The Future of Utah Science

Pioneer - One that goes before to remove obstructions and prepare the way for others.

The world is rarely changed through complacency. Real change requires the vision, focus, and determination to push beyond our current frontiers. These are the qualities of pioneers, and we invite you to join our team of pioneers as we blaze a new trail into the future.

In the 2021 State of Utah Legislative session, representatives approved a $60 million budget appropriation towards a landmark building project to house applied sciences. This was the largest amount of funds ever given to a university building project. The total budget is estimated to be $84.5 million, with the remaining funds coming from the university and its donors.

Currently, we already have $11 million in private donor commitments. In 2022, the College of Science, the College of Mines & Earth Sciences, and the departments of Physics & Astronomy and Atmospheric Sciences will be launching a public campaign to raise the remaining $13.5 million for this important project.

The new facility will become the new home of the Department of Physics & Astronomy and the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, providing both departments with state-of-the-art experimental and computing labs, updated classroom/lecture space, enhanced demonstration and community engagement capacity, and office space for the faculty, staff, and students.

The Physics and Astronomy and Atmospheric Sciences programs are an essential part of the university’s overall STEM efforts. Together, they teach more than 5,600 students and house faculty members. The courses the departments offer are requisites for 37 degrees and nine pre-professional programs across campus, including all engineering, computer science, and pre-medical programs.

These new spaces will allow the departments to address critical bottlenecks in science and technology degree programs.

Current undergraduate lab training is limited by our facilities. Undergraduate training requires classroom laboratory work, which the university is currently unable to offer all students. Research lab placement opportunities are also limited by our current facilities.

Additionally, the Department of Physics & Astronomy is active in providing community outreach programs in the state, despite limitations in classroom and demonstration capacity. New facilities will enhance the quality, safety, and reach of these efforts.

Currently the two departments occupy space in five locations on campus: the South Physics Building; the James Fletcher Building; the Intermountain Network Scientific Computation Center; and the Center for Cell and Genome Science in the Crocker Science Center. The Department of Atmospheric Sciences is located in the Frederick Albert Sutton Building.

The South Physics Building and the Fletcher Building house the majority of the Physical Science programs. These buildings are inadequate for modern research and require ongoing and increased operational and maintenance costs, which will continue to escalate. The South Physics Building will likely be used for administrative offices, while portions of the Fletcher Building will likely be demolished.

The approved site is located south of the Crocker Science Center (completed in 2018) and includes a renovation of the 40,729 square-foot Stewart building and 100,000 square feet of new construction. Instruction and research space will consume 91% of the building, with the remaining 9% dedicated to faculty and staff offices.

Aerial view of west campus.

Aerial view of building site.

The project will transform the west entrance of the university, creating a core gathering space in the heart of the west campus that will facilitate connection and interdisciplinary collaboration between the sciences. Areas for outdoor classes, gatherings, and events, connect the academic buildings that frame its edges.

The economic benefits of this project should not be understated. Science and Mathematics are significant contributors to the economy. An example of this is a 2018 Gardner Policy Institute study which found life sciences companies make significant economic impacts in Utah, indirectly supporting 6.7 percent of the state’s employment, 5.9 percent of its personal income, and 7.9 percent of its gross domestic product. Total economic impacts were 130,439 jobs, $7.6 billion in personal income, and $13.0 billion in GDP. In 2017, the average compensation per employee in the life sciences industry was $86,396.

Undergraduate student researchers.

Programs such as the new Science Research Initiative provide our undergraduate students with the real-world research experience that is so valuable in today’s economy. SRI participants graduate with a huge advantage over their counterparts in other programs.

The U of U is Utah’s number one educator of science students. Every engineer, every nurse and doctor, every scientist and chemist, every bio lab technician and statistician created in this university must first pass through the College of Science in preparation for a STEM-based career. In 2017, 49% of STEM degrees awarded by Utah System of Higher Education institutions were from the University of Utah. The Atmospheric Sciences Graduate Program is the only one in the state.

We are creating rare, valuable job skills at the College of Science, and we need to expand this cross-disciplinary science and math education. In short, this new Science Center will revitalize the University of Utah campus, and is vital if Utah is to build its national potential as a leader in science.

The full impact of this project will not be felt until years in the future. The facility will change the university in fundamental ways, dramatically improving the learning experience for more than 5,600 students per year. The knowledge these students gain will drive the discoveries of tomorrow. These students are the scientists, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, and medical professionals of the future. With our help, some will become the next generation of pioneers.

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