Mount Holyoke Celebrates Reopening of Carr Laboratory, Second Phase of Science Center Project

Monday, February 10, 2003 - 12:00


For immediate release
February 10, 2003

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- The reopening of Carr Laboratory, the second phase of the College's $34.5 million science center project, will be celebrated in a ceremony on Monday, February 10, at 5 PM. The ceremony will be held in the Marion Craig Potter '49 Atrium of Kendade Hall, the first phase of the science center, which opened in the fall of 2002.

Carr, which reopened in early January after its eight-month reconstruction, is at the crossroads of the sciences, a place where adjacent labs and offices and shared equipment encourage interactions among faculty and students with overlapping research interests. The remaining phase, the renovation and reconstruction of Shattuck Hall, is to be completed by September. When finished, the center will bring together the departments of astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth and environment, mathematics and statistics, and physics, and MHC's programs in biochemistry and in neuroscience and behavior.

"Our center will encourage and facilitate cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary conversations between and among Mount Holyoke scientists and their students," says Frank DeToma, Professor of Biological Sciences on the Alumnae Foundation and director of the science center. The new floor plan tells the story. On the top floor of Carr, Lilian Hsu, professor of biochemistry, shares a large research lab space with Sean Decatur, associate professor of chemistry. Although in different departments, their research interests are related: Hsu conducts research in transcription, the process by which the information encoded in DNA is copied into RNA, while Decatur specializes in research into how chains of amino acids transform themselves into three-dimensional proteins. Both faculty members are looking forward to the interaction of their students. "We're going to be a lot more connected, with a lot more flow among the labs," Decatur says.

That's only the beginning. Among Hsu's and Decatur's new neighbors are Craig Woodard, associate professor of biological sciences, who studies how steroid hormones control development in the common fruit fly; Amy Frary '90, assistant professor of biological sciences, who looks at the genetic control of quantitative trait variation in plants; and Sarah Bacon '87, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, who uses rats to study why mothers' immune systems do not reject embryos. "It's going to be a very lively research community on this floor," says Hsu. It's a similar story on each of the floors: the ground floor is home to physics, physical chemistry and biochemistry teaching and research labs, while teaching and research labs for general and organic chemistry are found on the lower level.

"I like all this togetherness," says Woodard, "because I think we're going to be exchanging ideas a lot

more." Decatur points out that the building arranges the laboratories in a much more practical and logical fashion, gathering together related facilities that had been spread across floors--or even buildings.

In addition to being spacious, bright, welcoming, and thoroughly up-to-date, Carr's facilities are designed and built to have a minimal impact on the environment. Carr is one of a few campus science buildings built in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria for a "green building," as established by the United States Green Building Council, an international organization that includes representation from construction, environmental, architectural, financial, and manufacturing firms. Some of its environment-friendly features are obvious, such as the pair of showers provided for those who commute by bicycle. Others are more subtle, such as the floor tile of recycled materials, the new-growth wood cabinetry, the energy-efficient windows, the custom-made vent hoods with their energy-saving air valves, and the lighting controlled by motion sensors. The entire building is now temperature-controlled both summer and winter, but individual room thermostats and windows that open provide new ways for energy use to be kept to a minimum. (The air-conditioning will be especially appreciated by Woodard, whose work with transgenic fruit flies can be thrown off by high temperatures.)

When Carr was dedicated in 1955, no one could have foreseen the demands that computer-driven research would place on the infrastructure a half-century later. Those demands have been taken into account in the renovation, with electrical outlets and computer network connections by the score--and provision for adding more. Open ceilings allow access to the building's networks of pipes and cables. The building's greatly increased capacity and flexibility "is really going to increase our ability to be creative with the curriculum," says Decatur.

For the first time, Carr provides for central receiving and storage of chemicals and equipment, and a centralized inventory. DeToma points out that this will save money and help the environment, by allowing researchers to avoid ordering chemicals that are already on the College's shelves.

To say that faculty are eagerly anticipating working in the new Carr would be an understatement. "It's an inspired design," says DeToma. "It's just wonderful! I am very happy," says Hsu. "Every inch is good space."

Who Was Emma Carr?
Emma Perry Carr, born July 23, 1880, in Holmesville, Ohio, was a pioneering physical organic chemist who attended Mount Holyoke from 1900 to 1902. After receiving her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1910, she returned to MHC to teach chemistry, retiring in 1946. In 1937, she became the first recipient of the prestigious Garvan Medal, created to recognize distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists. Carr was a worldwide leader in the use of the ultraviolet spectra of organic molecules as a means of investigating their electronic structures. She led one of the earliest collaborative research groups that involved faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Carr died January 7, 1972, in Evanston, Illinois.

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