NEW BEDFORD - Multiple University of Massachusetts and elected officials came to New Bedford's south end on Friday to attend a ribbon cutting to officially open the newly built School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) East Facility.

The new facility is located next door to the older SMAST building on South Rodney French Boulevard. The $55-million building overlooks Buzzards Bay at New Bedford's southernmost point and features powerful ocean-modeling computers, technology-enriched teaching spaces, a state-of-the-art seawater laboratory, and more.

The 64,000 square foot building also has a conference space open to the community. Between to two facilities over 150 faculty, students, and staff participate in research, education, and policy related to marine science.

“What's important about this project in particular is it's a collaboration that results in economic development, and creation of research and jobs for the south coast and that's why we're happy to partner on this,” said President of UMASS Martin Meehan.

Meehan also pointed out that with its long-standing SMAST program, UMASS Dartmouth was officially ranked a “Tier 1” university for the first time in its history. According to Meehan, out of the roughly 3,000 four-year universities across the United States only about 220 schools are considered to be in the “Tier 1” category.

Chancellor of UMASS Dartmouth Robert Johnson addressed the crowd of over 100 people before the ribbon cutting. He says that with the completion of the new facility, the SMAST program and UMASS will continue to grow and improve.

“Our program is actually one of the top programs in the entire world,” Johnson said. “Opening up this building will enable us to take it to the next level and continue to build our research apparatus.”

The SMAST program is the largest marine science program in the UMASS system and receives $6-million annually from external funding.