SALEM — Gov. Deval Patrick’s announcement of $32.9 million for Salem State University will mean adding a wing to Meier Hall, which sits along Lafayette Street on the university’s North Campus.
The U-shaped building houses the College of Arts and Sciences and science labs, and has an open courtyard at one end. This is about where the university’s former library is located and is presently being torn down.
“Meier Hall has three sides, three major corridors — let’s envision a fourth,” said Ronald MacTaylor, chairman of Salem State’s chemistry and physics department. He said the chemistry department is bursting at the seams, with 120 chemistry majors.
“We have more chemistry majors this semester than we have ever had in the history of Salem State,” said MacTaylor. The university is attracting students who are looking for jobs, he said, and who want to go to a school they can afford.
“On the North Shore they are looking at biotech,” he said. “The need is biotechnology jobs, any chemical industry jobs, so they are thinking about getting a bachelor’s degree at Salem State and maybe a graduate degree.” While some students may think about a career as a chemistry teacher, most are looking to go into industry, he said.
The problem: “Our labs are dated,” MacTaylor said. “Our labs were renovated in the ’60s and ’70s. We need to move forward to host the current equipment, the laboratory equipment that will be needed in industry. We don’t have the infrastructure for that.”
“These will be teaching labs,” said Kristin Esterberg, provost and academic vice president. The school has 400 biology majors in addition to the 120 chemistry majors, but the wing will also accommodate nursing students. The school has the largest nursing program in the state system, with 700 students.
“Every one of those nursing students needs to take basic courses in biology and chemistry, anatomy and physiology, so really this expansion will touch every single one of our students,” Esterberg said.