Pitt-Greensburg to unveil new Life Sciences Building

Laboratory space in Life Sciences Building

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is celebrating the New Year with the opening of its newly completed Life Sciences Building in January 2023. Partnering with the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, Pitt-Greensburg will host a dedication and ribbon-cutting on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, at 4 p.m. The Greensburg community is invited to attend the dedication and enjoy a walk through the facility. An open house for the campus community is set for Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, when classes resume for the spring semester.

Construction on the two-story 32,085-square-foot building began in September 2021 and was completed in December 2022. The $19.5 million structure is connected through a new chemistry wing to Smith Hall, which has served as the center for science-related education since its construction in the 1970s. The new Life Sciences Building, designed by Pittsburgh-based MCF Architecture, will house nursing, health science, biology, microbiology, and chemistry labs, faculty offices, and shared study space. Rycon Construction out of Pittsburgh served as the general contractor for the project, which contributed an estimated $3 million in economic output to the region’s economy and an estimated 125 non-permanent direct jobs. In addition, 31 permanent direct jobs will be created or retained and 112 jobs will be indirectly supported.

“At Pitt-Greensburg, approximately 500 students each year are majoring in the sciences and health-related disciplines,” said Robert Gregerson, PhD, president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. “The new Life Sciences Building will allow both the nursing program and our science programs to continue to grow—fulfilling an important need for space on our campus as well as fulfilling important needs in the region and the state.”

Barbara Barnhart, instructor of biology, echoed Gregerson’s observation, saying, “Working in small shared lab spaces meant that faculty and students needed to get creative and work collaboratively in order to succeed—and we did.” Barnhart has worked closely with students in the Smith Hall labs and noted that Pitt-Greensburg’s biology program was ranked fourth for Best Biology Programs by Study.com in 2021. “Our students are winning awards at conferences for their research. Just this past month, two of our students won second place for their research poster presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology—Allegheny Branch. Adding new labs in the Life Sciences Building will provide more space for our faculty and students to offer lab-based courses and work on capstone and honors projects. We are excited to see how our students and science programs advance with the opening of the Life Sciences Building.”

The facility features seven laboratory spaces that will be highly used by science, nursing, and non-science disciplines: anatomy & physiology lab, general biology lab, microbiology lab, analytic chemistry lab, general/advanced chemistry lab, organic chemistry lab, along with lab prep spaces/research areas for faculty, including the Mark Stauffer, PhD, Chemistry Prep & Research Room. These will be coupled with a conference room, student study spaces, and lobbies that lend themselves to study and conversation. Thanks to the generosity of the Elliott Group, study spaces and the lobbies on the first and second floors will bear its name. A third study space on the first floor is named the Dr. Guy M. and Nada L. Nicoletti Study Space. Another study space will be named the Greensburg Foundation Family of Funds of The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County Study Space. The Greensburg Foundation Family of Funds of The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County Lactation Room is the first space of its kind on campus.

“The laboratories in the new Life Sciences Building will greatly expand our teaching and research capabilities in the sciences,” said Gregerson. “The design of the Life Sciences Building provides students with numerous studying and gathering spaces on both floors that are comfortable and highly functional. We have also included outdoor seating that will be very attractive to students during the warm weather months. The design includes very large windows that provide an amazing amount of natural light for all rooms, creating a welcoming environment for all who work, study, or visit the spaces.”

The Bud and Ellen Smail Simulation Suite is a major highlight of the nursing section. It consists of two simulation rooms and a control room that allows faculty to program mannequins with specific symptoms and simulates a realistic nursing experience. Marie Fioravanti, DPN, RN, explained that from the control room, faculty share a simulated situation with the students who are responding to the mannequin and the situation. After the scenario is completed, the faculty meet with students to debrief them on their performance and decisions. The guided debriefing session is where the majority of the education takes place. It teaches team work and team training and allows outcomes to be measured. An important aspect of the simulation experience is that it allows students to learn and make mistakes in a safe controlled environment. It is used in all nursing and medical education.

Nursing students also will be able to learn and practice their clinical skills in the new clinical lab that is part of the nursing area. The Lawrence and Jacqualine Helkowski Tele-Health Room provides technology for nursing students to use in assessing patients and practice providing care in remote or under-served settings.

“Having a new state-of-the-art building where our students can earn their BSN [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] degrees in Westmoreland County means that we can admit more students into our nursing program, which is part of the University of Pittsburgh’s nationally ranked program,” said Fioravanti, director of Pitt-Greensburg’s nursing program. She also noted that the BSN is the preferred degree by hospitals and clinics. “Our graduates will be able to serve our communities and help fill the need for more nurses—a need that is projected to grow by six percent over the next decade.”

The Life Sciences Building is the second sustainable building on campus. Its proposed silver LEED rating will be confirmed in approximately 12 months. Frank A. Cassell Hall, which opened in 2012, was the campus’ first sustainable building with its gold LEED rating. Planning for the Life Sciences Building moved forward during the tenure of Sharon P. Smith, PhD, as campus president and has come to fruition during Gregerson’s presidency.

Funding was provided through the University of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Honorable Tom Wolf, Governor (as part of the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program). Additional funding was raised through individuals, corporations, and foundations, including funding from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation in support of the nursing and health science facilities.

The project met the Wolf Administration’s workforce development goals, having a regional impact by increasing the number of STEM graduates who live and work in the state. On average 88 percent of Pitt-Greensburg’s undergraduates are Pennsylvania residents and approximately 70 percent of the campus’ alumni remain in the state after graduation.

“We are grateful for the donors who have helped us to achieve this goal,” said Jodi Kraisinger, director of University Relations and Institutional Advancement. “We invite other members of our community to explore naming opportunities that create legacies for individuals, corporations, and the campus.” Anyone interested in learning more about naming opportunities in the new Life Sciences Building should contact Kraisinger at 724-836-9942 or kraising@pitt.edu.

About the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg:

Founded in 1963, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is a publicly assisted, four-year, liberal arts college in southwestern Pennsylvania. Pitt-Greensburg offers 31 baccalaureate degree programs, including new majors in data analytics, nursing, and healthcare management, as well as 31 minors and four certificate programs. With nearly 1,400 students, more than 10,000 alumni, and faculty and staff numbering 260, Pitt-Greensburg provides a vibrant, diverse community that is a dynamic model of a 21st-century liberal arts education. As part of the University of Pittsburgh system, Pitt-Greensburg offers the resources of a world-renowned university combined with the individualized and immersive experiences of a small liberal arts college. Creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit permeate the campus and extend into its many collaborative projects with the Westmoreland County community. Nestled in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Laurel Highlands, the campus is surrounded by the region’s outdoor recreation venues and rich history. It is a five-minute drive from uptown Greensburg and less than an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh.