New Microbiology Lab: Weatherwax Foundation Sponsors Upgrade

By Nathaniel Salsbury

The Department of Biology and Chemistry upgraded one of its labs in Whiteman-Gibbs over the summer to create a more modern environment thanks to donors and a grant. Spring Arbor University (SAU) decided a renovation was needed because Whiteman-Gibbs was built nearly 50 years ago.

“The facilities are older than I would like and so I’m rejoicing that we have a refurbishing right now,” Bruce Baldwin, chairperson of the department of biology and chemistry, said.

The renovated space, officially named the Weatherwax Microbiology Laboratory, features new equipment for students and new surfaces to work on. The new tables provide more open sightlines for the professors to supervise the students. They will also get to interact more with their instructors as the new tables provide more working and walking space. New lights were also installed and changed from fluorescent to LED. The lights will last longer and are easier and safer to dispose of once they do go out.

Shortly after students finished the school year and moved off campus, the project began. Baldwin said the goal is to finish the renovations before classes begin. However, a backup plan is set in place for the lab’s first classes in case construction is not completed in time for school.

“You can never guarantee when a project is going to finish,” Baldwin said. “It’s a good target and you do your best and then you react if things don’t work out.”

In the middle of the 2016-2017 school year, SAU applied for a grant from the Weatherwax Foundation, the namesake of the new lab, with the hopes of renovating one of the labs in the science department to create a more modern, high-tech microbiology lab.  The Weatherwax Foundation is a Jackson-based organization that provides funding to help strengthen various educational programs in the county.

Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Finance and Administration Kevin Rose assured that the foundation funded 100 percent of the renovation.

Although the microbiology lab is currently the only space being funded by the Weatherwax Foundation, the plan is to eventually refurbish the other laboratory spaces in the building. Whether these plans will get the funding from the same foundation or elsewhere remains to be seen, but the hope is to receive additional donations after the school is able to demonstrate the functionality of the new lab.