A new biological engineering teaching lab designed with undergraduate students in mind has opened in Chase Hall. The new Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab gives students access to the latest scientific equipment and features found in many of today's professional labs.
The $300,000 lab was made possible with a private donation to the University of Nebraska Foundation and UNL allocations. In recognition of a $150,000 leadership gift toward its construction from Carol Swarts, M.D., of Seattle, Wash., the university named the lab the Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab.
The 1,000-square-foot lab dramatically improves student learning and experiences, said Angela K. Pannier, biomedical engineer and assistant professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering.
“Hands-on learning is so vital to any undergraduate education, but especially so with engineering.”
"We are so honored by Dr. Swarts' gift and grateful for her generosity, which has enabled us to build a state-of-the art teaching lab for use in our biological engineering courses," Pannier said. "Hands-on learning is so vital to any undergraduate education, but especially so with engineering."
Swarts’ gift also benefits the university's current fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, and its goals to increase private support for academic programs and students.
The Swarts Family Lab will be used by undergraduate students for a variety of courses and projects within UNL’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, including subjects in biological materials, biomedical engineering, biomaterials, agricultural engineering, tissue engineering and more. The lab will also be used for senior level capstone design projects.
BSE's Angie Pannier and Carol Swarts, M.D.
Nebraska native who grew up in the Sandhills, Swarts graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine in 1959 and is a radiation oncologist.
Because of family support she received to pursue a career in medicine, she named the lab in honor of her parents and brothers.
"My dream for this lab is that it gives undergraduate students the opportunity to extend beyond the norm, to find a good life, to discover a passion for what they do," Swarts said.
The lab’s modern scientific equipment includes instruments to determine physical properties of food and biomaterials, instrumentation for signal analysis, sensors for physiological measurements, fluorescence microscopes, and hoods and incubators to grow human cell cultures.
"With the new Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab, our students will be able to perform high level experiments with top-of-the-line equipment and communicate their data using two smart boards," Pannier said.
Swarts has enjoyed supporting various areas of the University of Nebraska through the years. She established a permanently endowed student scholarship fund in memory of her mother, Elenore Gakemeier Swarts, to support Biological Systems Engineering students. At UNMC, she established a fund to support Alzheimer's and other neurological research efforts and provided support for the creation of the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation, which opened in 2008. She has also enjoyed supporting UNMC's student-managed SHARING Clinic in Omaha, where she has volunteered as a mentor to future doctors.
- Robb Crouch, NU Foundation