Black Hills State University will host a groundbreaking celebration for its new science building Thursday, April 23 at 4 p.m. at the site of the new building (just west of Jonas Hall).

The groundbreaking is one of several events BHSU has hosted this year in recognition of the nationally designated Year of Science. In the last decade BHSU has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of students pursuing science degrees and has placed an emphasis on preparing science and math teachers.

BHSU students will be available to discuss their science research projects, and a science photography exhibit will be displayed. In addition tours will be available of the Center for the Conservation of Biological Resources (CCBR) and Western Core DNA facility, which are currently located in Jonas Hall and will be relocated to the new building when it’s completed in the fall of 2010.

BHSU is also inviting future scientists to take part in the celebration. Middle school students who recently won honors at the regional science fair will recognized for their scientific accomplishments.

“We want to celebrate science with the community. Science has a pivotal role for the state, region, nation and world,” BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp says. “The expansion of our science facilities fits perfectly with our long-term planning objectives and our goals to enhance research opportunities for students and increase the number of graduates ready to teach science. With this new construction we are not only transforming the lives of our students but also transforming the campus.”

The 31,000-square foot, two-level science building includes classrooms, five teaching laboratories, and three research laboratories dedicated to faculty and student (undergraduate and graduate) research. The building will also include 10 faculty offices and two conference rooms.

The $8 million science building is being funded by bonds and was part of a $74.5 million appropriations bill from the Board of Regents for lab upgrades at all the state universities.

Holly Downing, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says the building will enhance BHSU’s ability to provide exceptional science educational opportunities for university students.

“We’re an island in the Plains, right here in the Black Hills. This is an exceptional place to study science, and our students have access to some unique field research opportunities in the Black Hills,” Downing says.

BHSU’s proximity to the developing Sanford Lab and connections to ongoing work there will create many opportunities for BHSU students and faculty. Having a new science classroom and lab building on campus (just 15 miles from the lab) will provide the opportunity for further collaboration.

BHSU offers bachelor of science degrees in Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Physical Science. The University also offers minors in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics, as well as teaching degrees in these areas. Three years ago BHSU added a new master’s degree in Integrative Genomics, an area of biological research that seeks to place the functional significance of an organism's many genes into an ecological and evolutionary context. In recent years, BHSU has also seen increased interest in students pursuing a pre-professional degree in medicine, pharmacy, and other allied health careers.