By Timothy Chipp
— Outside, unless the average pedestrian knew the months of work put into creating the B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences, there's a chance he or she would just walk right by without batting an eyelash.
It's built to be incorporated into the already established architecture on the Lewiston campus of Niagara University, to not stick out like a sore thumb as modern buildings on old campuses tend to do.
But inside, it's a beautiful, modern space set up to advance student learning with state-of-the-art laboratory space to create even more hands-on experiences and research opportunities for both faculty and students.
It certainly left an impression on the building's namesake, who called it "very impressive."
"I like the way it's organized," Golisano said after a public dedication ceremony held outside the campus's newest building. "Certainly it's neat and orderly, but that's probably because it's this occasion. But I'm very happy with the building. Also, it blends in well with the campus. I think it fits well."
The new building isn't going to be used much for sitting students down and having teachers lecture to students. It only holds two typical classrooms, with a 56-seat lecture hall and a 20-seat seminar room on the first floor.
Instead, much more of the building's 50,000 square feet is dedicated to the laboratories for both the chemistry and biology departments. The first floor contains most of the general lab space, with departments separated by a wall instead of two flights of stairs in their old home of DePaul Hall. Everything a student needs for experimentation in introductory biology to organic chemistry is available in the new spaces, which could soon translate into a better education system at the school.
Students have been able to take advantage of the new center's facilities since the beginning of the fall semester, and it's left an immediate impact on many of their lives. Students like Bethany Zakrzewski, a senior biology major, who's looking to continue her education once she's done with her undergraduate studies, are already taking full advantage of their new surroundings.
Zakrzewski is currently working on her senior thesis in the research space on the building's second floor, examining how cells divide and retain genetic information, a similar experiment to work done trying to better understand cancer in the medical community.
"The first month of classes has been great," she said. "I look forward to continuing to learn and conduct research in this cutting edge facility."
Other research being conducted in the school's new facilities include breast cancer foundation-funded studies and likewise for cervical cancer.
But before the students and faculty could get started, they needed the building completed. What started out as a dream of President Emeritus the Rev. Joseph Levesque, the $33 million facility became possible only after Golisano presented the campus with a donation of $10 million after his foundation was approached by the then-president.
Golisano said the school needed his help and he was glad to assist.
"A lot of hospitals and universities have problems getting the funds for their capital projects," The Paychex chairman and philanthropist said. "For example, hospitals get a lot of money for their operations but they can't build anything. So it takes private enterprise and private individuals to make that happen. They run a very tight budget here, and to pop a $30 million expense at them, they needed help."
With it built, the school can turn its attention to the academic side of education. Current NU President, the Rev. James Maher, said the impacts will be widespread across the campus, especially in continuing education in one of the country's current trends: science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – learning.
"The gift of this building will prepare Niagara faculty and students in the fields of chemistry and biology for impactful service in promoting, protecting and caring for the environment and developing innovative and sustainable products with industry," he said. "It will help our university train the next generation of young minds to be our society's teachers and educational leaders in the critical field of STEM education. Close to our Vincentian heart, it will also enable Niagara to open up the possibility of STEM education to the most educationally disadvantaged communities."
Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.