By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi officials and others celebrated a milestone in the construction of the emerging Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation during a topping-out ceremony Thursday (June 23) on campus.
Touting the economic and academic implications of 202,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and mathematics building, Chancellor Glenn Boyce was among some 100 attendees who watched as a construction crane hoisted a structural beam to the top of the building, signifying that it has reached its maximum height. The $175 million facility is on pace to open in fall 2024.
“At the University of Mississippi, we’re committed to advancing teaching and research along with the service and innovation we bring to the state and world,” Boyce said. “The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation is a vital part of that commitment.
“We are excited to reach this significant milestone and look forward to its completion when it will be a crown jewel of our university as one of the nation’s leading student-centered learning environments for STEM education.”
UM administrators, faculty, staff and students, as well as Chet Nadolski, chief operating officer at Yates Construction of Jackson, signed the beam before it was lifted, hewing to a construction tradition also meant to express appreciation to the building contractor and crew.
“On behalf of Yates Construction, I wish to thank the University of Mississippi, the Duffs and all those responsible for creating this opportunity,” Nadolski said.
“I also wish to thank the trade partners and suppliers building this this project. Yates is focused on maintaining a safe working environment while partnering with the university to ensure delivery of a world-class, state-of-the-art facility.”
Once completed, the Duff Center is projected to be among the nation’s top student-centered learning environments for STEM education.
With a focus on increasing job opportunities and boosting the economy, Hattiesburg leaders and brothers Jim and Thomas Duff have committed $26 million to the construction of the 202,000-square-foot building. Its $175 million total project cost includes roughly $135 million in construction expenses.
Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, said the university is “very excited to see the Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation take form.”
“Jim and Tommy Duff and the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation’s wonderful generosity make this incredible center possible,” she said. “There are still naming opportunities inside the building as we build out state-of-the art labs. Our goal is to provide significant innovations in teaching through new technology, scientific instrumentation and materials.”
The center will house lecture halls as well as chemistry, biology, physics, engineering and computer science labs. Lower student-instructor ratios will be in place, and various disciplines will be spread throughout the building to promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
Among other building highlights, students will enjoy technology-enabled active learning, traditional labs and a 3D visualization lab, similar to a small IMAX theater. Engineering students will have access to dedicated lab spaces, including fabrication and testing equipment, for their senior design projects.
Several common areas will give students space to study individually and in small groups, and a STEM tutoring center will provide additional support.