Tech holds H-STEM groundbreaking

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Members of Michigan technological University’s administration and legislative representatives break ground on Tech’s new H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex Friday, including speakers Sen. Ed McBroom, left; President Rick Koubek, sixth from right; Vice President for Research Dave Reed, fourth from right; and State Rep. Greg Markkanen, right.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University administrators and legislators dug in shovels Friday for the groundbreaking of the new H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex.

It will be the first new building on Tech’s campus since the Great Lakes Research Center, which the university broke ground on in 2010. It heralds “a new time of growth and investment at Michigan Tech,” said President Rick Koubek.

“The H-STEM extension will be, I hope, the first of many construction projects that directly benefit our students and research experience here at Tech,” he said.

Tech “set the standard statewide” for COVID-19 response, including developing a testing lab, said State Rep. Greg Markkanen.

“A building project of this nature will only help that in the future, if need be,” he said. “So it’s an honor to be here and an honor to represent Michigan Tech down in Lansing.”

The new building will house biomedical engineering, kinesiology and integrated physiology and the Health Research Institute. It also introduces a new lab concept for Tech of flexible, collaborative spaces where multiple disciplines can work together, said Dave Reed, Tech’s vice president for research.

“When much of our infrastructure was built, research was a faculty member, a couple of grad students and everything they needed inside a small room,” he said. “Today, that’s not the way science works. It’s a team project.”

One of the projects moving into the building will be a lab for the genetic sequencing of pathogens. Caryn Heldt, who oversaw the development of the COVID-19 lab, is principal investigator on the project. But others come from chemical engineering, forestry, biology and computing colleges, Reed said.

“When I started here, a couple of them didn’t exist, and the others probably wouldn’t have worked together very much,” he said. “So we’re looking forward to this facility to help facilitate that, to bring people together from all these different disciplines to catalyze new ideas and new approaches to work.”

When the project required adjustments that needed approval from the state legislature, it wasn’t tough for Markkanen and State Sen. Ed McBroom to ask their colleagues.

“It wasn’t hard to get our colleagues to give us those little changes that we needed because Michigan Tech’s reputation and what it’s doing for the whole state and country is well-known and recognized by all the people that we work with in Lansing,” McBroom said.

Tech plans to invest in more building projects, Koubek said: existing and new academic buildings, new residential housing, and renovation of the Memorial Union Building.

Construction starts Monday on the H-STEM complex, which is scheduled to open in 2024. Tech is providing a construction timeline and updates at mtu.edu/h-stem, including a webcam where people can watch the construction in real time.

More is coming. The five-year capital outlay plan submitted to the state last fall calls for construction on phase II of the H-STEM building to start in 2027 and finish the next year.


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