The new Biological Sciences Building (BSB) has officially opened on U-M’s Central Campus. It hosts faculty and student research, classes, and museum visits from the general public. The 312,000-square-foot building holds the labs and offices of four different LSA departments, museums, and a field station; expanded facilities for researcher outreach activities with the general public; a café; a modern Planetarium & Dome Theater; and plenty of communal spaces where students and scientists can hang out and relax.
Although the building has been in use since fall last year, the opening ceremony on April 11 included a ribbon-cutting in the west atrium by U-M President Mark Schlissel and LSA Interim Dean Elizabeth Cole. Cole remarked on how the BSB’s open architectural design fosters innovations in the biological sciences and encourages collaboration. “It’s a bridge for the public to explore the research that’s being done here,” she said, “changing the way we accomplish our mission of sharing our work with others.”
The BSB holds the teaching collections of LSA’s Museum of Zoology and Museum of Paleontology, plant growth rooms and aquatic facilities, offices and classrooms, social spaces that lead to unexpected encounters with colleagues, the U-M Museum of Natural History (UMMNH), and more. “Its active learning hall helps faculty and staff focus on what’s really important—the learning,” Cole said. “Its strength is in bringing together the lecture and the lab.”
Schlissel admitted that his experience as a student happened in a much less elegant setting than the one in which the audience stood during the day’s event. “The building’s design makes science more accessible and more public,” he said. “It’s a space that inspires—that can spark curiosity in younger generations.”
After the ribbon-cutting, the group moved to the east atrium, where UMMNH Director Amy Harris introduced everyone to the new home of the UMMNH in the building. “It was hard to say goodbye to the old museum,” she said. Right behind the familiar pumas guarding the main entrance of the new museum in the BSB, whale skeletons hang above an impressive display of mastodon skeletons and a set of ancient mastodon footprints. A grand staircase leads up to the stunningly redesigned exhibits on the second level.
The directors and chairs of all four departments now housed in the BSB also spoke. Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Chair Bob Denver celebrated the vibrancy of the new space, which houses “an amazing diversity of research, ranging from molecules to ecosystems.” Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Chair Diarmaid O’Foighil marveled that, for the first time, all of the department faculty finally occupy the same space, which Director of the U-M Biological Station Knute Nadelhoffer echoed: “We can now easily talk to the people we work with, instead of talking through the electrons of email.”
As he stood within view of the visible preparation lab, Director of the Museum of Paleontology Matt Friedman said, “The field of paleontology is dynamic—not a dusty discipline full of relics. Right now, we are training the next generation of researchers, and we hope to capture the imagination of even newer generations. Paleontology is a science of the past, but we’re here to send a message to the not-too-distant future.”
With that, the whole group went just outside the front entrance of the UMMNH to place a time capsule—containing documents, 3D printed fossils, letters for readers to open a century from now, and more—under one of the pumas.
In November this year, even more exhibits will open at the UMMNH. Until then, Amy Harris said, “Keep coming back.”
The Ruthven Building—which until recently housed the UMMNH, classrooms, and offices—will remain on campus and will serve students and university administration after its renovation.