Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Trading ranks for research

Crews began demolishing the old ROTC building on University Avenue this summer, making way for science and technology.

After completion of the demolition process, the site will be home to a new biotechnology building. This addition to the old genetics building is the first in a series of planned expansions in the biology department.

Julie Grove, who works with the University of Wisconsin’s facilities planning management, explained the need for the space on Henry Mall.

“It’s more cost-efficient to replace the old buildings than to expand them,” Grove said.

The new building will encourage the growth of the university’s prominence in biological studies, Grove said.

“We’ve already hired distinguished scientists from other universities to work on projects here,” said Grove.

One of the advantages Grove identified was the versatility of the new building, which includes four floors devoted to lab space. She said the structure of the lab allows for scientists performing a wide array of biological experiments to arrange their working space with minimal inconvenience.

“Most of the labs on campus are specifically designed for certain types of experiments,” Grove said.

“The expanded facility is going to provide a flexible working environment unlike any other. We can easily rearrange labs, move walls, and in general accommodate for the researchers.”

The type of research occurring within the walls of the new biotech building will range from raising lab animals or plants to reading gene codes.

Michael Culbertson, chair of the genetics department at the university, outlined a few of the projects currently in progress.

“We have a researcher using zebra fish, which are easier to care for and cheaper than mice, in order to study vertebrate organism development,” said Culbertson.

“Another scientist is studying nematodes to see how genes are expressed in that species,” he continued.

Culbertson and a colleague from Stanford are both studying genes in yeast colonies grown in petri dishes.

The point of these experiments, Culbertson said, lies in the link between human genetics and the genes of other beings.

“The theme in all of this is that genes are shared by all organisms,” said Culbertson. “For example, genes in weird animals like nematodes have counterparts in humans. If we study nematodes, we can learn about humans through them.”

The biotech building is only the first step in the Biostar Initiative, a program that proposed the addition of four new biology buildings to aid students and staff in their scientific endeavors. New microbiology and biochemistry buildings are planned for the future; the fourth building tentatively will house an interdisciplinary biology facility.

Grove said it was time for a university as distinguished in the biological sciences as UW to update its scientific lab capabilities.

“We’re at the forefront of this type of research, and it’s a shame that we didn’t have the facilities to support it,” Grove said.

Jeffrey Kurka, assistant professor of military science, said the staff that worked in the old ROTC building is excited about moving to another building across University Avenue from the original site.

“It’s a positive step forward,” Kurka said. “The new building is an excellent facility, and they’ve really decked it out for us.”

Nonetheless, Kurka said he would miss the location of the building, which made ROTC an immediate presence on campus.

“There was some nostalgia built up there, but I’m sure we can build it up again at the new facility.”

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