Carthage College plans to spend more than $40 million to renovate and add space for study of the natural sciences, with construction possibly beginning in spring 2014.
Growth in the college’s science program enrollment is among the reasons for the need for new space and equipment, said Brad Andrews, senior vice president for institutional advancement. He noted about 25 percent of Carthage graduates have science majors.
Officials have said the percentage of graduates and incoming students in biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental science, geography, mathematics, neuroscience or physics has doubled in the past decade, according to the college.
The project would result in classroom and laboratory space increasing by 40 percent with a 35,000-square-foot addition onto the Straz Center for the Natural and Social Sciences. The project also would add faculty offices, computer rooms and an outdoor classroom.
The new facility would be to the east of the 70,000-square-foot Straz Center, wrap around the southern part of the building — across from Lentz Hall — and include an entrance south of Sesquicentennial Plaza. It is to offer 12 laboratories for studying subjects such as materials science, nanotechnology, engineering design, molecular biology and atomic microscopy.
The project is to include a planetarium that replaces the one in the Straz Center.
Andrews said construction of the addition could take one year, with classes in the new portion probably beginning in fall 2015. The center is to be refurbished as part of the project after the addition is built.
Kevin Crosby, Division of Natural Sciences chair and professor of physics, astronomy and computer science, said the new building would encourage student learning and research. An example in physics would be a classroom with round tables so students could interact and use computers and monitors to react to material, all overseen by a faculty member.
“Instead of having the instructor at the front of the room and all eyes forward, this would allow students to learn from each other,” said Crosby.
Faculty representatives said the new building, being on Lake Michigan, would help in focusing on water-related science issues such as climate change.
Science is the next area in a program that began about 15 years ago to upgrade facilities, Andrews said. Theater, music and arts departments might be next.
Stantec, a Canadian architectural firm, is to design the new science facility. That company merged two years ago with Burt Hill, which worked on the campus’ Campbell Student Union. The Union was completed in August 2011.