Student Writes Story on Lab Renovation Project

science lab renovations

Construction is underway on the $3.4 million project to renovate science laboratories at Tompkins Cortland Community College. The following story was written by Tompkins Cortland student JD Sherrill as part of the COMM160 Media Writing class with Professor Chris Xaver. 

Renovations Underway to Transform Science Laboratories

Construction is underway on the 3.4-million-dollar project to renovate science laboratories for local industry. Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) is the recipient of a 2020 SUNY Workforce Development Initiative grant to improve resources for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. The renovation aims to provide state-of-the-art training for students seeking local positions in developing fields.

The chemistry and physics labs have not seen a serious overhaul since their construction in 1974 on the Dryden, NY campus. Demolition began in early 2022 by TC3 facilities staff. The unexpected discovery and removal of asbestos cost time and 160,000 dollars. Outside contractors are now arriving on-site to complete renovation work. 

“This is going to be a showplace,” says August Hennies, Director of Facilities at TC3. Half a million dollars is allocated to wooden casework to create an inviting workspace.  

“We want to make it industrial, but not intimidating,” says Jasmine LaMontain, associate professor and lab manager, who is among the members of the TC3 STEM faculty included in the planning process. “I’m just so excited.”

Renovating science laboratories requires specialized construction. All plumbing needs to be non-reactive glass for safety reasons. Scientific equipment puts large demands on electrical infrastructure. Three fans for adequate exhaust ventilation will not be available for six months. 

A large portion of the grant money is going to the latest technology. The classrooms will be outfitted with a fabrication bench, drones, and 3-D printers. As well as chemistry and physics, classes taught in the renovated space will include astronomy, computer design, and construction technology. Certificates in these areas will be tailored to local employers. 

Accessibility and collaboration are central to the college’s vision for the workspace. “Anybody who wants to play with science, should be able to play with science,” LaMontain says.  

LaMontain is currently managing 40 labs per week in the four operational laboratories on campus. She is planning to continue that schedule into the Fall 2023 semester with hopes the new facilities will be open by Spring 2024. Hennies is seeking a certificate of occupancy for July 2023.