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CSU's new LAB building offers 'breathing room'

"It buys us two, to three years of breathing room," said Clayton State University President Tim Hynes.

That was how he described the benefit the university gained from opening its new Laboratory Annex Building, also known as "The LAB," this spring.

University officials have long argued that they do not have enough laboratory space for students to take their science courses, without having to resort to waiting lists.

Before this semester began, there were only seven labs to use for classes. "The LAB" gives them an additional four laboratories, taking the total number up to 11.

The ultimate goal, for Clayton State officials, is to build a new science building that would add another 16 laboratories to the school's Morrow campus.

Still, Clayton State officials were not overlooking the benefits of now having "The LAB," to help relieve the need for waiting lists, which they said have sometimes taken up stacks of paper that could get approximately two inches tall.

"We didn't actually have enough labs to offer for the demand that we had," said Dr. Michelle Furlong, the chairperson of Clayton State's natural sciences department. "This is going to alleviate the wait lists, but its not going to eliminate them, because we're still a little shy."

The university received the certificate of occupancy from county officials last fall, and classes began in the facility earlier this month, when the school's spring semester started. Furlong said, "The LAB" is really something of a stepping stone towards the university's planned science building, and expanded academic offerings in the area of natural sciences, including a master's degree in biology and chemistry, and an undergraduate degree in forensic science."

She said those degree programs cannot be established without a new science building. "We've been holding off on developing a master's program in biology, and or chemistry, until we get the new science building, because, obviously, a graduate program would require research space," Furlong said. "We also would like to launch a forensic science program, but even with this building ["The LAB"], we wouldn't be able to, so we're hoping that will come with the new science building."

The science building would bring eight research labs, and eight new teaching labs, to the university, Furlong said. President Hynes said, however, requests for funds to build a new science building have been included in University System of Georgia funding requests to state lawmakers for each of the last three years. Each year, the money has not made it into a final budget for the state, he said.

Money was obtained to build The LAB, he said, because it was included in plans to renovate the Business and Health Sciences Building.

Hynes added that it does not look like money for a new science building will be included in the state's fiscal year 2012 budget, but he expressed hope that things could change the end of the Georgia General Assembly's 2011 session.

"The construction dollars were in the [University System of Georgia's] Board of Regents' request to the governor, but these are challenging [economic] times," Hynes said. "We hope that as the economy continues to improve, seemingly daily, in the state of Georgia, that the end of the session, there may be a way found to find support for this space."

For now, the university will have to make the most out of its new laboratory facility.

"The LAB" is a two-story, 18,000-square-foot facility, that serves as an annex for the university's Business and Health Sciences Building, which houses Clayton State's seven older laboratories. Much of the "The LAB" is dedicated to laboratory space, as its name suggests, but there are a few small offices, a 48-seat classroom, and a psychology research area, as well.

Furlong said the building also includes a scientific instrument room, and a microscopy room, which is a dark room where students can examine tiny subjects under a microscope, without the interference of bright, overhead lights.