Montana State University

Construction wraps up on MSU's Cooley Laboratory

September 25, 2012 -- Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

An architectural rendering of a renovated Cooley Laboratory on the Montana State University campus. The work upgrading the 52-year-old building is complete and researchers will be moving in to lab spaces in October.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN - With construction crews wrapping up this week and research teams ready to set up shop, the Department of Microbiology at Montana State University will offer guided tours of the newly renovated Cooley Laboratory from 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday.

"This state-of-the-art facility is a great asset for MSU's biomedical research community and the university as a whole," said Mark Jutila, head of the Department of Microbiology. "And we are excited to show it off. But the real excitement comes as we move forward in these labs with our research addressing infectious diseases and other public health questions."

The 52-year-old building, completely gutted and transformed over the past two years, will house research teams from the departments of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases, and cell biology and neuroscience. Most of the work was paid for under a $14.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Cecelia Vaniman, the project manager for Cooley Laboratory, said the renovation was finished ahead of schedule and on budget. According to Greg Schermele, the project superintendent for Dick Anderson Construction, Inc., more than 100 workers were employed on the project.

Built in 1960 with approximately 30,000 square feet on five floors, Cooley Laboratory is now 45,000 square feet over six floors.

Improvements include: New windows; seismic upgrades to exterior walls, stairwells, floors and beams; a new elevator; new mechanical and electrical systems (with the addition of a mechanical floor under the fully enclosed new pitched roof); new fume hoods and bio-safety cabinets; casework and countertops, as well as modular benches in the labs; an array of special-function labs and support rooms that will include centralized glass washing and sterilization/decontamination, shared equipment labs, tissue/cell culture labs and shared cold rooms; and solar heating collection panel sun-shading devices on the building's south exterior; and making the building ADA accessible.

Jutila said the building's layout would emphasize bringing together scientists from different disciplines.

"While the majority of the labs in Cooley will be microbiology, we think it's important to get people from different scientific backgrounds talking to each other," Jutila said. "From those interactions we hope we'll see new ideas about how to address certain research questions. That's the whole point."

Paula Lutz, dean of the College of Letters and Science, said the new-and-improved Cooley Laboratory taps into a growing legacy for MSU in the biomedical sciences, which currently accounts for 40 percent of MSU's research expenditures.

"These state-of-the-art research labs will offer our students and faculty the kind of cutting-edge opportunities that we believe will change the world," Lutz said. "You only have to look at one of MSU's most famous graduates, Maurice Hillman, who saved millions of lives with his creative and original work on vaccines, to see what is possible."

Tom McCoy, MSU vice president for research, agreed.

"It speaks to the achievements we will see from our researchers in the future," McCoy said. "We know that when we put high-quality scientists in state-of-the-art lab space, our faculty and students can do great things."

MSU's recent history in upgrading its research facilities bears the point:

  • After MSU's Department of Chemistry/Biochemistry moved from its old home in Gaines Hall and into the new Chemistry/Biochemistry Building in 2007, its success in grant awards jumped 71 percent, from $4.5 million in FY'06 to $7.7 million in FY'07. In FY'12, chemistry and biochemistry had $10.5 million in research expenditures.
  • When the Department of Veterinary Molecular Biology, now the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, relocated from Marsh Lab and several trailers to the Molecular Biosciences building in 2003, the amount of the department's research grants jumped from $2 million to $10 million within three years. The department had $8.5 million in research expenditures in FY'12.

In addition to the work of Vaniman and the numerous contractors she worked with, McCoy said the credit for Cooley's revival starts with the team that put together the proposal to secure the NIH grant. The team included Lutz and Karen Hedglin, with the co-principal investigators Thom Hughes, then head of the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, and Mike Franklin, associate professor of microbiology.

The guided tours will start at the building's west entrance.

Free parking will be available in the "greenhouse lot" off of 11th at Deer Street near the Plant Biosciences building, as well as the Antelope lot off of College Street west of 11th Avenue. A map of the MSU campus is available online at

For more information about the tours contact the Department of Microbiology at 994-2902 or

Contact: Sepp Jannotta, or (406) 396-0988.