A new building presents new opportunities in research and collaboration for Texas A&M’s Plant Pathology and Microbiology department.
The department held a grand opening on Oct. 25 for its new building on the west side of campus. The 84,000 square-foot, four-story building holds state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities, and has been in full operation since the beginning of this fall. The building also includes a lab wing, a teaching/departmental office wing and a greenhouse.
Department Head Sandy Pierson III said the department's main focus areas are plant health and disease, plant-microbiome interactions and bioenvironmental sciences. He said the old facility, located in the L.F. Peterson building, had become outdated, and a newer space was needed for expanding research.
“It was a very nice building at the time, but as research and teaching and laboratories progressed, it no longer could support the modern-day research that’s required to solve these problems,” Pierson said.
The project budget for the building was $49 million, and Pierson said it took four years of planning and construction. The funding for the new building came from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University and the College of Engineering.
The teaching/departmental wing of the building includes classrooms, an auditorium, meeting rooms and advising rooms for both undergraduate and graduate students. Throughout the building there are also open spaces with desks for students to use.
“I think that the teaching facilities really are far beyond what we had before, so that will certainly impact the way that undergraduates interact with us,” said Brian Shaw, a fungal biology professor.
The diagnostic labs in the department work toward rapidly identifying invasive plant pathogens coming into Texas, and Pierson said the new building allows them to work more efficiently. The new research wing of the building is certified as a super containment facility by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“We have the ability to work with pathogens that are exotic to Texas in this [building] and what we think may be coming,” Pierson said.
The new building is the fifth building in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences complex. Pierson said being closer to other partners is giving the department more opportunities to collaborate.
“I think there’s so many more opportunities to interact with our colleagues so we’ll be able to build bridges that weren’t possible before,” Shaw said.
Bioenvironmental sciences senior Lee Marklund worked in the L.F. Peterson building as a student worker for professor Young-Ki Jo’s lab and said the new building is more equipped to help students.
“The classrooms and labs are a lot nicer and more state-of-the-art so it helps grad students conduct their research better and more comfortably and offers more resources and equipment,” Marklund said.
Pierson said he encourages anyone to come out and see the new building if they are interested in learning more about plant pathology and microbiology.