Physics & Astronomy Renovating Despite Economy

The Physics & Astronomy department began its first major renovation in a decade, in the spring of 2009. The initial construction began with the Intermountain Network Scientific Computation Center (INSCC). The summer semester saw a decline in students, and thus work increased to include areas of the South Physics and James Fletcher buildings. The initial focus of the million-dollar renovation is to provide space to accommodate the new Astronomy program including seven new Faculty offices, five new Research Labs, and many new and remodeled student areas and offices.


Despite recent budget cuts this year and next, the renovations are necessary to accommodate the growth in the department. The commitments were made to expand the faculty and the accommodations are necessary, regardless of the timing. “This is really an investment, not only in the department, but also in the future of the Astronomy program itself ”, Building Supervisor Harold Simpson said. “The University is struggling some, but thanks to strong financial management, steady enrollment, and research funding, the blow is not as bad as it could have been and I think the University is definitely steadying itself.” Harold also mentioned that most of the contractors the university has awarded construction bids to, are local businesses, hiring local subcontractors. It is important to the university and the Physics and Astronomy Department especially, to keep work in the Salt Lake area and contribute to the local economy.

Over the past 6 months, Harold Simpson has worked closely with architects to develop a master plan for department renovations. “The architect conducted a study of the department facilities and operations in spring of 2008. The results were presented last summer and the renovation project was approved in September of 2008. The bid was awarded in late April and work began in May,” said Harold. While the current renovations satisfy present space needs, the department is looking toward the future and methods of accommodating growth. The long term space needs would require a new building with more lecture halls and a possible planetarium. While currently an unfunded project, the current renovations will be a considerable improvement.

Areas of the buildings and certain rooms have been blocked off, some permanently, during the renovation. Many faculty and graduate students and a few undergraduate majors remain on campus. Other than the inconveniences of a few faculty offices moving from the James Fletcher building to INSCC, the minor interruption in South Physics while the floors were re-tiled, and a week long closure of the stockroom, the department continues to proceed as normal. Harold wishes to thank everyone for their cooperation and support. “In my hectic days, it may not be apparent; but I really do realize how this project impacts everyone. I will try to minimize the disruptions and inconveniences, but I must keep things moving forward.”