is glad that future students won’t have to deal with these issues. “The new building is suppose to only have one microtome per room, so it means a lot more privacy for your work and more control over the sections you can take. The next students will be able to focus a lot better.”

According to Metras, construction to the north wing and centre block will begin this July. He predicts that it will be finished in July 2018.