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OBERLIN SCIENCE CENTER
About the Building
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need for a new center
many disciplines, one space
the need for a new science center
Oberlin has long been the nation's leader in the education of undergraduate scientists. A 1998 study administered by Franklin & Marshall College showed that since 1920, more doctoral degree recipients in the sciences had done their undergraduate work at Oberlin than at any other independent, primarily undergraduate institution—by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.

Strong facilities have been the key to Oberlin's premier position. When it was completed in 1961, Kettering Hall was a state-of-the art facility. Its construction was a direct result of the "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957 shocked the United States into the realization of the inadequate state of science in this country. In the ensuing years, the U.S. sought to catch up to the Soviets and make science a national priority.

Science education was a major component in that massive race. Kettering Hall, the predecessor to Oberlin's new Science Center was just one part of the national focus on science education.

Instruction and training provided in Kettering helped Oberlin start the careers of many successful scientists and allowed Oberlin to maintain its strong record of preparing undergraduate scientists.

Much has changed in science since the Sputnik launch. The discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology in 1962, moved some scientific disciplines into new areas, and spurred the evolution of other interdisciplinary fields, such as neuroscience, that later became distinct disciplines.

Much in science education also changed. In most areas, instructional methods moved from lectures and lab demonstrations to more hands-on, research-oriented activities in both classroom and laboratory. Science, in turn, became more dependent on expensive instrumentation. Over the years, computer technology became an important adjunct to many educational endeavors. Although Kettering was modified to accommodate these developments, eventually it became too outdated to permit the best possible science education.

The Oberlin Science Center has been built specifically to encourage collaboration between disciplines, to accommodate technology in classrooms and laboratories, and to incorporate research into every student's science education. Fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the center includes new construction for the chemistry, biology, and neuroscience departments, the science library, and a commons area. Renovations were made to the biology wing of Kettering Hall, the Sperry Neuroscience Wing, and the Wright Laboratory of Physics. New construction and renovated areas are joined, creating a unified science complex.

The building will allow Oberlin to maintain its strong record of educating undergraduate scientists.
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