Tennessee Tech’s new Lab Science Commons brings opportunities for students, faculty to connect

COOKEVILLE – Students at Tennessee Tech University got to break in some of the newest lab spaces in the state in this fall in Tech’s Lab Science Commons.

The building opened in part to students in spring 2020 but lab and lecture spaces became available at a full capacity for fall 2021. For senior chemistry instructor Janet Coonce, teaching in the new facility has been exciting.

“It’s a world of difference,” Coonce said. “Now we have organic chemistry labs, where every student has their own hood. There are lots more instruments and access to state-of-the-art equipment that we didn’t have before.”

Prior to the completion of the LSC, Tech’s chemistry department was housed in the aging Foster Hall building, which required students to travel to different parts of the building to access equipment to complete their assignments.

Now, students have increased access to the tools they need, which means they get to experience more.

“Now we have more instruments for more students and more space, which means less time waiting, more time actually working,” Coonce said.

That goes for undergraduates and well as graduate students. At Tech, undergraduate students often have research opportunities and with the new space, Coonce expects that to continue to grow.

Coonce remembers conversation after conversation about the planning and design of the building, which engaged both faculty and students from the start.

“We have been heavily involved in the planning and design and it is what we envisioned,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming and we are so excited.”

One feature that has changed the way Coonce is able to teach is the integrated lab and lecture space that allows for flexible configuration.

“It’s a laboratory space designated for our chemistry faculty that has all of our hands-on activities and demonstrations. All of that is in that classroom, which is really nice. That’s something that we designed, that we wanted,” she said.

In the building’s hallways, the theme of “science on display” is evident as the labs have large windows and display cases offering even more opportunities for students and faculty to engage. Faculty have adopted the displays, highlighting their work and inviting students to see and talk about what they are doing.

It’s a space both the faculty and the students are happy to be making a home in.

“It feels good to be here,” Coonce said.

The LSC is a 160,000-square-feet facility and is the largest academic building at Tech. It is also the university’s first LEED certified building, housing the chemistry department, a portion of the biology department and lab space for earth sciences, physics and environmental sciences.

See a video tour of the building here: https://youtu.be/Lnm5ToRHdeY

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