Eager researchers and sleep-deprived students are anticipating the completion of a 17,500-square foot renovation to the Psychology Dept. building, scheduled for completion in January 2006.

The total cost to renovate the Psychology Dept. building, located across from Santa Rosa and Anacapa Residence Halls, is $2 million. The addition to the structure will house the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior (ReCVEB). The center will allow psychologists to study human behavior through controlled, videogame-like scenarios. Social psychology Professor and ReCVEB co-director James Blascovich said private sponsors as well as three grants from the National Science Foundation funded the $4 million center.

The renovated building is also the future home of a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine, used to observe how the brain functions and to study relationships between the human brain and behavior. Associate Professor of psychology Russell Revlin said the acquisition will give UCSB an edge in scientific discovery.

“[The fMRI] will place UCSB on the forefront of psychological research,” Revlin said.

The renovated portion of the building will be connected to the old Psychology Dept. building by bridges on the second and third stories. Blascovich said the expansion was necessary for the full potential of the department to be realized.

“We had simply outgrown our space,” Blascovich said. “It prevented us from realizing our visions and taking initiative to do what we’d like to accomplish.”

Revlin said the additional building is a necessary accommodation to the growing field of psychological study and to those who made their way through cramped office space on a daily basis.

“Most of the time, people can’t even find the psych offices,” Revlin said.

John Pouk, project manager of Soltek Pacific contracting company, said that since the groundbreaking ceremony in March 2004, construction has remained on schedule. Dale Borges, a construction worker on the site, said construction is making steady headway.

“The buildings are coming along real nice and we’ve got furniture on the first and second stories,” Borges said.

The excavation for the basement, which will house the brain-imaging machine, has already been completed, despite a two-week delay in construction caused by contaminated soil.

Bruce Hanley, a UCSB bio safety officer, said heating or diesel fuel, which may have been spilled back while UCSB was a marine base, caused the contamination.

“This is purely speculation, but the weathered contaminants were likely from the Marine Corps era,” Hanley said. “It never posed a hazard to anyone passing by.”

For students in Santa Rosa and Anacapa Residence Halls, the commotion just steps away from their dorm rooms overshadows the positive aspects of the renovation’s progress. Freshman global studies major Ashley Schucks, a Santa Rosa resident, said students cannot avoid the noise.

“We hear trucks in reverse every morning,” Schucks said. “We don’t even open our blinds.”

Brijette Bolduc, a freshman English major, said she and other residents of Anacapa attempted to petition the construction in hopes of a good night’s sleep.

“It’s against our housing contract to even petition. We’ve tried that already,” Bolduc said. “It’s frustrating that we have to keep quiet hours until nine in the morning when [the construction] wakes you up at six.”