No annual report


Proposal ID 2015-063
Submitted April 16, 2015
Owner dhurley
Department Biology
Category Computer Labs
Funding Status Not Funded
Metric Score 3.73


  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Dave Hurley
  • Departmental Computing Manager
  • 543-7309
  • 351800
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Michele Conrad
  • Administrator
  • 685-8241
  • 351800
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Ron Kline
  • Director of Computing, College of Arts and Sciences
  • 543-6366
  • 353765



The Biology Study Area (BSA) has served students as a computer lab and study area for 20 years. This proposal requests funds to complete the upgrade of half of the 5 year old computers (the first half is funded by a first-round STF grant) with current hardware. The current computers are limited to a version of the operating system that is 4 versions behind the current one, dooming students to using antiquated web browser versions and a fraction of the processing power available with current computers.

A key component of this proposal is the move away from monolithic desktop computers in favor of compact computers and independent monitors that can be quickly connected to student laptops. This configuration will increase working space, augment student laptop displays and enhance collaborations.

Category Justification

By funding the second half of the original proposal, all students will have access to computers that can run current software and operating systems for the next five years, at least. The current computers are limited to a version of the operating system that is 4 versions behind the current one, dooming students to using antiquated web browser versions and a fraction of the processing power available with current computers.
Many students use the BSA: up to 200 each day across all majors.
Students hear about the BSA from several sources: announcements in Biology courses, Biology advisers, the map of campus
computer labs and the SpaceScout mobile app.
The BSA is used by courses less than 5% of its open hours (8 am - 5 pm Mon-Fri) and even while courses are using the room
there are computers and study tables reserved for drop-in use.
The BSA is also available for multi-day software sessions - primarily simulations - by arrangement with the staff.
The BSA is one of two general access computer labs on South Campus. It is a 4-minute walk from Red Square.
The number of computers and tables is appropriate for the need: students almost never have to wait for a computer or a table
when they need one. Both Windows and Mac operating systems are available on each computer. Linux can be added easily as a virtual machine as needed.
By making connections between laptops and large monitors quick and easy, the BSA becomes more valuable to students who
bring their own laptops. Students with laptops have ready access to their own files and software while also being able to use
power, work with a second, larger monitor and print to a high-quality printer.


The Biology Study Area (BSA) has served 100-200 students/day for the last 20 years. Initially funded by a 4-year Howard Hughes
Medical Institute grant, the computers have been kept current by three previous STF grants. Because of the quiet, spacious and
helpful environment found there, many students work in the BSA on a daily basis. The BSA is staffed constantly by both biologists
and computer experts and its operating expenses are supported fully by the Department of Biology. Textbooks can be checked
out, questions about software or Biology can be answered, study groups can meet - the BSA strives to provide for any need a
student may have to succeed in their studies. But it can an even better, more flexible resource.
While many students bring laptops to campus, built-in computers in computer labs still provide a consistent suite of software,
dedicated network connections and relatively large displays. This proposal would fund the transition from a room where laptops
must compete for space with built-in computers to one where built-in computers are mounted below each work surface and
displays can be connected to either built-in computers or student laptops simply and quickly. This provides students with more
than one option for getting their work done: if they need to use specialized software they can use the built-in computers; if they
have a laptop, they can work on their own computer and take advantage of access to power and a larger display. Or they can use
both simultaneously if one machine is running a lengthy process. Students without laptops are not at a disadvantage as built-in
computers are always accessible. Students are overwhelmingly in favor of this plan. In a recent survey of BSA users, 77% believed
dual-input displays would add value to their work.
In addition to the reconfiguration of computers and displays, the department has funded the purchase of a replacement projector
that is capable of wireless connecting to any computer in the room. This combination will provide all students in the BSA with the
ability to project from their laptop or a built-in computer - to their group or the entire room. This is an exciting strategy for
augmenting collaborations and facilitating presentations.

Benefits to Students and the University

Approximately one quarter of all undergraduates at the UW take at least one Biology course. Because all Biology survey courses include weekly lab sections that are held in the same building as the Biology Study Area, the BSA is the most convenient computer lab for a large fraction of the UW student body. Because there are no access restrictions based on major or any other criteria, there are no barriers to students who need computing or study resources.

The BSA is not just a computer lab - it is a resource for students to acquire skills as they expand their knowledge. They routinely practice collaboration, analytical thinking, communication and meta-cognitive reflection as well as a wide variety of computer-related tasks. With the
assistance of BSA staff, students can augment their computer skills in a number of ways, including but not limited to office applications, graphics, video production, statistics, simulations and modeling, programming and informatics. These skills make students more attractive as prospective employees in any discipline and serve as a foundation for lifelong learning.

Departmental Endorsements

The Biology Study Area is used extensively both for formal classroom instruction and for informal gatherings of students to
collaborate on computationally-demanding coursework. In my role as an instructor, I have scheduled the BSA to give students
hands-on experience with data analysis and visualization using a variety of software tools. As Biology’s department chair, I have
observed that the BSA is a hub of constant student activity, well-supported by staff who offer helpful advice to students, as well as
keep the computer hardware and software fully functional. Biology is by far the largest undergraduate major on campus, so the
BSA serves an enormous clientele.
Toby Bradshaw
Professor and Chair
Department of Biology

I use the BSA computers for Biology 355, to teach students about protein structure and interactions. The students work with a
very specific application for molecular modeling in three-dimensions, which they are able to interact with by changing aspects of
the model, rotation and zooming. It really only works if all students are together in one computer lab, where we are able to assist
them with the application and answer questions, as well as project examples onto the screen. They then are able to return to the
BSA at any time to review and complete work. It is a fantastic resource.
Mandy Schivell, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Biology

Installation Timeline

All hardware and software can be installed and configured within 1 week of delivery.

Resources Provided by Department

Staffing by Biology and computer experts (1 1.0 FTE plus 2 student assistants).
Dawg Prints color printer
Study tables
Power at each table
Projector with wifi connection capability
25 Tables
40 chairs

Access Restrictions (if any)

None. The Biology Study Area is open to all UW undergraduate and graduate students regardless of major.

Student Endorsements

"This upgrade would be monumental to students. I’ve always wanted to connect my personal laptop to a display.”

"Great hidden gem of Hitchcock. Wish I know about this earlier."

“The BSA computers are starting to show their age and could easily become an even better resource if they were upgraded/replaced.”

“The added versatility of external monitors for laptops plus new computers would definitely benefit a lot of students who use the BSA.”

“Easy collaboration is a big reason to come to the BSA and bigger monitors with the ability to hook up laptops would make sharing/presenting work to other students a lot easier."

"Thank you for providing this room for students!!"

This upgrade would be monumental to students. I’ve always wanted to connect my personal laptop to a display.


Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal

Mac Mini

$798.00 14 $11,172.00

This model provides the best cost/performance ratio. In addition, it has the smallest footprint of any desktop computer while still providing the most commonly-needed ports for data transfer (USB 3, Thunderbolt and SD card). By using standalone CPUs instead of all-in-one iMacs, students with laptops will be able to plug into the same monitors used by lab computers.


2.6GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) with AppleCare Auto-Enroll

23" Monitor

$167.35 14 $2,342.90

These monitors have been used extensively throughout our department. They are clear, bright and very inexpensive for their feature set and performance class. They provide three of the most common input types (HDMI, DVI and VGA), enabling us to have each monitor cabled for connections to the built-in computers or any kind of laptop computer a student might bring to the lab, including very old models.


ViewSonic VX2452MH 24-Inch LED-Lit LCD Monitor, Full HD 1080p, 2ms, 50M:1 DCR, Game Mode, HDMI/DVI/VGA, VESA

Mounting bracket

$59.95 14 $839.30

The Mac Mini is small enough to be easily stolen if not secured. This mounting bracket secures the CPU to the table while allowing free access to USB and other ports.


Tryten Mac Mini Mount


DVI/HDMI cable

$6.06 14 $84.84

These cables would connect each built-in computer to a monitor. Separate HDMI and VGA cables would be pre-connected to each monitor for easy switching between built-in computers and student laptops.


BlessingYou HDMI to DVI Cable 3.2 feet Male-Male

HDMI cable

$5.09 14 $71.26

These cables would be pre-connected to a monitor and would be free to connect to student laptops. Separate DVi/HDMI and VGA cables would be pre-connected to each monitor for easy switching between built-in devices.


AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable - 3 Feet (0.9 Meters) Supports Ethernet, 3D, and Audio Return

Total requested: $14,510.30

Total funded: $0.00


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