Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/10/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SSSB 56 Out of Committee
Moved SB 206 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB  56-APPROP: LIFE SCIENCES FACILITY AT UAF                                                                      
8:02:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS announced consideration of SB 56.                                                                               
8:03:36 AM                                                                                                                    
MURRAY RICHMOND, aide to Senator Thomas,  said SB 56 is an Act to                                                               
appropriate  funds  for  a  new life  sciences  building  at  the                                                               
University  of Alaska  Fairbanks  (UAF), which  is Alaska's  only                                                               
Ph.D.-granting  university  and  is  well-known in  the  area  of                                                               
sciences,   especially  Arctic   sciences.  In   a  world   where                                                               
technology changes  as fast as  it does,  he said, Alaska  has to                                                               
stay ahead of  the curve. In order  to do that, the  state has to                                                               
have the best resources, the  best facilities, the best scholars,                                                               
and  put  out  some  of  the best  graduates;  this  building  is                                                               
designed to help the University  do that. In addition, because it                                                               
is a  research facility, every  dollar invested in it  will bring                                                               
$5.80 of federal  monies into Alaska's economy,  and the McDowell                                                               
Group estimates  that the  project will generate  in the  area of                                                               
$20  million in  port and  construction activities  for not  only                                                               
Fairbanks, but the Anchorage and Mat-Su areas.                                                                                  
He  said the  research that  will be  conducted in  this facility                                                               
will  really affect  a lot  of Alaska.  They will  be researching                                                               
infectious  diseases, particularly  the  bird flu.  They will  be                                                               
studying obesity  and diabetes in  bush Alaska, which is  a major                                                               
problem,  and will  have a  wing  for research  on sudden  infant                                                               
death syndrome.                                                                                                                 
8:05:32 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON joined the meeting.                                                                                               
8:05:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS opened public testimony.                                                                                        
8:06:13 AM                                                                                                                    
BRIAN   ROGERS,  Chancellor   University  of   Alaska  Fairbanks,                                                               
Fairbanks, Alaska,  spoke in support of  SB 56. He said  the life                                                               
sciences  building  has been  a  top  priority  to the  Board  of                                                               
Regents for  some years  now in the  Board's capital  budget. The                                                               
biology  and  wildlife  program  is  the  largest  single  degree                                                               
program at  UAF, and the  facilities currently in use  are spread                                                               
out  across  the  campus;  some  of  the  labs  don't  look  much                                                               
different  than  they  did  when   he  arrived  in  1970.  Modern                                                               
biomedical  science  requires  much more  significant  laboratory                                                               
opportunities for graduates and  undergraduates to participate in                                                               
research activities.                                                                                                            
He  said  the  new  building   request  originally  came  to  the                                                               
legislature in  a Board priority.  The Board was  unsuccessful in                                                               
gaining  legislative   support  for  that,  so   last  year  they                                                               
redesigned the facility somewhat and  really focused on their top                                                               
priority areas. If approved, the  building will be located on the                                                               
UAF campus West Ridge, across  from the state virology lab; there                                                               
is a  connecting walkway  under the  street to  allow cooperative                                                               
research with the state.                                                                                                        
CHANCELLOR ROGERS  expanded on Mr. Richmond's  comments about the                                                               
interesting research  being done  at UAF.  The Center  for Alaska                                                               
Native Health Research  is working in southwest  Alaska on issues                                                               
of  obesity and  diabetes, and  why there  is not  the same  link                                                               
between obesity  and diabetes  in southwest  Alaska that  is seen                                                               
elsewhere. This  research can potentially lead  to treatments for                                                               
the debilitating  effects of  diabetes. They  are also  trying to                                                               
understand  the  cellular  mechanisms   of  sudden  infant  death                                                               
syndrome  (SIDS),  which might  allow  them  to understand  early                                                               
which  children are  at risk  for it.  Regarding traumatic  brain                                                               
injury,  they  know  that  the hibernating  brain  is  much  more                                                               
elastic and better  able to handle trauma, and  are studying what                                                               
is going  on at the cellular  level that might make  a difference                                                               
in treatment.                                                                                                                   
8:08:52 AM                                                                                                                    
He  said the  instructional wing  of the  building will  help the                                                               
University  to prepare  students  for some  of the  higher-demand                                                               
jobs and,  while people don't  think of a biomedical  industry in                                                               
Alaska, the state  has some potential there. Alaska  also has the                                                               
people needed for biological and  wildlife careers that help with                                                               
permitting  for  major  Alaska projects,  people  who  staff  the                                                               
Department  of Fish  and Game,  the National  Parks Service,  the                                                               
Department of  Fish and Wildlife,  and the Forest  Service. These                                                               
are high-paying,  good jobs  in Alaska. He  stressed that  UAF is                                                               
severely  space-limited  on the  research  side  compared to  the                                                               
national  standards  on  square  feet  per  faculty  member,  per                                                               
student,  which  limits  their  ability  to  attract  new  funds.                                                               
Despite  that,  the Institute  of  Arctic  Biology (IAB)  federal                                                               
receipts  are up  from $6  million annually  at the  beginning of                                                               
this decade, to about $19 million  a year now. This building will                                                               
provide  additional  lab   space  that  will  allow   UAF  to  be                                                               
successful in  competing nationally for additional  federal funds                                                               
to support research in Alaska.                                                                                                  
CHANCELLOR  ROGERS noted  that because  it  is already  designed,                                                               
construction on  this facility could actually  start this summer,                                                               
and  they could  have a  foundation in  by fall  if they  get the                                                               
appropriation this  legislative session. That means  an immediate                                                               
job impact that will last about three and a half years.                                                                         
8:11:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  said he went  to Fairbanks during the  summer to                                                               
see  the  site,  and  was  amazed at  how  crowded  the  existing                                                               
buildings  are.  He asked  whether  they  will reconfigure  those                                                               
buildings  for  use  when  the  new  life  sciences  building  is                                                               
CHANCELLOR  ROGERS  confirmed  that  the old  buildings  will  be                                                               
reconfigured.  The   [Charles]  Bunnell  Building   will  provide                                                               
additional  classroom space  on the  main campus.  In the  Arctic                                                               
Health Research  building, it will  allow them to  back-fill with                                                               
some of the research labs that  were originally slated to go into                                                               
the larger bios building.                                                                                                       
8:11:59 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked the age of the Arctic Health building.                                                                    
CHANCELLOR  ROGERS answered  that it  was built  in 1962;  it has                                                               
undergone some significant renovation  as federal labs have moved                                                               
into the virology  building, but the majority of  the building is                                                               
still 1962 to 1964 vintage.                                                                                                     
8:12:28 AM                                                                                                                    
BRIAN BARNES,  Director, Institute of Arctic  Biology, University                                                               
of  Alaska  Fairbanks,  Fairbanks,   Alaska,  said  the  proposed                                                               
building  will greatly  enhance  teaching  in biology,  wildlife,                                                               
biomedical, and health  sciences at UAF. Biology  and Wildlife is                                                               
UAF's largest  major and  is growing. They  have over  600 majors                                                               
this year, and  their graduate programs in life  science have the                                                               
most PHD  and Masters students  in the UA system.  Their programs                                                               
in life sciences  make UAF a target destination  to students both                                                               
inside and  outside the state,  but they are limited  to teaching                                                               
in  classrooms  that were  built  in  the 1960's,  as  Chancellor                                                               
Rogers  said. To  find classrooms  and teaching  laboratories big                                                               
enough  for  their  sections,  they   have  to  schedule  biology                                                               
students all  over campus at  classrooms that can be  literally a                                                               
mile apart. This  is an inefficiency that will  be decreased with                                                               
the construction of this new life sciences building.                                                                            
He stated  that UAF has  excellent teachers, a  modern curriculum                                                               
with  more and  more offerings  in molecular  biology, biomedical                                                               
sciences,  and wildlife  biology  management,  and UAF  graduates                                                               
fill good jobs across Alaska.  The University needs the excellent                                                               
facilities  they  deserve  to  keep   going.  The  life  sciences                                                               
building is  also necessary to  support the continued  growth and                                                               
competitiveness of their research  programs in the life sciences,                                                               
including those  in health, biomedical research,  climate change,                                                               
wildlife, and  social-ecological linkages,  which is the  role of                                                               
people in environmental  change. The number of  grants in federal                                                               
dollars  coming into  the state  and the  number of  jobs created                                                               
have tripled  over the last  eight years, but  without additional                                                               
modern space  to do  the research,  this growth  cannot continue.                                                               
There is  a huge need  for knowledge, discovery  and intervention                                                               
in these  topics and a  huge opportunity to do  in-state research                                                               
on special problems in Alaska  such as health-disparity research,                                                               
which is research  into diseases that occur  more frequently than                                                               
average   in  certain   ethnic,  economic,   cultural  and   even                                                               
geographical groups.                                                                                                            
MR. BARNES  closed by saying that  as director, it is  his job to                                                               
recruit  faculty   who  are  excellent  teachers   and  the  most                                                               
competitive  researchers and  to provide  them an  environment is                                                               
keeping  them  at  UAF  once  they  succeed.  These  faculty  are                                                               
operating in  a national market;  they can often go  anywhere and                                                               
get competitive offers. His job will  be made much easier by this                                                               
new life sciences building.                                                                                                     
8:16:56 AM                                                                                                                    
BERT  BOYER, Acting  Director, Center  for  Alaska Native  Health                                                               
Research,  Fairbanks, Alaska,  said they  are researching  health                                                               
disparities  in the  Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta  with over  1500 Yupik                                                               
Eskimos. They  are looking at  obesity and the  co-morbidities of                                                               
obesity, which include diabetes, stroke,  and cancer. One note of                                                               
interest is  that the  obesity prevalence  among Yupiks  is about                                                               
equal to  the U.S. average,  but the diabetes prevalence  is less                                                               
than  half.  They  are  trying  to find  out  what  the  genetic,                                                               
dietary,  or environmental  factors are  that contribute  to this                                                               
protection  from  type-two  diabetes.  They  are  also  beginning                                                               
studies in  stroke, which has  three times the prevalence  of the                                                               
U.S.,  and  finally,  colo-rectal  cancer,  which  is  twice  the                                                               
prevalence  in  the  U.S.  They look  at  various  factors,  from                                                               
physical  activity,  to  genetics,  to diet.  However,  they  are                                                               
space-limited;  they have  opportunities for  growth, hiring  new                                                               
faculty,  bringing in  new researcher  associates and  post-docs,                                                               
but have  nowhere to put them.  The benefit of this  new facility                                                               
is that  it will create  opportunities for other faculty  to move                                                               
into  the new  building  and  open up  much-needed  space in  the                                                               
Arctic Health Research building where they are located.                                                                         
8:18:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CORD  BRUNDAGE, PHD  Candidate, University  of Alaska  Fairbanks,                                                               
Fairbanks, Alaska, said  many graduate students are  drawn to UAF                                                               
for   the    phenomenal   wilderness   life    science   research                                                               
opportunities.  He  was drawn  to  UAF  for the  biomedical  life                                                               
sciences  program; he  studies the  consequences of  nicotine and                                                               
alcohol exposure on the developing  brain. He added that exposure                                                               
to either  nicotine or alcohol  during pregnancy has  been linked                                                               
to sudden  infant death syndrome,  or SIDS. His research  is part                                                               
of a  collaboration including two University  of Alaska Fairbanks                                                               
laboratories  focused  on   the  cause  of  SIDS   and  the  high                                                               
prevalence of  SIDS in  Alaska. Research in  UAF's lab  is highly                                                               
sought  after  by  students  interested   in  careers  in  either                                                               
biomedical research  or medicine.  During the  four years  he has                                                               
been a  graduate student at  UAF, he  said he had  mentored eight                                                               
undergraduate students  and four  high school  research projects.                                                               
Most of  those students have  wanted to be  doctors, pharmacists,                                                               
dentists,  or in  a  veterinary  medical career,  as  he is.  The                                                               
limited number  of vet schools  has made veterinary  medicine one                                                               
of the  most competitive  professional programs  to get  into. He                                                               
was accepted  last December and  will complete his PHD  and start                                                               
school at  one of the top  veterinary programs in the  world, and                                                               
attributes his  success to  the education  and experience  he has                                                               
gained   at  UAF.   Unfortunately,  the   facilities  and   space                                                               
conditions  at UAF  make conducting  research  very difficult  at                                                               
times; their  SIDS research  is spread  over multiple  floors and                                                               
three  different  buildings.   Biology  faculty,  facilities  and                                                               
equipment lack  any central location. The  UAF biology department                                                               
has the largest graduate program  and number of graduate students                                                               
in  the state,  and it  is frustrating  that their  personnel and                                                               
resources  are so  decentralized. Amazing  discoveries are  being                                                               
made  every day;  innovations in  research are  developing at  an                                                               
incredible rate. In  order to remain competitive  in this rapidly                                                               
changing  technological world,  they need  to provide  facilities                                                               
for tomorrow's students today.                                                                                                  
MR. BRUNDAGE  said he is grateful  for the skill and  training he                                                               
received at  UAF; it has  made his  dreams possible. In  order to                                                               
continue  making  Alaska  students competitive  for  professional                                                               
careers  and allow  them  to achieve  their  dreams, he  strongly                                                               
advocates  for  the funding  of  the  University of  Alaska  life                                                               
sciences and laboratory facility.                                                                                               
8:21:31 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON  congratulated Mr. Brundage on  his acceptance into                                                               
veterinary school and asked what school he will be attending.                                                                   
MR. BRUNDAGE answered Colorado State.                                                                                           
SENATOR OLSON asked where he is from originally.                                                                                
MR. BRUNDAGE said he grew up in Boulder, Colorado.                                                                              
SENATOR  OLSON  asked  where  he  intends  to  practice  when  he                                                               
finishes school.                                                                                                                
MR. BRUNDAGE replied that he will return to Fairbanks.                                                                          
8:22:02 AM                                                                                                                    
WAYNE STEVENS,  President/CEO, Alaska State Chamber  of Commerce,                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska,  said the Chamber  endorses the  University of                                                               
Alaska, Board  of Regents' FY11  capital funding request  for the                                                               
life sciences classroom  and lab facility. This will  be the only                                                               
new construction  project on the  Board of Regents'  request. The                                                               
Alaska  State Chamber  of Commerce  recognizes the  importance of                                                               
research,  as  well  as  the   economic  impact  and  educational                                                               
opportunities  this  life  sciences  project will  bring  to  all                                                               
Alaskans,  and  urges the  Alaska  Legislature  to fully  support                                                               
funding of this vital facility.                                                                                                 
8:23:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER joined the meeting.                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  closed the hearing  on SB  56 but did  not close                                                               
public testimony.                                                                                                               
          SB  56-APPROP: LIFE SCIENCES FACILITY AT UAF                                                                      
9:03:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  moved to report  SB 56, labeled  26-LS0237\R, out                                                               
of committee with individual  recommendations and attached fiscal                                                               
note(s). There  being no objection,  the motion carried  and SSSB
56 was moved from committee.                                                                                                    

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