OXFORD, Miss. (WJTV) – On Tuesday, June 23 University of Mississippi officials and others celebrated a milestone in the construction of the emerging Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation during a topping-out ceremony on campus.

Touting the economic and academic implications of 202,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and mathematics building, Chancellor Glenn Boyce was among some 100 attendees who watched as a construction crane hoisted a structural beam to the top of the building, signifying that it has reached its maximum height. The $175 million facility is on pace to open in fall 2024.

UM administrators, faculty, staff and students, as well as Chet Nadolski, chief operating officer at Yates Construction of Jackson, signed the beam before it was lifted, hewing to a construction tradition also meant to express appreciation to the building contractor and crew.

Once completed, the Duff Center is projected to be among the nation’s top student-centered learning environments for STEM education.

With a focus on increasing job opportunities and boosting the economy, Hattiesburg leaders and brothers Jim and Thomas Duff have committed $26 million to the construction of the 202,000-square-foot building. Its $175 million total project cost includes roughly $135 million in construction expenses.

The center will house lecture halls as well as chemistry, biology, physics, engineering and computer science labs. Lower student-instructor ratios will be in place, and various disciplines will be spread throughout the building to promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

Among other building highlights, students will enjoy technology-enabled active learning, traditional labs and a 3D visualization lab, similar to a small IMAX theater. Engineering students will have access to dedicated lab spaces, including fabrication and testing equipment, for their senior design projects.

Several common areas will give students space to study individually and in small groups, and a STEM tutoring center will provide additional support.

“At the University of Mississippi, we’re committed to advancing teaching and research along with the service and innovation we bring to the state and world,” Boyce said. “The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation is a vital part of that commitment.