Construction begins on new $144.7 million Chemistry Teaching Laboratories

Private philanthropy will also play a key role in building the future STEM workforce

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (10/11/2023) —The University of Minnesota began construction this fall on a new $144.7 million Chemistry Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories project. The State of Minnesota funded two-thirds of the project during the 2023 Legislative Session.

The renovation reimagines 95-year-old Fraser Hall on the University’s Twin Cities campus. Once completed, the updated 117,000-square-foot facility will house 18 active learning labs, tutoring and informal student collaboration spaces, professional offices, and general purpose classrooms. Renovating and modernizing the outdated spaces—used by more than 5,000 undergraduate students each semester for general and organic chemistry courses—will transform the way chemistry is taught at the University of Minnesota and fuel Minnesota’s workforce.   

“We are incredibly grateful for elected leaders who are making a commitment to all of Minnesota through the University—from the shovel-ready project that puts Minnesota companies and crews to work, to the generations of students who will use these new labs as they become Minnesota’s future chemists, chemical engineers, physicians, veterinarians, nurses, dentists, teachers, entrepreneurs and more,” said University of Minnesota Interim President Jeff Ettinger. 

With early construction work on the project serving as a backdrop, Interim President Ettinger and other University officials joined Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, legislators, University of Minnesota Regents, faculty, and students at a construction kick-off event this fall. The event celebrated the $92.6 million state capital investment made during the 2023 legislative session to support the project.

Gov. Walz emphasized the impact of state investment in his remarks.

“It is about our students. It is about the future. And let’s be very clear, as goes the University of Minnesota, so goes the State of Minnesota,” Walz said.

Recognizing that the state’s investment covers only two-thirds of the project cost, College of Science and Engineering Dean Andrew Alleyne said private philanthropy also will be critical to the success of the project. 

“We look forward to meeting with alumni, friends, and companies and telling the story of this building’s importance and what it means to students and the State,” Alleyne said. “With a design that fosters collaboration and interaction, this project puts us on the leading edge of chemistry instruction and will enhance student outcomes and impact.”

Current University of Minnesota medical student Elise Toussaint addressed that impact when she took the podium. Toussaint, who received her bachelor’s degree at the University, recalled her first impression in the dated lab.

“It's exciting that this day is finally here — I can remember how hesitant I felt as an incoming undergrad, but it was the energy and support from my classmates and teaching assistants in my first chemistry courses that helped propel me forward,” Toussaint said “These spaces are so critical to student success. It’s inspiring to think about how many students will make new discoveries and lasting connections to peers and mentors in spaces that truly reflect the world-class research and teaching that is synonymous with the University of Minnesota.”

Architectural drawing of new chemistry facility

Students who will use the labs, academic support, and collaborative learning spaces represent a wide range of majors — roughly one-third of all Twin Cities students will take chemistry and other courses in this building.

The project was made possible by an initial legislative $3.2 million investment in project design in 2020 and $92.6 million in 2023 capital funds. Through private philanthropy and other investments, the University will contribute the remaining funds for the $144.7 million project. The project is expected to take two years, with the renewed Chemistry Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories fully opening for fall 2025 classes.

Access project and other updates, including a live webcam, at the official Project Website.