Renovated Research

Science facility renovations aren’t putting a hold on on-campus research.

The Aasgaard House on the north side of Concordia’s campus has served many purposes over the years.

The little white building was once the president’s residence, then the home economics department’s Home Management House, and later it served as the college’s Office of Communications and Marketing.

Now, however, the sharp smell of chemicals drifts from the kitchen and equipment for researching squirrels sits in a corner.

The house can now put “biology research lab” and “science storage space” on its list of uses.

While the science facility under construction will provide state-of-the-art labs and classrooms, the transition has required some creativity when it comes to finding research spaces for professors and their students.

Assistant professor of biology Dr. Jason Askvig and his three student researchers set up shop in what was once the kitchen of the Aasgaard House. It is a small space, but the group expertly navigates the room as they begin their work for the day.

“It’s small and a bit unorthodox for a research setting, but it has everything we need to continue our research,” Askvig says.

Askvig and his students are working to find how neurons stay alive following an injury, with the ultimate goal of one day lessening the effects of head injuries. After three summers of continuing this research at Concordia, moving his lab has not deterred Askvig from making progress or giving students the opportunity to work on an important project.

“To be honest, the building renovations have not significantly affected our research,” he says.

Askvig shares the Aasgaard House with Dr. Graeme Wyllie, chemistry, and Dr. Joseph Whittaker, biology. Other faculty members, like Dr. Mark Jensen, chemistry, are conducting research in labs built in the Normandy space above the Cobber Bookstore.

Jensen is testing new materials that can remove pollutants from water. His team has been able to continue research, although they’ve set up a partnership with American Crystal Sugar for access to a filtration system that provides high-purity water.

Jensen also brought his student researchers on a trip to Iowa State University, where he received his doctorate. He wanted to show his students a research environment outside of Concordia. They spent a few days learning from the university’s graduate students about different experiment procedures. Jensen hopes the collaboration at Iowa State will help his students think about what they might want to do after graduation; however, Jensen is also excited to see the collaboration and community Concordia’s new facilities will prompt.

“I’m excited about a bright, open, welcoming space that offers flexible teaching spaces,” he says.

He is not the only one looking forward to the new facilities opening in fall 2017. One of Askvig’s student researchers, Talia Dalzell ’19, is excited for the access she will have to equipment and the new study areas. Askvig is excited for the addition of “T-search” labs that will allow a place to teach and a space for research in the same room.

“This is ideal for Concordia and will give us a state-of-the-art research space without giving up teaching lab space,” says Askvig of the T-search labs. “It will definitely be an exciting time to be at Concordia when we get back into the science complex.”