Cooley Lab becomes newest research center



This summer’s remodel of Cooley Lab is complete, leaving the new space ready for student researchers to use.

The renovated lab will serve as a research hub for microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases, and cell biology and neuroscience, although the primary focus will be on biomedical research.

The renovations were funded by a $14.9 million grant as part of the 2009 federal stimulus act that allocated funding for development at MSU. The entire building was gutted out and almost everything is new except the outside walls.

The project team, lead by manager Cecilia Vaniman, has added modern facilities and workstations to the building as well as an entire new floor. The workstations are flexible and in close proximity to one another, allowing for easy exchange of materials and ideas.

One of the more significant additions to the building is a completely redundant air system, meaning that no air is recirculated. This keeps the building full of fresh air. There is also a new elevator shaft that was dug to allow elevator access to the basement.

The renovations were necessary because Cooley Lab was no longer suitable for modern research. The original building was built in the 1950s, and at the time it was one of the first germ-free labs in the country, housing research on the immune system, infectious diseases and microbes that exist in extreme environments.

The lab is named after Robert Cooley, who conducted early research on tick-borne illnesses.  He worked for MSU, then called Montana State College, before becoming Montana’s state entomologist in 1903. His efforts aided the fight against tick-borne illnesses, which at the time were often fatal.

Cooley Lab was renovated in a way that allows the old building to survive. This is because the grant money which funded the project was specifically designated for repair and renovation of existing buildings, Vaniman said.

The grant also required the incorporation of sustainable measures, Vaniman explained, so the construction team used over a million pounds of recycled material in the project.

Now, those recycled materials are part of MSU’s newest center for modern, scientific research.