CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Planning is underway at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi for a new Life Sciences Building, after $60 million in state funding was approved by state legislators and Governor Greg Abbott signed the legislation Thursday, June 18.
“We are excited to receive this state funding to expand our facilities for life sciences research and education, a signature program area based on our location,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “Our students’ interest continues to grow in life science studies, so our space must also continue to grow and provide cutting-edge, hands-on opportunities. We are very thankful to our local legislative delegation as well as the rest of the legislators and leadership for recognizing how critical receiving this funding is to the future of our institution and the Coastal Bend.”
As undergraduate and graduate enrollment in life sciences programs continues to soar, the University is proactively securing classroom space and lab space for both teaching and research, especially in marine science. Currently, students have the opportunity to earn undergraduate degrees in biology and biomedical sciences; master’s degrees in biology, marine biology, and in fisheries and mariculture; and Ph.D.s in marine biology and in coastal and marine system science.
Life science facilities and courses also serve students in other degree programs, including nursing, one of the University’s fastest growing programs and one that has received national recognition for excellence and innovation.
“We are proud to offer these in-demand fields of study,” said Dr. Frank Pezold, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “Securing state funding will help us provide the space for the courses students want, and allow us to keep the pipeline of graduates our community needs. It will also allow us to engage students in important research being done by faculty, which is one of the best ways to learn.”
The new building will also allow the expansion of research. The January 2015 designation of the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies as a lead organization of the state’s RESTORE Act Research Centers of Excellence brought $4.1 million from Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement funds for research and monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on the outcome of litigation, each state will receive from $10 to $30 million for additional research.
Robust research programs mean students have the opportunity to get hands-on experience. Currently, students have been involved in learning to use cold plasma to kill cancer cells and sterilize food, studying lung functions of dolphins around the world and helping to restore oyster reefs. The new building will increase opportunities for research related to topics such as the health of commercial and recreational fisheries, harmful algal blooms and bacteria that feed on oil seeps deep in the Gulf of Mexico.
The funding for the Life Science Research building was part of HB 100, which authorized the issuance of revenue bonds to fund capital projects at institutions of higher education across the state. Planning is already underway for the building and the first of several required approvals will be sought from the Board of Regents as soon as possible. Master plans call for the building to be located on the parking lot between the HRI and the Early Childhood Development Center.