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Getting Physical: Putting the Sciences Under One Roof
--Eyeing Kendade: Incorporating Scientific Imagery

Kathryn McMenimen '03 and Her Marvelous Molecule

Going West: MHC Opens Satellite Admission Office in California

Leithauser's Darlington's Fall: "Amazing Merger of Art and Science"

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Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista

FALL 2002 • VOLUME 7, NUMBER 2

By Putting the Sciences Under One Roof,
MHC Is Making Multidisciplinary Education Tangible

BY JANET TOBIN

For the past one hundred years, boundaries between scientific disciplines have been coming down. Discoveries, more and more, are being made on the cusp of fields, as well as at their core. "It's a rare chemist these days who is not aware of recent developments in molecular biology; any physicist worth her salt knows about photosynthesis; any good psychologist is interested in the chemical/biological bases of behavior; and many mathematicians and computer scientists are describing or modeling physical, chemical, and biological phenomena," says Frank DeToma, Professor of Biological Sciences on the Alumnae Foundation. Now some colleges and universities--Mount Holyoke among them--are building "unified" science centers, physical embodiments of multidisciplinary philosophy and practice.

 
 
JIM GIPE
  Kendade Hall

Instead of isolating departments in separate buildings, unified science centers provide adjacent labs and offices and shared equipment for faculty with overlapping research interests and common spaces for students and faculty immersed in varied areas. Kendade Hall, the newly constructed heart of the College's $34.5 million unified science center, opened for business this fall.

Kendade is the first phase of the College's science center to be completed. Its opening comes as good news to Mount Holyoke students, of whom between one-quarter and one-third major in science or mathematics, and to faculty, who are now making use of Kendade's state-of-the-art research and teaching labs and classrooms. Expected to be completed by next fall, the center will bring together, within a complex of buildings, the departments of astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth and environment, mathematics and statistics, and physics, and the College's programs in biochemistry and in neuroscience and behavior.

Integrated and Innovative by Design
Mount Holyoke has been recognized as a leader in developing effective interdisciplinary methods to teach science. In an extraordinary show of support during 1999–2000, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the College five new Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Grants, three for curricular reform in physics, chemistry, and earth and environment, and two for educational materials development. The College was also recognized by the NSF in 1998 for its institution-wide efforts at reforming introductory and core laboratories across the sciences. The science center is the bricks-and-mortar manifestation of the College's curricular approach. "The new center's design was created to reinforce the unity of the sciences and to encourage a physical and pedagogical union across scientific disciplines," says Charles Kirby, managing principal of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (EYP), the project's architects. "The science faculty, students, and administration presented a compelling vision of uniting disparate buildings and creating a heart that would bring energy, vitality, and synergy to the center." Kendade, notes Kirby, "will be on the 'tour' for any college or university planning to build a science center."

A Commitment to the Planet
Mount Holyoke is committed to preserving the Earth for future scientists to explore, and every effort is being made to create a science center that will have as little impact on the environment as possible. Kendade was designed and built to meet 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. The group seeks to speed adoption of green building practices, technologies, policies, and standards. Kirby, whose firm has an emphasis in science and technology and sustainable design and specializes in the design of environments for colleges and universities, praised the College's commitment to environmentally sound building design and construction, calling Mount Holyoke "a leader in this area."

Off the Drawing Board, onto the Quad
Over the summer, Kendade was transformed from a construction zone to a completed facility. Before students arrived, finishing touches were put on its five mediated classrooms, spaces that feature state-of-the-art hardware and software. In these rooms, faculty now control with a click of a button everything from room lights to DVD players and data projector screens. Of special interest to chemists is room 204, an octagonal-shaped mediated classroom that, as of next fall, will feature ten Silicon Graphics computers that run special molecular-visualization software. In August, members of the
physics department became Kendade's first occupants. They now inhabit a light-filled space featuring offices and a common room--complete with a kitchen and views of the building's atrium. Genetics, molecular biology, advanced physics, and optics labs were also completed in August.

Getting Connected--at Rapid Speed
Over the summer, Kendade was equipped with networking electronics that provide access to Internet2, a high-speed research-focused network. A $150,000 grant from the NSF funded the project. Begun in 1996 as a means to enhance information sharing in the national research community, Internet2 is a collaboration of research universities, federal agencies, and communications companies. Because Internet2 has restricted access, it gives educational institutions uncongested pipelines for academic material and opportunities to exploit high-performance network capabilities. Internet2 is giving Professor of Physics Howard Nicholson direct access to the software applications he needs at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. It is enabling Dean of Faculty Donal O'Shea, Elizabeth T. Kennan Professor of Mathematics, to use live medical imaging with colleagues at Yale University to test ideas about automating colon tumor detection. It is helping Thomas Millette, associate professor of geography, disseminate to colleagues at other institutions digital satellite images for a study of the impact of sea-level rise caused by global warming in the Plum Island sound salt marsh. It is expanding collaborations by Associate Professor of Chemistry Sean Decatur with the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, and Los Alamos National Laboratory by allowing him to use real-time remote data collection and analysis.

Kendade Makes Its Debut
Students studying everything from electromagnetic theory to the work of Henry James were among the first to attend classes in Kendade. Those enrolled in Genetics and Molecular Biology, taught by biological sciences faculty Jeffrey Knight and Craig Woodard, were among the pioneers in its new labs. After finishing one of her first experiments in a Kendade lab, Fayza Sohail '05 commented, "The new building is so beautiful that it makes me want to come to lab!" Kendade's spectacular four-story atrium, which has a high-tech, futuristic feel, is already serving as a gathering place for the College community. "I like the way Kendade blends in with the old building on the outside," says Diana Rosenbaum '05. "Then when you walk inside, it's just--wow!"

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood:
A Microcosm of What Unification Is All About
Faculty who were displaced by construction have already seen the benefits that proximity can bring. While Carr Laboratory, home to the College's chemistry department, is being renovated, chemist Decatur is biologist Woodard's new neighbor in Clapp Laboratory, which houses the biological sciences department. Decatur specializes in the study of how protein molecules fold--a biological process that plays a crucial role in energy production, metabolism, and the use of DNA information. His experiments, which apply physical chemistry to the biology of the protein's folding process, transcend the boundaries of biology, chemistry, and physics. Woodard studies how steroid hormones control development in the common fruit fly, a research area that focuses on biochemical processes that fuel growth and development. Metabolism and the use of DNA are also focal points of his work. The two scientists use the same techniques to synthesize and purify the proteins they study, and both perform spectroscopic measurements with the same equipment.

Says Woodard, "Although I had certainly communicated with Sean before he began working near me, I found that when he was close by, we had a level of interaction that wasn't there when he was in another building. We both realize more than ever before how much our research overlaps." Decatur concurs, joking, "In the past, I rarely came out of my lab in the basement except to teach. This summer, I actually talked with Craig in the hallway and in the lab." When the renovated Carr, part of the science center, is completed in January, Decatur and Woodard will become permanent neighbors.

In the Zone
In fact, the top floor of Carr will become a "chemistry/molecular biology zone," says Decatur, who is looking forward to sharing space with "biologists who work at the molecular level and chemists who work at the biological level." These include Amy Frary '90, assistant professor of biological sciences, who looks at the genetic control of quantitative trait variation in plants; Sarah Bacon '87, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, who uses rats to study why mothers' immune systems do not reject embryos; Lilian Hsu, Elizabeth Page Greenawalt Professor of Biochemistry, who conducts research in transcription, the process by which the information encoded in DNA is copied into RNA; and Wei Chen, Mary E. Woolley Assistant Professor of Chemistry, who examines the wetting behavior of solids by placing different liquids in contact with them to control wettability by tailoring surface roughness and chemical structures.

Melding
Kendade's success and experiences such as Decatur's and Woodard's are early indicators that the College is benefiting from pursuing a path of convergence. "Mathematics and the scientific disciplines are melding into one broad, consistent, and mutually reinforcing explanation of the universe and its local occupants," says DeToma, director of the science center. "Our center is a metaphor for these developments. It will encourage and facilitate cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary conversations between and among Mount Holyoke scientists and their students."

The Science of Raising $34.5 Million
Raising funds to create and improve College science facilities is one of the goals of The Campaign for Mount Holyoke College, a fundraising initiative publicly launched by the College in October 1998. The largest gift ever received by the College was made in support of the science center. An anonymous alumna made a pledge of $10 million, funding Kendade Hall. In addition, Marion Craig Potter '49 pledged $5.5 million, also supporting the construction of the science center and representing the second largest single gift in the history of the College.

Eyeing Kendade :
Incorporating Scientific Imagery

By David LaChance

 
  Rachel Fink, associate professor of biological sciences, and Tom Dennis, professor of astronomy, stand on Kendade Hall's out-of-this-world floor.

In the entry portico, a spiral periodic table of the elements assembled from inscribed, hexagonal granite blocks greets visitors. In the balconies of the atrium, images of planets, nerve cells, and a human female karyotype showing all forty-six chromosomes unwind underfoot. And in the atrium's lobby, the floor will bear the signature of the sun, a figure-eight flourish to be traced over the course of a year by a shaft of sunlight entering the building through a lens in its south wall. In Kendade Hall, science refuses to be confined to laboratories and classrooms, spilling out to infuse the entire building with the energy and spirit of scientific inquiry. These visual elements were among the many ideas spawned when the College's science faculty put their creativity to work thinking of ways to incorporate scientific imagery into Kendade and to use the atrium itself as a vehicle for teaching. "I feel it is important to have this imagery be a part of the building," says Rachel Fink, associate professor of biological sciences, who led efforts to generate ideas among faculty members and worked with architects to incorporate those concepts into Kendade. "What we see every day as scientists is so visually stunning that I wanted to relay it."

While looking at plans for Kendade, astronomy professor Tom Dennis noticed that the atrium was of just the right shape and orientation to allow the tracing of the analemma, an elongated figure eight representing the relative motions of the Earth and sun, on its floor. He took his idea to optical designer Mark Gerchman, who designed a lens that will be mounted high in the atrium's southern wall. The lens will project a moving image of the solar disc that will, each day at noon, cross a 100-foot-long analemma marked out on the floor. Dennis has a further plan to mark the local meridian with a 100-foot solar spectrum of sufficient clarity to show the Fraunhofer lines, which indicate the chemical composition of the sun's atmosphere. Dennis notes that analemmas were used in medieval times to mark the holidays and the seasons. "The Kendade analemma adds to this theme of time and calendar the more modern scientific ideas of the sun as a complex and dynamic physical object, and of the quantum mechanical structure of matter," he says. "It should be aesthetically, culturally, and scientifically compelling."

 

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