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OBERLIN SCIENCE CENTER
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increased space
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department enhancements

Biology [changes in square footage]
Research space has been greatly expanded. The center includes a research laboratory for every faculty member, and all labs are appropriately configured for joint research with students. The center accommodates 45 student researchers in biology. Research laboratories were designed to support the various specialized fields that have developed within the discipline of biology.

The center contains a cell-culture room that allows more effective instruction of cell and molecular biology techniques. The facility also provides the flexibility needed to accommodate future developments in the field. This kind of adaptability is crucial to first-rate biology education.

Teaching laboratories are configured for modern instruction. Sized for sections of 12 to 16 students, they are large enough to accommodate the equipment necessary in specialized labs. Modern biology relies on expensive instrumentation, much of which is difficult to move, and the appropriate placement of instrumentation in labs makes students' work more efficient. The labs allow small-group investigative work and interactive learning to be more fully incorporated into the curriculum.

The addition of a seminar room has enhanced the effectiveness of tutorial sessions, which were previously held in labs. Discussions held in comfortable, appropriate surroundings are sure to be more productive.

A courtyard and garden occupying the center of the biology area bring natural light into the building. The garden features a collection of shade-tolerant native plants that are used as examples in teaching.

The greenhouse on the third floor/roof of the biology area features state-of-the-art environmental control. In addition, growing space is been zoned for different kinds of flora, allowing the biology department to keep a much more diverse collection of plants than was previously possible. The glazing used in construction is more weatherproof and energy efficient than the glazing on the old greenhouse.

Chemistry [changes in square footage]
Air handling in the organic/inorganic chemistry laboratory was an especially important consideration in the design of the building, and the lab features fume exhaust hoods for every student. There are also adequate numbers of hoods in the laboratories of faculty members whose research requires them, making it easier to work with student researchers. The air-handling system replaces room air every six minutes, which has significant implications for heating and cooling throughout the building. To increase energy-use efficiency, the center was built with state-of-the-art window treatments, and the variable air-volume hoods adjust the level of air flow as hood doors are closed.

Classrooms and laboratories were designed to be very flexible, blurring the distinction between lectures and lab sessions. Classrooms have computer connections, permitting the easy integration of interactive computer exercises within a lecture. In designing teaching laboratories, sight lines and traffic patterns were carefully considered. Students can see the instructor and the blackboard from every seat in the room, and because benches are low, with aisles in between, instructors are able to reach students in difficulty very quickly.

The general chemistry laboratory, which can be partitioned into two smaller labs, gives the department increased scheduling flexibility.

The main instrument room contains equipment valued at about $1.5 million, including a state-of-the-art, 600-MHz NMR spectrometer, a 200-MHz NMR instrument, and an X-ray diffraction facility.

The new facility includes a laboratory specifically designed for biochemistry, something the old facilities lacked.

A research lab for lasers was established—another area lacking in prior configurations.

A centralized instrument room helps student and faculty researchers work more efficiently and brings people together, enhancing the "culture of science" in the department.

The computer classroom on the second floor greatly enhances the teaching of the Chemical Information course. Students are now required to use scientific literature in nearly every level of inquiry, and teaching students to retrieve and understand resources is recommended by the American Chemical Society. The computer classroom makes it easier to teach students how to use remote bibliographic databases and other electronic resources.

Neuroscience [changes in square footage]
With the availability of the new classrooms in the center, neuroscience lectures are being held in the same building as laboratory sessions for the first time. The program also gained a seminar room, a departmental office, a stockroom, several research laboratories, laboratory preparatory rooms, and faculty offices. These new features have increased efficiency in everything from ordering supplies to mentoring students.

Research space for students has been expanded. In its new quarters, the neuroscience program can accommodate 15 student researchers.

The number of instructional laboratories has doubled.

The renovation of the Sperry wing provided rooms that facilitate greater student involvement in research and training in the technical procedures used in neuroscience. An electrophysiology suite on the first floor provides the physical stability needed by researchers who measure the electrical activity of single cells. A behavioral testing room, a cell-culture room, and a microscope/drawing room on the second floor makes researchers' work more efficient and pleasant.

Physics [changes in square footage]
The basement of the Wright Laboratory of Physics was renovated in 1994. The renovation of the upper floors as part of the science center construction brings the entire building to a single standard of excellence.

As part of the renovation, the lecture hall on the second floor of the Wright was equipped with modern audiovisual equipment and capabilities, allowing projection of laser discs, material from the Internet, and other computer-driven projections.

The department regularly uses the Norman C. Craig Lecture Hall on the second floor of the new center. The most technologically sophisticated of the three lecture halls in the center, this hall has multiple-projector capabilities, a 20-foot-wide screen, and data ports at every seat. Video and computer connections to the observatory in Peters Hall allow for live display of telescope images, greatly enhancing Oberlin's teaching of astronomy.

A seminar room was added for small classes and discussion groups.

A reading room/lounge provides a place where physics students can work and relax together. The American Institute of Physics noted that it is important to reduce isolation and build peer support among students "by providing majors with a sense of ‘ownership' in the department. No matter how pressed you are for space, provide a lounge or office that physics majors may call their own. They will work together and learn from one another while building an esprit de corps there."

The instructional laboratories were outfitted with movable furniture that can be rearranged to provide appropriate layouts for traditional laboratories, integrated lecture/laboratories, and general-audience courses that combine lectures with intensive components of demonstrations and hands-on projects.

Two faculty research laboratories were added.

The physics department was physically joined to the other sciences. The connection engenders the kind of collaboration and interdisciplinary outlook inherent in the practice of modern science.

The renovated facilities are visually attractive. This gives current students and faculty members pride in their surroundings and is important in attracting prospective students and faculty members.

Library and Commons [changes in square footage]
The location of the library is ideal, central to all the laboratory sciences.

The new library, which is more than two times larger than the old library in Kettering Hall, contains areas where students can work alone or in groups, including a computer classroom and two group-study rooms, as well as carrels where two to four students can work together. Tables in the reading room are also available for group work.

The addition of a reference desk and a computer classroom (which is fitted with a ceiling-mounted projection unit) enhance the staff's efforts to educate students on how to access and use scientific resources. This is required from the freshman year on, as research is incorporated into the curriculum at every level.

The study carrels around the perimeter of the library have live data connections (as do the single-user carrels in the center of the library), allowing students to connect their own laptop computers and have access to the Internet.

Space for the collection was greatly expanded; thus more of the collection is readily available to faculty and student researchers. Compact movable shelving, which nearly triples storage capacity over regular shelving, combined with the acquisition of more journals in electronic form, should allow for 17 years of growth in the journal collection and will make the current collection readily available. Storage capacity for books was also increased.

A comfortable, glassed reading room looking out on the greenery of North Bowl, enticing even non-scientists to use the science library. A major hurdle in imparting science literacy to all students is getting non-science students to overcome their fear of science. Inviting facilities can only help in that effort.

The commons, a 4000-square-foot area directly opposite the library, is a place where students meet to work on group projects, eat lunch, and hold meetings. Students and faculty members come here to relax and to get to know one another across disciplines. Similar to an atrium, completely glassed and two stories in height, the commons looks out onto a patio. The commons is an ideal space for poster displays of students' research projects.

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