New Building on the Block: After six years Lo Schiavo Science is complete

Orientation day brought about a great transformation to the USF campus, this year — and no,  we aren’t talking about the freshmen! Ah yes, while the university welcomed new and first year students for orientation this past Saturday, August 17, the day also marked the opening of the John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation building, a five-story academic center in the heart of lower campus.

Lo Schiavo Science, as the building is officially known in shorthand, has been under construction since 2007 and cost a total of 54 million dollars to complete, according to Anne-Marie Devine, Senior President of Media Relations.

(Left to right) St. Ignatius Institute students Elizabeth Walton, Kerry Phan, Kyle Hunt, Clare Sorensen, Brianna Nieves and Erika Cruz convene on the new plaza outside Lo Schiavo Science to reflect on their morning spent pruning and beautifying trees in the city through the group Friends of the Urban Forest.

Geared towards science majors, the academic hub is approximately 60,000 gross square feet and includes 11 labs and six classrooms that “allow students to learn in an up-to-date science facility that serves as an educational tool both inside and outside,” said Kristy Vivas, project manager. According to Vivas, the average size of the classrooms ranges from a 16 seat wet lab — where chemicals, drugs, and other biological matter are handled — to a 47 seat lecture classroom on the main floor of the building.

With the potential to house nearly 500 students at any given time, Lo Schiavo Science is certain to play a role in campus life — even for non-science majors. Centrally located in between the University Center (UC), the Harney Science Center, and Gleeson Library, the new building is a “thoroughly student-centered facility,” said Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J., university president. “The facility is not just for science students — it will house core courses and provide outstanding ‘hang-out’ space throughout the building,” said Fr. Privett.  Indeed, in addition to classrooms, Lo Schiavo Science also offers study spaces, a two-tiered plaza, and an indoor and outdoor fireplace.

Rhetoric professor Rick Roberts highlights the importance of this extra space in recalling the volume

Inside Lo Schiavo Science on the first floor (Photo by Allison Fazio)
Inside Lo Schiavo Science on the first floor (Photo by Allison Fazio)

war that occurred between the two main television areas of UC 1st floor, last October 22, when both the final 2012 presidential debate between Obama and Romney and the World Series deciding Giants game aired at the same time. “It will be great to have quieter spots to hang out in between classes,” said senior communications major Maude Ballinger. Ballinger said she is particularly excited to welcome the new building, since she has been affected by its construction her entire time on campus. Though construction did take around six years, Roberts thinks that Lo Schiavo Science was worth the wait: “There are generations of students who had to put up with constant construction without reaping any of the benefits, but this — this is good for the whole campus.”

It’s especially good for science. Roberts, who graduated from USF in 1986, spent two years studying biology down in Harney. “The bio labs there look exactly like they did in the 80’s, so the new facilities are really exciting for science teachers and students,” he said. Especially impressive are the fume hoods, installed in the labs, said Roberts. The glass-protected “hoods” allow students to work with toxic chemicals by filtering the fumes through negative pressure — a technology that Roberts experienced in organic chemistry class in Harney, years ago, though, there were only two per classroom. In just one lab room in Lo Schiavo Science, there are 11.

But don’t get too antsy, science majors; according to biology professor Jennifer Dever, there will be no organic chemistry in the Lo Schiavo labs this fall, due to a functional error with the fume hoods. “The only thing wrong with the building is the hoods,” said Dever, who attributes the error to misplaced sinks within the hoods. The successes seem to outweigh the failures, however, as Dever points out the perks of her new conservational biology class in room 303. “Many lecture rooms in Harney had the projector screens come down over the whiteboards so that you could only write on one at a time, but here you can do both at the same time and it’s fabulous,” she said. This particular classroom on the third floor has two computer screens on either side of the whiteboard. Teacher perks extend to students, as well, as Dever will now be able to make video recordings of her lectures, as opposed to just audio, something senior bio major Staci Hoell thinks could have really helped her prepare for organic chemistry exams her sophomore year.

Inside Lo Schiavo Science on the first floor (Photo by Allison Fazio)
Inside Lo Schiavo Science on the first floor (Photo by Allison Fazio)

Despite the mishap, there is still a new microbiology, general biology and molecular biology lab that are ready for use. “New labs and lecture halls are critical to the success of the sciences,” said Dever. “There are some functional issues, but nothing major, and as a science teacher, I am very happy with the building. And you know, whenever you build something new, you gotta break it in.”

Breaking it in is precisely what students and faculty appear to be doing. Days before the official start to the academic semester, the Lo Schiavo building was already brimming with life. On Friday afternoon, several students and their families explored the new building, as construction workers continued to put on the finishing touches. Out on the plaza, there was a student-run freshman orientation for the St. Ignatius Institute, a distinctively Jesuit campus learning community, and on Saturday, move-in day, a lively performance from the members of Voices, a university choir group.

The curiosity surrounding the building might be due to the dramatic change it has created on campus, at least visually, since students last saw construction at the end of spring semester. “Since May, we have completed the site work, landscape installation, installation of two fireplaces and all finishes in the building,” said Vivas. This includes placing artwork, classroom technology, and furniture, as well, she said. Most notably, however, is the lack of cranes, noise, and of course, the big, green wall — an endearingly bizarre construction divider in the middle of lower campus commonly known to play music from its speakers at early hours of the morning and house a vertical garden of various potted plants. Senior communications major JT Talarman remembers the wall fondly: “The green wall was very cultured when it came to playing tunes — one moment it could be playing the Star Wars Anthem and the next, Backstreet Boys. It kept me on my toes.” Other soundtracks of the big, green wall included classical music, instrumental Beatles, and birds chirping. The music and potted plants have since been replaced with the distinct glass walls of Lo Schiavo Science, which have sparked another area of interest. “It’s such futuristic architecture; It’s inspiring!” said senior Wesley Baker, a business administration student. “Have you seen the building? It dips underground!” said Baker, referring to the exposed two-story lower level of the building. “That’ll be the main spot on campus,” he added, assuredly.

Father Privett seems to think so, as well: “The two-tiered plaza provides students social space that is environmentally responsible and conducive to the gatherings and conversations that are central to a college education. I strongly [urge] every student to “come and see” — you are going to love this incredible new facility, not matter your major.”

To learn more about the John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation, visit the official USF website at:

Photo by Matt Miller

One thought on “New Building on the Block: After six years Lo Schiavo Science is complete

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