By Hiroko Sato
LOWELL -- The high-end opthalmascopes and brand-new patient exam tables inside UMass Lowell's sparkling Health and Social Sciences Building are making Valerie King pumped for the coming academic year.
The tables easily fold and extend unlike the existing ones that can jam, said King, a clinical assistant professor at the university. And the devices are powerful enough to see the back of patients' eyes clearly, according to King's colleague, Amy McCarron, also a clinical assistant professor.
"This is where we are going to educate nurse practitioners and help solve the primary health-care crisis," King declared.
University officials say the 69,000-square-foot academic building is designed with faculty and students in mind for learning just like that. Complete with cutting-edge labs for psychology and criminology programs and a nursing department wing that simulates a real hospital environment, the building is intended to help students practice the latest technologies and collaborate for interdisciplinary learning, they say.
"University of Massachusetts Lowell is giving its best so that graduates are ready for what life brings to them," Chancellor Marty Meehan told the crowd gathering in front of the building to mark completion of its construction.
UMass Lowell celebrated the opening of the Health and Social Sciences Building Thursday with community leaders and legislators who worked with UML to make the $40 million project happen. The four-story building, which will house criminal justice and criminology, psychology and nursing programs, is the first academic building to open on South Campus in more than 30 years. It's also the latest building to open in a series of mew construction at the university, including Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center that opened last October. The additional classrooms will be used by students in various programs to resolve the space crunch on South Campus, according to the university.
In addition to the environmentally friendly design that brings maximum amount of natural light into classrooms, the building features many meeting rooms for group discussions and interdisciplinary collaboration. In the hospital wing, students will be using mannequin patients that can simulate a cardiac arrest or give birth to a mannequin baby at the command of teachers behind control panels.
Sophia McCarthy, a nursing major junior from Marlboro, said after the ceremony that the environment and practice helps her feel like a nurse already.
"You are less nervous when you go out on your own," McCarthy said of working with patients.
Susie Paterson, graduation student from West Caldwell, N.J., who is studying psychology, also said she will feel a lot more productive in the bright, spacious new building.
State Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, who helped secure funding for the construction, and City Manager Bernie Lynch, a UMass Lowell alumnus, said these students and faculty are what truly make the university a special place. Carole Cornelison, commissioner of the state division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, said the enhanced learning opportunities will help produce a skilled workforce and thanked legislators and city officials for being "great partners for the endeavor."
Shortie McKinney, dean of School of Health and Environment, Luis Falcon, dean of College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Jacqueline Moloney, executive vice chancellor, also spoke at the event.