• Two undergraduates working on a general chemistry lab question.

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    Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory Facility

The University of Minnesota is seeking $65.6 million in state capital bonding funds from the Minnesota Legislature for a new chemistry undergraduate teaching laboratory facility. The state bonding funds will be used to transform Fraser Hall into an academic hub for undergraduate chemistry. The total cost of the project is $98.4 million with the rest of the funding, $32.8 million, coming from the University of Minnesota.

With an addition and renovation to existing space, Fraser Hall would encompass 18 chemistry teaching laboratories, collaboration space, lab prep and support space, tutoring space, nine offices, and updates to two existing large, general-purpose lecture halls. The façade of the historic Fraser Hall would be preserved.

Photo of Smith Hall chemistry teaching lab circa 1932.
Photo of Smith Hall chemistry teaching lab circa 1932.
Smith Hall chemistry teaching lab circa 2019.
Smith Hall chemistry teaching lab circa 2019.

Currently, undergraduate chemistry laboratory courses are taught in Smith Hall. Many of those labs, while partially renovated in the 1980s, are nearly 100 years old. Those facilities were designed for laboratory instruction as envisioned a century ago and cannot meet the needs of our students for modern hands-on chemistry laboratory teaching methods. We must prepare our students with the skills to solve complex modern problems. This involves working together in small teams, learning how to collaboratively develop plans for investigation, testing and optimizing them, and effectively communicating outcomes.

Chemistry Teaching Lab

Current collaboration space in Smith Hall.
Current collaboration space in Smith Hall.
Proposed collaboration space
Proposed collaboration space.

With thousands of students enrolled in chemistry lab courses every semester, 10 percent of all University undergraduates take a chemistry course and the Department of Chemistry serves students from every college on the Twin Cities campus. Chemistry encompasses foundational science courses for undergraduate majors that span the health sciences, life sciences, science and engineering, pre-med, pre-vet, pre-pharmacy, teaching, and science policy, and fulfills the university-wide liberal education requirement of science with a laboratory for students across the institution.

The demand for chemistry continues to grow at the University, and we are already pressing the limits of capacity in Smith Hall. The new undergraduate chemistry teaching lab building will accommodate a 14 percent increase in chemistry enrollment while reducing chemistry lab section sizes by almost 15 percent.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development projects significant continued growth in employment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields, and chemistry and chemistry-related are in-demand for many occupations in the state. The chemistry laboratory project will help address that demand.

Hands-on laboratory courses build skills in a number of areas that are highly valued in the marketplace today such as research, critical thinking and writing, and collaborative problem solving. Equipping students with skills required to maintain and advance Minnesota’s science, technology-based economies is important to Minnesota’s industry leaders such as 3M, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Cargill, Ecolab, General Mills, Pillsbury, Land-O-Lakes, Pace Analytical, and Valspar, and to science and technology entrepreneurs, scientists engaged with patent law, and high school science teachers. 

Legislative Advocacy

You can send an email to your elected officials. The email is written to be sent as is, but if you have time, please add a paragraph about why the University of Minnesota is important to you. 

You can register for Support the U Day 2020 Each year, University of Minnesota supporters from all five campuses come to the state capitol to meet with lawmakers and tell their University of Minnesota story. Student volunteers handle all of the hard work of making appointments for you. All you need to do is show up and tell lawmakers why the University of Minnesota is a priority for you. The event is Thursday, March 26, and begins with a rally in the capitol rotunda at 1 p.m. From 2 to 4 p.m., you will meet with your senator and representative with a group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The day closes with an ice cream social in the basement of the capitol, from 4 to 5 p.m. 

Contact your state legislator and Governor Walz and ask them to support the University of Minnesota’s undergraduate teaching laboratory bonding project in the 2020 legislative session. Information on contacting your state legislator can be found at https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/. You can contact Governor Tim Walz at https://mn.gov/governor/contact/.

Watch and listen to some advocacy/testimony in action feature Chemistry Major and Teaching Assistant Grace Gretz, President Joan Gable and Mike Berthelsen:

Read the Minnesota Daily article, "University Chemistry Department requests renovations to Fraser Hall."

Contact

    • Department Head David Blank
    • 139A Smith Hall
    • Professor David A. Blank, Department Head
    • blank@umn.edu
    • (612) 624-1880