University of Michigan’s new STEM building puts ‘science on display’

The first-of-its-kind facility combines state-of-the-art science education with a public interactive museum

The University of Michigan has just unveiled its new Biological Sciences Building, which combines cutting-edge science tech with a public Museum of Natural History.

Located on the university’s main campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the facility covers 312,000 square feet, and houses 84 wet and dry research labs, classrooms, administrative offices, breakout spaces, and a café, all to accommodate 90 principal investigators and their teams.


You might also like: University of Iowa uses 3D tools to improve engagement for medical students


The building is also home to the university’s Museum of Natural History, which is open to the public and includes such sights as a pair of mastodon skeletons and a 60-seat, state-of-the-art planetarium.

Jeff Hausman, principal-in-charge and director of SmithGroup’s Detroit office, an architecture firm who contributed to the project, said: “Our team was passionate about integrating the museum into the facility from the onset of the project, not treating it as a separate entity.

“We wanted to give scientists an opportunity to showcase their current research efforts and share what they’re working on.”

By making science more accessible, we are encouraging visitors, young students in particular, to explore science in a new way.
– Jarrett Pelletier, Ennead Architects

Part of the collaboration between researchers and the museum includes a multimedia science forum, which will allow members of the public to meet face-to-face with scientists and researchers, and investigate labs for hands-on learning. There will also be a series of interactive exhibits available, such as a glass-enclosed Fossil Prep Lab.

Jarrett Pelletier, a project designer at Ennead Architects, who contributed to the project, said: “By making science more accessible, we are encouraging visitors, young students in particular, to explore science in a new way.”

The first floor of the building also houses a team-based, active learning classroom, which allows students and professors to reconfigure the space to support a variety of hands-on learning projects. The space includes three interactive projectors and dozens of monitors to support collaborative group projects and give students the opportunity to showcase current projects.

Other high-tech facilities include computational living rooms, plant-growing rooms and chambers, specimen artefact collections, sophisticated imaging equipment, and one of the largest university aquatics facilities in the US.

Susan Monroe, capital projects manager, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts, said: “We set out to create a facility that inspired people to excel at their work. Happy people lead to good science.”

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History opened to the public on April 14 2019, and more information about the facility can be found at https://lsa.umich.edu/ummnh/