LSU Chancellor Michael Martin addresses the crowd during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Choppin Hall Annex. Martin, along with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, members of the Louisiana Legislature and other LSU representatives, officially broke ground for construction of the 85,348-square-foot, five-story addition to the current chemistry building.
LSU Breaks Ground on Choppin Hall Annex, Moves a Step Closer to Completing Flagship Agenda Goal for Research Labs
On Tuesday, Aug. 31, LSU Chancellor Michael Martin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with members of the Louisiana Legislature and other LSU officials, broke ground on the Choppin Hall Annex, a five-story addition to the current chemistry building. The 85,348-square-foot laboratory building brings LSU a step closer to completion of the Flagship Agenda goal of adding research labs.
"Today is a great day for the students, teachers and community of LSU, as well as the entire state," Jindal said. "This five-story, more than 85,000-square-foot building will provide our flagship university with even more tools for teaching and training our future scientists, our future innovators, but more importantly, students who will go on to provide our state and nation with a brighter future.
"We have worked with the Legislature to appropriate and finance an incredible total of $537 million – over half a billion dollars – in critical higher education infrastructure investments, including construction, renovations and major repair projects. This total includes our investments toward LSU and the Choppin Hall Annex."
Members of the Baton Rouge area legislative delegation and LSU Board of Supervisors attended the ceremony, which was presided over by College of Science Dean Kevin Carman, joined by College of Engineering Dean Richard Koubek.
"Some people may ask about the wisdom of building this during tough economic times," said Martin. "But, LSU cannot afford to pass on an opportunity to expand its research capacity and provide infrastructure in the future. LSU's greatest expansion occurred during the Depression. You have to plan for the short- and the long-term.
"Increasing the research infrastructure on campus will help recruit and retain great faculty and gives us greater ability to apply and receive research grants, which can help supplant the loss of funds due to budget cuts."
The new annex will add 63 percent expansion of laboratory space to the current facility and house part of the Chemistry Department, the materials science initiative and a consolidated clean room facility. The $33.9 million, state-funded Choppin Hall Annex will open 140 faculty workstations, and new labs will bring LSU up to 39 percent of its Flagship Agenda goal of adding 50 percent more laboratory space.
"It's important that our flagship research university not lose any ground in the fight to keep the best talent in Louisiana," said Rep. Hunter Greene.
The Department of Chemistry has averaged $6.8 million per year over the past five years in research grants and is one the largest producers of African American doctoral chemistry graduates in the United States. The annex will help boost the capacity for research competitiveness.
"Construction of this new research building provides both tangible and symbolic evidence that LSU is committed to maintaining its status as a major research university, even during these difficult economic times," Carman said. "It provides a strong signal to our faculty and students, as well as the citizens of Louisiana, that LSU remains committed to excellence."
Research conducted in this new facility will have significant economic implications for applications in areas such as manufacturing techniques, healthcare and energy production. Louisiana's chemical industry employs more than 30,000 Louisianans and contributes and generates for the state almost $1 billion annually in tax revenues.
"As a retiree from ExxonMobil, I can tell you that chemistry and chemical engineering is a critical component of this state's economy," said Rep. Patricia Smith, whose district encompasses LSU. "This is important for our workforce needs."
Rendering of the new annex as it faces Highland Road
Future site of the Choppin Hall Annex
The Department of Chemistry has nine National Science Foundation, or NSF, Early Career Award winners, three Louisiana economic development assistants and countless other fellows, including nine NSF graduate research fellows, seven Board of Regents graduate fellows, two Huel D. Perkins fellows and six "bridge to the doctorate program" fellows. Materials science was selected for enhanced funding by LSU through the multidisciplinary hiring initiative, which resulted in five new faculty hires, including National Academy of Sciences member Ward Plummer.
"Organic chemistry, polymer science and materials science and engineering have all been identified as areas that are vital to the economy of Louisiana," Carman said. "The state has significant investments in outstanding faculty and equipment to support their research. This building will allow the potential of those investments to be realized as we draw faculty together into a facility that meets the technical needs of 21st-century research and at the same time promotes the synergisms that are the hallmark of innovation and discovery. We will encourage and promote interactions and collaborations with private industry and have already initiated discussion with several potential partners."
The annex has been on LSU's capital outlay request since 2000, making it one of the most quickly approved projects. The university suffers from more than $400 million in deferred maintenance, and the utility system was recently approved by the Board of Supervisors as the LSU System's number one emergency project.
For more information and for updates, including a live camera view of construction, visit the Choppin Hall Annex page at http://chemistry.lsu.edu/site/item1859.html.
Ernie Ballard | Editor
| Office of Communications & University Relations