Expanding Exploration, Innovation in the Biosciences

Story by Betsy Snow Hickok

Encompassing biology and life science, the biosciences include the study of all living things, from microorganisms to maize to mammals. Iowa State expertise in the biosciences has bettered lives for centuries. Today, new discoveries will be needed to address the challenges of a growing population—from feeding the world to preventing human, animal and plant diseases.

In this challenge lies opportunity. Interest is growing in these fields at Iowa State, with enrollment in related majors swelling to more than 7,000 students across 25 programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

New biosciences facilities not only help accommodate that growth, but are designed for the experiential, interdisciplinary teaching and research that are the hallmark of an Iowa State education. Located on the northern edge of campus, the two buildings—a Bessey Hall addition and the nearby Advanced Teaching and Research Building at the northwest corner of Stange Road and Pammel Drive—also provide easy access for potential industry collaboration.

Last fall, the lower two floors of the Bessey Hall addition opened classrooms and workspace to throngs of grateful biology students and faculty. And, the two upper floors provide much-needed lab space for faculty research teams.

“Older lab and teaching spaces simply were not built with technology in mind,” says Chanda Skelton, teaching laboratory coordinator for the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology. “Now our students can easily use laptops, tablets and smart phones, microscopes with digital cameras and other technology. Also, the openness of the rooms allows students to work more easily in small groups, and they seem more willing to interact.”

This spring, the impressive Advanced Teaching and Research Building (ATRB) also opened. The building provides efficient, flexible research and teaching space, houses the entire Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and brings together the research enterprises of genetics, development and cellular biology and entomology.

“The ATRB takes Iowa State to a whole new level of interdisciplinary research,” says Thomas Baum, department chair of plant pathology and microbiology. “This high-tech building provides space for synergistic activities bringing together expertise from several departments. The new teaching labs will be absolute difference-makers for undergraduate and graduate experiential learning.”

The biosciences facilities are a campaign priority for both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences during the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign.

“The facilities represent Iowa State’s commitment to exposing undergraduate students to current technologies at the heart of many life-science-related areas,” says Garnett Whitehurst (‘80 biochemistry) whose generous gift to the project will be acknowledged by naming the Bessey Hall atrium in his honor. “Providing both undergraduate and graduate students with these experiences puts Iowa State on the leading edge in preparing tomorrow’s leaders in these critical fields.”