Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory Facility

two female undergraduates working on their laboratory assignment

Chemistry Teaching Lab Facility tour flyer

The University of Minnesota is seeking $65.6 million in state capital bonding funds from the Minnesota Legislature for a new chemistry undergraduate teaching laboratory facility. The state bonding funds will be used to transform Fraser Hall into an academic hub for undergraduate chemistry. The total cost of the project is $98.4 million with the rest of the funding, $32.8 million, coming from the University of Minnesota.

UPDATE: October 2020

The Chemistry Teaching Laboratory Building is nearing the end of the schematic design phase, where fundamental decisions are made regarding the labs and support space. The Bonding Bill, approved by the State Legislature in October 2020, included $3.286 million for the project. It funds the last two planning phases, design development and construction drawings, to be completed by late spring 2021. This will enable the project to be shovel ready as soon as full construction funding is secured in a future state bonding bill.

About the project

With an addition and renovation to existing space, Fraser Hall would encompass 18 chemistry teaching laboratories, collaboration space, lab prep and support space, tutoring space, nine offices, and updates to two existing large, general-purpose lecture halls. The façade of the historic Fraser Hall would be preserved.

Currently, undergraduate chemistry laboratory courses are taught in Smith Hall. Many of those labs, while partially renovated in the 1980s, are nearly 100 years old. Those facilities were designed for laboratory instruction as envisioned a century ago and cannot meet the needs of our students for modern hands-on chemistry laboratory teaching methods. We must prepare our students with the skills to solve complex modern problems. This involves working together in small teams, learning how to collaboratively develop plans for investigation, testing and optimizing them, and effectively communicating outcomes.

With thousands of students enrolled in chemistry lab courses every semester, 10 percent of all University undergraduates take a chemistry course and the Department of Chemistry serves students from every college on the Twin Cities campus. Chemistry encompasses foundational science courses for undergraduate majors that span the health sciences, life sciences, science and engineering, pre-med, pre-vet, pre-pharmacy, teaching, and science policy, and fulfills the university-wide liberal education requirement of science with a laboratory for students across the institution.

The demand for chemistry continues to grow at the University, and we are already pressing the limits of capacity in Smith Hall. The new undergraduate chemistry teaching lab building will accommodate a 14 percent increase in chemistry enrollment while reducing chemistry lab section sizes by almost 15 percent.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development projects significant continued growth in employment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields, and chemistry and chemistry-related are in-demand for many occupations in the state. The chemistry laboratory project will help address that demand.

Hands-on laboratory courses build skills in a number of areas that are highly valued in the marketplace today such as research, critical thinking and writing, and collaborative problem solving. Equipping students with skills required to maintain and advance Minnesota’s science, technology-based economies is important to Minnesota’s industry leaders such as 3M, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Cargill, Ecolab, General Mills, Pillsbury, Land-O-Lakes, Pace Analytical, and Valspar, and to science and technology entrepreneurs, scientists engaged with patent law, and high school science teachers. 

Smith Hall chemistry teaching lab circa 1932
Smith Hall chemistry teaching lab circa 1932
current Smith Hall teaching lab
Current Smith Hall teaching lab
current Smith Hall collaboration space: students sitting in hallway
Current collaboration space at Smith Hall are the hallways.
possible future collaboration space
The new proposed undergraduate student teaching laboratory facility would have plenty of student collaboration space.