Two-year project nears end

The end is in sight for a two-year long construction project at the University of Miami’s RSMAS campus as the project enters its final few months.

The Marine Technology and Life Sciences building is expected to be completed by the end of spring 2014, and will be the first new building on the RSMAS campus since the 1980s. It will replace the 50-year-old Glassell building that currently houses the laboratories that will move into the new Life Sciences building.

“We knew we had to replace the facility, and we wanted to create a state-of-the-art facility for both physical and biological research,” said Michael Schmale, a RSMAS professor and associate dean for infrastructure.

The Marine Technology and Life Sciences building will consist of two parts connected by a windowed lobby that allows visitors to watch research as it happens. One side of the building will contain seawater labs and classrooms, while the other will house the state-of-the-art Surge Structure Atmospheric Interaction system (SUSTAIN).

The SUSTAIN system, a hurricane simulator, consists of wind and wave generators, and will be used to study wind-water interactions during hurricane-force winds. The system, described to span the area of six bowling lanes, also includes an artificial beach area where scientists will study the effects of storm surge on small, structural models of buildings.

“The system is not the biggest one in the world, but it’s the biggest one that can do the wind speeds it can do,” said William Drennan, RSMAS’s associate dean for undergraduate studies. “If we didn’t have it, we simply wouldn’t be able to do the same kind of studies.”

The new facilities will open up opportunities for the whole RSMAS community when construction is completed in the spring semester. Undergraduate and graduate students alike will have the ability to work alongside UM professors, as well as conduct research of their own.

Sophomore Ian Thompson, a marine science and geology major, is looking forward to taking advantage of these opportunities.

“I think it will be exciting to have a new building at RSMAS and hopefully, as an undergraduate, be able to take advantage of and get involved in some research that was unavailable prior to completion of the project,” he said.

There’s still more in store for the RSMAS campus after the Life Sciences building and SUSTAIN system are completed. RSMAS plans to construct a SCUBA training pool that will enhance the current research diving course offered to undergraduate and graduate students.

“At RSMAS there are studies about all kinds of different problems, and this is going to allow that kind of work to continue and also expand,” Drennan said.