College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Chemistry Building Braces for Complex Upgrades

Building upgrades on the Oxford campus are nothing new. But, as home to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Coulter Hall isn’t like any other renovation project on campus.

“Chemistry buildings are notoriously complex,” said Charles Hussey, department chair. “They must be equipped with services that ordinary classroom buildings don’t need—fume hoods, compressed air, stable electrical power, house vacuums, eyewash and shower stations, and a water-treatment system that produces pure water by distillation or reverse osmosis.”

Fortunately, numerous upgrades to Coulter are already under way. Through university funding, more than 70 new fume hoods are being installed, along with a new HVAC system and new air-handling equipment to pump fresh air into the building. Other future renovations involve upgrading the ventilation systems, fume hoods and equipment in faculty research labs. Hussey said that the changes are needed to accommodate advances in technology and chemistry education.

“The way we do chemistry has changed dramatically since Coulter was completed in 1977,” Hussey said.

“For example, when Coulter first opened, we did a lot of chemistry experiments hands on. These days, most chemistry is done remotely with computer-controlled electronic instruments such as spectrometers or by carrying out sophisticated quantum mechanics calculations. You’d be hard pressed to find any test tubes in this building.”

Yet, upgrades cost money, and, while the department has reliable patrons such as the Frist family in Nashville, more funding is needed. Coulter handles about 1,000 students each semester, Hussey said.

“Obviously, continuing to provide a safe facility for our students is our top priority,” Hussey said. “But having well-equipped, modern facilities also helps to attract and retain the best faculty. These are the faculty who energize our students by providing research opportunities and teaching excellence. More quality teaching takes place in the research lab than most people realize. That’s the key ingredient to our success.”

To find out how you can support the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, e-mail Charles Hussey at or call him at 662-915-9301.