Stony Brook University opened a new $40.8 million computer science building that officials and lawmakers said will enable the public university to expand one of its largest and most competitive programs.

The 70,000-square-foot brick and glass structure will serve undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty. It houses lecture halls, small-group work spaces and research laboratories.

The new facility will help further collaboration with public and private partners, such as Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the university's president, said.

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"It is a bold new future for computer science at Stony Brook," Stanley said.

Computer Science Department chairman Arie Kaufman, said it was "the happiest day in the 46-year history of the department."

With 500 master's and doctoral students, computer science is the largest graduate program at Stony Brook, Kaufman said, and its enrollment has tripled over the past 15 years.

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The new building is home to five research centers, including the National Security Institute, Center for Mobile Computing, Center for Smart Energy, Center for Visual Computing and Center for Dynamic Data Analytics.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who helped secure state funding for the project, said it gives a boost to a program that ultimately contributes to economic development on Long Island.

"You want to make sure you can attract the best and the brightest here, because we have what it takes to educate them," LaValle said. "This will keep the school competitive with peer institutions nationally."

Until now, the nationally and internationally recognized program had been housed in a dark and drab space in a campus building that is more than 50 years old.

"It was so unpleasant that there was a rumor there was a morgue in the basement," said Gabriel Garrett, 21, a junior majoring in computer science. Garrett, along with a few dozen other graduate and undergraduate students, toured the new building along with state lawmakers and university administrators.

"This is definitely going to enhance our education here," he added.

The new building, planned about 10 years ago, has a 4,000-square-foot atrium flooded with natural light and is surrounded by trees, with a pond nearby.

It was designed by Mitchell Giurgola Architects of Manhattan. The firm also designed the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology, a business incubator and research facility on campus.

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The State University Construction Fund managed the project, university officials said.

Ying Zong, a senior graduating in December, said she is glad to have the opportunity to use the new building, even if only for a semester.

"We are so lucky," said Zong, 22, of Islip Terrace. "I have lots of friends who graduated last year who won't get the opportunity to use it."

The university's Computer Science Department is ranked No. 8 in the country by the National Research Council, part of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, prestigious private nonprofit institutions based in Washington, D.C.