HIGH POINT — For a decade and then some, High Point University has put up building after building — academic buildings, athletics facilities and residence halls.
The next new addition to the HPU campus will be a science building. The Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences is more than 70 percent complete and on schedule to open in August.
Not only will this four-story building serve as the new home for the university’s growing undergraduate programs in biology, chemistry and physics, the $65 million facility will also complement the university’s graduate-level offerings in pharmacy and the health sciences.
HPU leaders say the new facility will draw even more undergraduates who want to study in the popular STEM fields. Graduates of those science, technology, engineering and math programs could feed into the university’s relatively new graduate programs in physician assistant studies, physical therapy and pharmacy.
In short, said Angela Bauer, a biology professor and the chairwoman of the biology department, the new building will let HPU do more of what it’s doing now — but with brand new state-of-the-art equipment.
“The national trend, certainly in the health professions, is that enrollment is on the rise,” Bauer said. “Student interest in these disciplines is driving some of the enrollment pressures on these programs.”
Even with the new building still under construction, HPU saw a 60 percent increase in biology majors this fall, Bauer said. Increased enrollment means more faculty members and, potentially, more research dollars coming to the university.
To make room for this new growth, HPU is building a facility that’s twice the size of its existing science building. The extra space will give the university room to expand its new neuroscience and biochemistry majors as well as add a new minor in astronomy.
The main lobby of the new science building is nearly 50 feet high, topped by a cupola. A hallway leads into the building past big windows that show off two labs — microbiology on the left, physics on the right.
At the end of the hallway is one of the building’s key features: a planetarium with 125 stadium-style seats and an overhead dome that’s 50 feet in diameter. When completed, the only similar facility in North Carolina that’s larger will be UNC-Chapel Hill’s Morehead Planetarium with its 68-foot dome. (Three other. planetariums in North Carolina, including the one at Guilford College, have 50-foot domes.)
HPU students will use the planetarium for earth studies, astronomy and other science courses. It’ll also be the site of one of the few planetarium operations courses in the country, said Brad Barlow, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy.
And, oh, yes, HPU expects its new planetarium to host plenty of school field trips and put on shows for the public.
“This will be highly versatile space,” Barlow said. “And it’ll be a highly active space.”
The science building will have classrooms, faculty offices and 30 labs, including ones for animal, insect and cadaver research. It also will have a makerspace so students can work on their own projects outside of class.
Next door to the Wanek building, HPU will erect a 15,000-square-foot conservatory that will house a new greenhouse for botany research and to grow the trees, shrubs and flowers that are planted throughout campus.
The conservatory is scheduled to open in late 2019.