SUNY Oswego's new science building promotes STEM ideas

Oct 3, 2013

Science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education has become a focal point for schools throughout New York and the nation. At SUNY Oswego, the college's emphasis on STEM education has culminated in a $118 million four-story science building.

The college is celebrating the grand opening of its newly built Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation, which brings seven disciplines under one roof. Chemistry professor Casey Raymond is the chairman of the committee that oversaw the building of the facility. He says building the center was a ten-year process from start to end, but will lead to more engaged students.

"One of the major goals of this facility was to put sciences on display," Raymond said. "Not just for our science majors, but for any student on campus, or any community member. If they come into this building, we really wanted them to come through the building to see science. People will look into a lab to see what's going on. They might not know exactly what's going on, but they might see something, stop, pause and think about it."

A view of Lake Ontario from a fourth floor classroom in SUNY Oswego's Shineman Center.
Credit Gino Geruntino/WRVO

The Shineman Center boasts a planetarium, specially designed classrooms and a vista view of Lake Ontario from an outdoor meteorology observation deck. SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley says the new facility has already attracted more high-caliber STEM students to the university.

"It's a building that is state-of-the-art, that announces to the world that we have programs and faculty and students who are going to be very important to our region, our state and our world, actually," Stanley said. "Our country, of course, especially, to make us more competitive in the world of ideas and innovation. That is incredibly important."

Raymond says the university tried to make the new science center as green as possible, by using natural lighting, geothermal wells to heat and cool the building, and water draining gardens. Michael Lotito, with Facilities Services, says the college has addressed common energy concerns seen in science buildings and has applied for LEED Gold designation.

"We have a very low water consumption because of the fixtures that were selected," Lotito said. "The lighting in the building is automatically controlled in some spaces, the daylight comes in so we can reduce the use of that. So really, it's all about energy and natural resource conservation."

Solar panels and green space dots the area around the Shineman Center.
Credit Gino Geruntino/WRVO

The Shineman Center holds SUNY Oswego's math, physics, chemistry, computer science departments, along with three others. Raymond says having the departments together should lead to more interdisciplinary collaboration for faculty and students.

"People in another department or another related field think about things differently than you do, and sometimes it allows you to solve a problem or really expand a whole area of research just by looking at it slightly differently," Raymond said.

Stanley says SUNY Oswego is also applying for LEED Gold certification for the building. The University invested in green building materials, solar panels and a green sustainability plan. It also inserted more than 300 geothermal wells to help heat and cool the building, making it the largest well field in New York.

The building is named after Richard Shineman, SUNY Oswego's first chair of chemistry and a professor emeritus. His wife, Barbara, is also a former SUNY professor. She and the Shineman Foundation made the largest donation in SUNY Oswego history, giving the school $5 million. Shineman says her husband, who passed away in 2010, would have approved of everything about the new building except its name.

"He would have thought of a lot of other people that were deserving, because he was really quite a humble person," Shineman said.