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Educators say aging facilities impede research, ask state for building upgrades

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University of Minnesota officials and faculty told legislators Wednesday their labs are so old that research is being held back.

Mechanical engineering professor Caroline Hayes said her building's electrical system can't handle the power needs of some devices.

"You can't just take your gazillion-watt device and plug it into the outlet of your 1948 building and expect not to blow the fuse," Hayes said.

And graduate student David Bennett said he'd like to work on a promising new alternative fuel system for trucks.

"However, I can't test even portions of this new system in the current 1948 building, because the laboratory ventilation and elevator are not up to modern code," Bennett said.

The requested fixes are part of $320 million in maintenance and repairs that the university and the state college and university system have asked for this legislative session. Of that, the governor has approved about $40 million. Engineers told legislators they'll need more to do their work properly.