Jason Hatton used to see the Beckman Institute building as everyone else does.
At 313,000 square feet, the facility at the northern border of the UI campus is visually stunning - six stories wrapped in limestone, brick and green reflective glass.
"Even before I started working here, the one building that has always stood out to me was Beckman," said Hatton, who recently was promoted to the Beckman facility manager position after nearly five years as assistant manager.
"I've always thought it looks impressive, and the tower is the perfect centerpiece for this part of campus. It was really a dream come true when this position opened up."
After working for five years inside Beckman, Hatton now is as likely to listen to the building as he is to look at it.
"I've been hearing some noises this morning," he said as he passed through the main lobby, "and I've already been checking some things to see what's going on."
Hatton is responsible for maintaining every square inch of Beckman. That includes identifying problems before they become problems - and reacting to any number of issues that may pop up.
The whistling noise in the lobby was coming from a heating vent, an issue Hatton attributes to the frantic start-and-stop process of the perimeter heating system brought on by recent temperature swings. It's something very few other people likely noticed.
Hatton guesses out loud a preliminary solution, then adds it to his list of duties and moves on to the next issue.
At Beckman, which includes a café, an animal-holding area and literally tons of MRI and other imaging equipment, the next issue facing Hatton could turn out to be just about anything.
Last week, "anything" was the discovery of a bat in the second floor of the building's tower.
"They called me and we came and removed it," he said. "This job's never been boring and it never stops changing. We're in charge of everything - from reporting light bulbs that are out to being on call for any type of crisis. Our job is to ensure the building essentials are up and running every day."
Despite pre-emptive efforts, crises do occur at the 25-year-old building.
A few months ago Hatton was called in at night after electricity to the north side of campus went out and Beckman's backup electrical generators couldn't keep everything operating.
"There are freezers in here with $30,000 worth of experiments in them, so keeping them running is pretty important," he said.
The experiments were saved, but the disruption caused significant flooding in the basement when the steam system shut down.
"The next morning it was literally raining in the basement," he said. "We had to wet-vac for three hours straight to clean it up."
He said there are contingency plans for such occurrences, and they are constantly updated based on changing situations.
"The plan that we had in place then has been imagined more than a few times," he said.
Hatton also manages two building attendants, two security guards and two receiving clerks.
Oddly enough, Hatton doesn't have an extensive maintenance or construction background.
He served 13 years in the Army and Army National Guard, was a drill instructor for at-risk youth camps in Arizona and Illinois, and moved back to Illinois for two job opportunities - for an undercover drug agent position with and as a supervisor with the Transportation Safety Administration at Willard Airport - when the call from UI came.
"Those two jobs kind of fell through because of funding at the time," he said. "Next thing I knew, I had no job and I was working as a painter and part-time at Walmart."
He said he earned the UI job because of his attention to detail - a skill he said can be transposed to any career.
"A drill instructor is just someone who is diligent enough to make sure things are up to par," he said. "My training has been on-the-job experience and just learning as I go. If there's something wrong, I check it out and then know to look out for it the next time."
He said his varied career forays, including his stint at Beckman, "are just opportunities that propose themselves."
Hatton, who lives in Urbana but is originally from Danville, said his enthusiasm in working for the UI is compounded by the fact that several family members work on campus, including his wife, a sister and his father. Another brother is a former employee.
"To work here is an honor, but to work at Beckman is a privilege," he said.
An avid wrestler since the age of 5, Hatton said he still enjoys physical activity. When he's not working he is likely to be found outdoors, either kayaking or camping. And when he's not outdoors, he's "terrorizing my nieces and nephews."