Plenary II:
Spotlighting the Host Institutions - Lawrence University

Plenary II:
Spotlighting the Host Institutions - Lawrence University

Friday, September 12, 2003
7:30 - 9:00 pm

Facilitators:
Nancy A. Wall, Associate Professor of Biology, Department of Biology- Lawrence University
Michael Lauber, Principal- Ellenzweig Associates
Bradford G. Rence, Professor of Biology, Biology Department- Lawrence University

Lawrence University has long had a commitment to teaching science through an inquiry-based approach. We seek to foster a culture in which teaching and research are closely intertwined. Whether it is introductory biology and chemistry students struggling with their first independent projects or senior research students rushing to get those last experiments done before writing their honors thesis, we focus on learning science by doing science. However, as the 1990s approached and science and technologies advanced it became clear that our "old" science building (Stephenson Hall, built in 1898) and our 68,000 square foot "newer" science building (Youngchild Hall, built in 1964) would not provide the facilities needed to maintain and develop our teaching and research goals.

A decade of planning lead to the development of a three-part master plan dedicated to science education that would take nearly five years to complete. The first phase was to build a new, 55,400 square foot Mathematics and Social Sciences building. This provided new spaces for many of the inhabitants of the "old" science building (Stephenson Hall) and the remainder squeezed into our "newer" science building (Youngchild Hall). This set the stage for the second phase which was the razing of Stephenson Hall and the construction of a new, three-story, 78,000-square foot science building named simply, Science Hall. Two years later, the inhabitants of the "newer" building crowded into Science Hall so that the final phase of the science initiative, a major renovation of Youngchild Hall, could be completed.

As we enter a new century, Lawrence's vision for the natural sciences calls for continued expansion of inquiry-based approaches to learning throughout all levels of, the curriculum. Committed to the principle that students learn science by doing science, we will expand opportunities for students to engage in research activities and we will continue to promote a culture in which teaching and research are inextricably intertwined. We will also work to expand cross- and inter-disciplinary connections among science disciplines to mirror the way in which scientists are investigating problems. Finally, we will improve scientific proficiency and literacy among all students, so that they will understand - through hands-on exposure to the scientific method - the role of science in their lives and in our society.

Our newest building, Science Hall, was designed to advance this vision. The facility houses all of chemistry and portions of biology and physics. To a great extent, the teaching and research spaces in this facility focus on the study of molecular structure and function. Many of the most significant discoveries and promising research directions involve scientists from all three of the disciplines housed in the building, examining phenomena on this small scale of physical size. Research in biology, for example, is moving from the examination of the whole organism to the the detailed exploration of nucleic acids and proteins as the repositories of biological information at the molecular level. Chemists continue to explore the structure and behavior of small molecules in basic and applied research, but they are also extending their studies to larger molecules such as polymers and highly complex "supramolecular" systems of living organisms. And physicists are extending theoretical and experimental studies to molecular systems, polymers, and other solids.

Locating faculty members with these interests in a single building with shared facilities emphasizes, facilitates, and enhances the common features of their teaching and research. Consultation and collaboration increase - among faculty, among students, and between faculty and students - as a result of physical proximity. This arrangement demonstrates to students the connectedness of the sciences, increases interaction among the faculty and students of these departments, and encourages students to apply newly acquired knowledge and techniques across traditional disciplinary boundaries. In designing Science Hall we were mindful of the following:

Shared, flexible spaces

Faculty were conscious of the need to plan not only for current needs but also for the needs of a constantly evolving science curriculum. Research labs are modular in design, providing adaptability and flexibility as needs change over the years.

We were also eager to create a facility that would encourage greater interdisciplinary and interdepartmental interaction to mirror the way in which scientific inquiry is conducted. Several areas of the building are shared by students and faculty from different disciplines. These spaces include classrooms, research equipment, computer labs, and study spaces.

Teaching and research labs

Most of Science Hall is dedicated to teaching and research laboratories whose design supports a highly investigative and "hands-on" approach toward instruction in the natural sciences, from the introductory through advanced level. Teaching laboratories feature modular benches, where students work collaboratively in small groups. Dedicated space for student research is featured prominently throughout the building. Improving laboratory support spaces in ways that give students greater hands-on access to major instrumentation was a prominent factor in our planning. Areas such as the electron microscope suite and the radiation lab, for example, are designed to accommodate small groups of students or an entire class. Previously, much of this instrumentation was housed in overcrowded, cramped spaces, making it inaccessible to large numbers of students and difficult to utilize as an instructional resource.

Building a community of scientists

Lawrence University has long had a commitment to developing a community of learners and this commitment is very visible in the commitment to build a community of scientists. While our activities emphasize this we needed spaces to support it.

One of the most distinctive features of Science Hall is the generous space allocated for informal student/faculty interaction. According to Ellenzweig Associates, Science Hall sets a "new standard" among undergraduate science facilities in the amount of space devoted to students. Each level of the building contains areas - lounges, offices, and seminar rooms - specifically intended for students working independently or in small groups. These areas help greatly in fostering a strong community of scientists at Lawrence.

Additionally, a three-story glass atrium serves as the main entrance to Science Hall and connects it to Youngchild Hall, our renovated science building. The atrium is a space that symbolizes the highly interactive and communal nature of our science programs. This area will be used frequently for study and quiet conversation.

Moreover, the atrium serves as a central location for the campus at large, and its distinctive beauty entices all students, faculty, and staff to frequent and utilize its space. The extensive use of glass in the walls and skylight, and the "stepped" approach to the roof have created a light and open interior that invites members of the Lawrence community into the building and encourages them to linger.