The dedication of almost $3 million in federal stimulus funds for upgrades at Kansas University’s Dyche Hall is more than a welcome shot in the arm for one of KU’s most visible and visited buildings.
It also is an important recognition of the quality of research and student training being conducted at KU’s Biodiversity Institute.
The National Science Foundation is contributing $1.5 million in stimulus dollars, which KU will match with $1.3 million that had been set aside for deferred maintenance projects. The funding will finance the replacement of heating and cooling systems and plumbing throughout the building, which also houses KU’s Museum of Natural History. It also will renovate lab space in the building and upgrade information technology systems.
One of the key improvements will be a new cryogenic facility that will use nitrogen to preserve tissue used in research projects. The system will replace electrical freezers that were vulnerable to power outages that could wipe out irreplaceable research specimens, according to Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute.
Improvements in Dyche Hall’s basic systems were badly needed, but receiving money from the NSF also confirms that KU has established itself as a leader in bioscience research, Krishtalka said. Money for maintenance and renovations is the hardest money to obtain, he said, because funders usually like to direct their money to new facilities and projects. By providing this funding, he said, NSF is recognizing the current high level of work being done at KU, despite its outdated facilities, and seeking to provide upgrades that will allow KU researchers and students to continue that work at an even higher level.
That’s a strong endorsement.
KU researchers are involved in a whole range of projects focused on genetic sequencing and the study of animal specimens that have been collected from around the world. They are looking at evolutionary patterns and ways to track disease-carrying pests. Some of the research being done at KU, Krishtalka said, also will be an important complement to the work of the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility being developed at Kansas State University.
Most Kansans are familiar with Dyche Hall as the home of KU’s Museum of Natural History, which attracts about 50,000 visitors a year. Addressing Dyche’s deferred maintenance needs will be a welcome boost for the museum, but the upgrades that will facilitate the research and teaching being conducted behind the public exhibits at KU’s Biodiversity Institute are even more exciting for the school.