UNCW cuts ribbon on new psych, environmental studies facility

by Keith Larsen
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

 Supplied photo courtesy of UNCW / Jamie Moncrief 

Psychology graduate student Caitlin Kirkwood monitors a child’s reaction to food during an experiment in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s new Teaching Laboratory Building.

The departments of psychology and environmental studies moved into a new state-of-the-art building last week. Construction began in 2010 and completed in summer 2012 accruing costs that totaled $33 million. It is now home to more than just classrooms for the two departments, but also various types of laboratories and faculty offices. 

Before construction was finished, the psychology department was spread throughout campus and was forced to share facilities with other departments, “which created a real challenge for the faculty and students to collaborate using spaces,” said Dean of the college of Arts and Science David P Cordle. “When you have the equipment and the facilities there are going to have a direct impact on learning.” 

The new building, which has yet to be named, has unique laboratories, each with a specific purpose. One lab has the ability to adjust white noise — the combination of all noise with different frequencies of sound — to understand the correlation between cognition in people that suffer from attention hyperactive deficit disorder (ADD, ADHD). 

ADD and ADHD are two areas of research that the psychology department will focus on. The department has recently been given a grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH), which is the primary source of medical research funding. 

Professor of psychology, Dr. Julian Keith said, “This is a game changer. The research is going to be higher quality and the facilities really matter. The facilities represent a commitment of the university to the program and shows that they are willing to invest in the department. I had a post doctorate student who did his undergraduate work at Columbia University and he said they had nothing close to this.”

In another part of the building the environmental studies department will study and research the deterioration of the shorelines and wetlands. New equipment has allowed for more accuracy in the research. One piece of equipment that has led to more accuracy is Geographic Information System (GIS), which cost $50,000 dollars, but is crucial in determining shoreline position.

“To simplify it it’s a really accurate version of a GPS. And has an accuracy of down to the centimeter and is the best available product next to what is used in the military,” said Professor Devon Eulie 

The new facility will be of great use to students and faculty. Said Professor Gregory Meyer, “We had the classes and the programs, but we didn’t have the facility.” 

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