The Life Sciences Building

Knowledge of the life sciences - biology and psychology - is expanding at a greater rate than at any time in history. Researchers are uncovering the blueprints of life by unraveling the DNA sequences of baker's yeast, disease-causing microbes, fruit flies; and, maybe shortly after the new millennium begins, humans.

Understanding of the biological and environmental foundations of human behavior has also expanded enormously during the last decade of the 20th century, and the mind-body connection is now being combined at West Virginia University through the construction of the Life Sciences Building.

An innovative, technologically advanced facility, including classrooms, laboratories, a greenhouse, a mental health clinic, faculty offices, and common areas, the Life Sciences Building will provide the students, professors, and staff members in two core departments of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University, with facilities that will meet their instructional, research, and public service missions of the 21st century. These two departments serve the largest numbers of majors within the college and provide numerous courses for undergraduates throughout the university.

The departments of biology and psychology are among the most prestigious units in the university, providing instruction and pursing research in molecular and cellular biology, environmental biology, human development, behavioral analysis, and clinical psychology. These units have outstanding records of conducting research for the benefit of local, state, national, and international agencies, and in preparing undergraduate students for careers directly after graduation, for acceptance into graduate and professional programs in medicine, dentistry, clinical psychology, and law, and for advanced disciplinary study in preparation for academic and other research-oriented careers. Both units also have highly competitive graduate programs.

Redefining the former site of Old Mountaineer Field, the Life Sciences Building will provide a striking new entrance from the North to WVU's downtown campus by the beginning of the 2001-2002 academic year. This new 190,000 square-foot building, to be built at an estimated cost of $43 million, will significantly enhance the student experience, aid in recruiting outstanding faculty, and ensure that the land-grant, comprehensive public university of the state of West Virginia is not left behind as we enter the next millennium and the new age of the life sciences.

Cutting-Edge Science on Campus

The design of the Life Sciences Building is intended to improve the definition of the new quadrangle in the lower bowl area of the downtown campus as a center of scholarship and instruction. Future plans for the new quadrangle, which currently consists of the College of Business and Economics, include a park-like mall, parking facilities, and a new Forensic Sciences Building.

The exterior of the Life Sciences Building will incorporate traditional and innovative materials, brick - to match Woodburn Hall - glass, and pre-oxidized copper. This combination of materials will respect the site's rich traditions and proximity to historic Woodburn Circle, while proudly projecting the image of a bold new state-of-the-art facility for cutting-edge science.

Using the steeply sloping site as an advantage, classrooms will be dispersed across three floors with grade-level access. This will bring students into the core of the building and foster interaction between departments and the university community in a dynamic environment.

Defining a new horizon from Woodburn Circle, the new building will encourage and enhance pedestrian connections with the adjacent Sunnyside neighborhood, becoming the new gateway to the north side of campus. Terraces will be vital components of the complex, taking advantage of the site's rich topography to create outdoor spaces for study, relaxation, and conversation.


"We have the rare opportunity to participate in the reshaping of academic disciplines by creating a new academic facility designed specifically to encourage the discovery, transfer, and application of new knowledge in the life sciences. We are redefining our most fundamental areas of study - what, who, and why we are. The beneficiaries of this process will undoubtably transcend our time and state."

M. Duane Nellis, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Inside Life Sciences

The Life Sciences Building will be the new home of the departments of biology and psychology, which are currently housed in facilities that have become inadequate for the exploration of contemporary science. All teaching and research spaces associated with these units will be housed in the new building.

In the Department of Psychology, these spaces include animal and human research labs, testing and observation centers, computer labs, and the Quin Curtis Center, which provides outpatient mental health services for the local community as well as a training facility for students in clinical psychology. Each of these areas will satisfy a variety of different research and instructional needs for a department recently ranked in the top five worldwide in behavioral analysis and therapy research.

The Department of Biology's space is composed of two research and teaching environments, environmental biology and cellular and molecular biology. Special support areas serving these programs range from a roof-top greenhouse for environmental research to an animal facility for cellular and molecular research. All teaching and research labs will be supplied with the necessary utilities and services required for contemporary biological research. These facilities will provide essential support for a department in which nearly all faculty members are conducting federally-funded research.

Instructional Environments

Intended to exploit the latest achievements in digital interactive technology, all classrooms and laboratories will be wired for Internet access and audio-visual presentations. The major lecture halls will have digital conferencing hardware and software for distance-learning capabilities. The 250-seat auditorium, 125-seat lecture hall, two 60-seat classrooms, and two 35-seat classrooms will be equipped with power and telecommunications ports at every seat.

Research labs are being designed for a multidisciplinary environment. All research areas and faculty offices have windows. Passages between labs are used to foster interaction and a sense of openness. Natural woods in the labs and classrooms will soften the spaces.