Dickinson College Homepage Dickinson Magazine This issue of the Dickinson Magazine was mailed on Monday, October 3, 2005
From This Issue
Volume 83 • Number 2
Fall 2005

Building to Capture Science Ambitions

Dickinson is moving forward with construction of a new science complex designed to match the college’s innovative, nationally recognized science program. It will be the most “ambitious building project the college—and Carlisle—has ever had,” said Nick Stamos, vice president for campus operations.

The foundation for the complex was laid with the completion of the Tome Scientific Building in 1999. Tome contains mathematics and computer science and physics and astronomy. The next step—the keystone phase of the project—will be a new science building and renovation of Althouse Hall.

Construction is set to begin in 2006, with occupancy to occur 19 months after groundbreaking. Cost estimates for the keystone phase of the project are $50 million, $32.5 million of which will be for the new building.

“Creating a state-of-the-art facility that supports the evolution of science pedagogy and puts us at the forefront of teaching undergraduate science research are aspirations we must find the resources to fulfill,” said President William G. Durden ’71. “The completion of the new facility will permanently place the college among the very best liberal-arts colleges academically in the country—where we belong and where Benjamin Rush aspired for us to be.”

The final, capstone phase of the facility will consist of a third building, cost of and timing of which are yet to be determined. The two new science buildings, together totaling 150,000 square feet, will occupy the corner of Louther and College streets. The completed new buildings will house the biology, chemistry and psychology departments plus interdisciplinary programs in biochemistry & molecular biology and neuroscience.

The programs to be located in the new facility account for about 20 percent of the majors in each year’s graduating class. Courses in the emerging fields of bioinformatics—a blend of biology and computer science—and nanotechnology—the applied study of particles the size of molecules—also will be taught there.

To accommodate the new facility, the James Center, home of psychology, geology and environmental studies, will be razed, as will several Dickinson properties along College Street. The James name, which honors Ben James ’34, former psychology professor and dean, will be preserved in the new complex.

During the transition period, several departments, including environmental studies and geology, will be moved to the large Reeves-Hoffman Building on North Street. Environmental studies and geology, in current planning, eventually will be housed in a renovated Althouse Hall.

Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college, explained the need for a new science complex.

“In recent years there has been a revolution in the teaching of science,” he said. “That revolution has included three key dimensions—a new, more active pedagogy (more intensive workshops, labs and field study); a heightened emphasis on student/faculty research; and interdisciplinary approaches to science as reflected, for example, in biochemistry, neuroscience and bioinformatics.

“Our faculty and students are leaders in all three areas, but our facilities have fallen far behind,” Weissman explained. “Now it is vitally important for us to provide our science departments with modern facilities that capture all three elements of the revolution in science teaching. Our aspiration is to build the first truly 21st-century undergraduate science complex.”

The first of the two new buildings will adjoin Tome and, like Tome, will be state of the art, providing a platform for realizing Dickinson’s vision for science education and research. Planning for the new building was a collaborative process, said Dusty Rhoads, project architect, “that had everyone at the table sharing ideas and embracing the best ideas.”

A seven-member team from Rhoads’ firm, the internationally recognized Zimmer, Gunsul, Frasca Partnership, has been working with a team of Dickinson faculty, students and administrators to plan the science complex.

“The new building will be fresh and modern, while building elements such as sloped roofs and limestone reflect the existing character of the campus,” Rhoads added. “Texture, color and the playful use of materials will humanize and add richness to the interiors.”

Besides interdisciplinary teaching laboratories and classrooms, research and animal-research facilities, the building will contain a social commons and interactive space. These will allow for displays showcasing how science and contemporary society intersect.

Videoconferencing technology planned for the building will enable students studying at Dickinson’s science-oriented study-abroad sites in Norwich, England, and Queensland, Australia, to interact with the science faculty at the home campus.

Walt Chromiak, associate provost and shepherd of the building project, envisions the new facility as an inviting venue in which to hold special events, such as the annual science dinner, Joseph Priestley Award presentation and keynote lecture, math-workshop conferences and poster sessions that celebrate what is occurring in student research. “We’ll be able to highlight science at Dickinson as never before,” he noted.

The building also will showcase Dickinson’s environmental stewardship through sustainable design. The college will seek a silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, which signifies a green building.

Among the decisions made for environmental reasons were shifting the building west to save two large trees, a horse chestnut and a linden; designing the building with lots of glass to utilize natural light; using recycled materials; and employing shading devices on the south wall and a heat wheel that recovers heat from air that will be vented out of the building.

“The goal is to fund the building entirely through private support,” said Donald Hasseltine, vice president for development. “We have made great progress, securing more than 50 percent of the cost of the building. But our ability to fulfill this dream for the college will depend upon finding an additional $19 million.”


Members of the team from Zimmer, Gunsul, Frasca Partnership stand in the area that will contain the main entrance to the new building. In the background is the James Center, which will be razed. From left: Maria Antonis, project architect; Dusty Rhoads, partner; and Rachel Siegel, project designer.

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