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106. Science Center (2002- )

An architectural showpiece, the building--with a budget of $55 million for construction and associated costs, and $10 million for an operations-and-maintenance endowment--is a post modern structure sheathed in sandstone and designed to blend in with the stone facades of the venerable Carnegie Building, Finney Chapel, and Wilder Hall. The project actually joins together four structures--half of the Kettering Hall of Science, the Sperry Neuroscience Wing, the Wright Laboratory of Physics, and a new L-shaped addition that links the three buildings. Physics, chemistry, biology, and neuroscience now share one building, spurring new links between the sciences.

To understand what the building means for Oberlin’s future, it’s necessary to understand why the College forged ahead with the largest capital construction project in its history.

Since 1960, the number of science graduates at Oberlin has more than doubled and the science faculty has increased by roughly two-thirds, leading to overcrowding in the existing facilities. In addition, equipment needed for emerging fields such as molecular biology--which didn’t even exist when Kettering opened in 1961--was lacking.

Kettering, Wright, and Sperry were also too small to house the instruments and laboratories needed to handle an increasing emphasis on faculty and student research. Science majors are now expected to conduct research; in fact, notwithstanding Kettering’s less-than-ideal conditions, 250 students co-authored journal articles with Oberlin faculty members during the past several years.

The science facilities also lacked the wiring needed to equip “smart” classrooms, high-tech teaching spaces outfitted with technology that blends high-speed fiber optics, computers, and large screens, and allows classes to access electronic data from half a world away.

Today, the building is such a hit that the admissions office has introduced a Science Center tour for prospective students. Once inside, students and their parents can witness Oberlin’s offerings--teachers who take time to talk to them and highly sophisticated instrumentation that students themselves can use.

McInnis, Doug. "A New Day for Science." Oberlin Alumni Magazine Winter 2003. Web. 3 June 2010.

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