Big size, tough security

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Cameras, motion detectors and a full-time guard protect the 290,000 square-feet of space that make up the State Centralized Laboratory Facility located on Sower Boulevard. The spacious lab houses more than 100 scientists working for four different cabinets essentially to protect the citizens of Kentucky. Multiple levels of security clearance restrict the separate labs.

Built in 1994, the building cost the state just under $42 million, which was actually under budget, said Gleason Wheatley, director of the environmental lab. The equipment inside, including the most up-to-date technology that even FBI members have admired, is millions more.

To enter the lab, visitors must show picture identification. But most of the labs do not give tours. It was probably not the intention of the architects, but the labs are perfect for tours. Built like museum displays, the outer wall of each lab is enclosed by high glass windows, giving anyone walking through the halls, which surround the labs, a perfect view at the intricate work inside autopsies and all. Most scientists are used to the open view, but some still jolt from their work at a tap on the window.

And you wont catch anyone eating behind the windows anymore. One day forensic lab director Laura Sudkamp was watching a biologist run some tests (perhaps it was semen samples) then reach her gloved hand into a cereal box. The woman caught herself, but that was enough for the director to outlaw food. None of the other labs allows food within the testing areas either.

Before the central lab was built, the Environmental Services Laboratory, the Health Services Laboratory, the State Police Forensic Laboratory and Medical Examiners Office were housed in different spaces. The high-tech Central Lab pulls them all under one roof, so, if needed, they can collaborate.

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