A Signature 21st Century Interdisciplinary Science Complex
New Fields, New Teaching, New Discoveries
Dickinson College is poised for major accomplishment in undergraduate science. It is a chance not to be missed. We intend to construct a signature interdisciplinary science complex that defines a new standard for science at liberal arts colleges and supports our visionary, nationally-recognized science program. Our faculty has identified the disciplines most likely to yield new knowledge from interdisciplinary collaboration, possesses the vision for leadership, and is eager for this opportunity. The complex will accelerate immediately the College's pioneering work in biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, bioinformatics, chemistry and psychology.
Through our program, and by extension, the architectural design of the complex itself, we will assert the centrality of science in a distinctively American liberal arts education and, specifically, the centrality of the sciences to the mission of Dickinson College . Already the most talented students in the nation are being attracted to the College because of the reputation of our faculty and their own ambition to solve health, environmental and technological challenges facing humanity
Science at Dickinson
Traditionally, undergraduate science, especially at the introductory level, has been taught in large lecture classes, with set-piece labs, and strictly by separate disciplines. Science in the real world, however, emphasizes creative thinking and crossing of disciplinary boundaries to solve problems. The current passive “one-dimensional” science education in the United States at both the pre-collegiate and collegiate level is inadequate to prepare students for a “three-dimensional” world.
Dickinson has been a leader in the national movement to revolutionize science education. We have developed a new, active, multi-dimensional curriculum. The three key characteristics of this curriculum are:
1. Interdisciplinarity — the creation of cutting edge, new fields that bring existing disciplines and methods into combination. These include, for Dickinson:
• Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: currently our fastest growing major, this field combines biology and chemistry in particular;
• Neuroscience: an exciting new major as of 2005 that combines biology, chemistry and psychology;
• Bioinformatics: a new field created through the application of computer science to biology. Our bioinformatics initiative (not a major) explores the applications of technology in biology and across all the sciences. Originally funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the initiative is now led by the Jack and Inge Stafford Endowed Professor in Bioinformatics;
• Nanoscience: Like bioinformatics, this initiative is not a major but an exploration of applications of this new cutting-edge field across undergraduate science education. Our initial effort in nanoscience — best defined as the study of the behavior of matter in a range between the largest biological molecules and the smallest human-made devices — is funded by a grant to Dickinson from the National Science Foundation (NSF); and
• Environmental Studies and Environmental Sciences: the first of the new, interdisciplinary fields in the sciences at Dickinson — introduced in 1975 with full concentrations in 1995 . T hese broad-based majors include work across the sciences and (for Environmental Studies) the humanities and social sciences.
2. Active pedagogy — Dickinson's “workshop” approaches, more engaging labs and fieldwork, and courses organized around themes such as “Understanding Cancer,” “Climate Change,” and “The Geology of Natural Disasters” have transformed the old lecture and set-piece lab model for science courses. In short: new teaching.
3. Inquiry — We assert the critical importance of engaging students early and often as partners in serious, complex scientific research. Student research efforts are guided by a faculty equally motivated by a dual commitment to teaching and mentoring, as well as to conducting first-class research. The goal: new discoveries .
A Science Complex to Match Our Curriculum
The inadequacy of our current facilities in biology, chemistry and psychology is difficult to overstate. Many of the facilities have not seen substantial renovation or updating since they were constructed nearly half a century ago. Moreover these disciplines are housed in disparate locations across campus, making conversation and dialogue difficult. In recent decades, as we have adopted new teaching methods and technologies, our existing facilities have become increasingly outmoded. We simply will not become a leading institution for the 21st century without a fully modern science facility.
We envision a science complex that defines the new standard for science at liberal arts colleges in America . We envision facilities that preserve disciplinary intensity and yet, by their very dedicated design compel cross-disciplinary cooperation. We intend to dismantle the notion of discrete disciplinary space and, instead, meld instruction and research through an “on need-on call” approach. In place of traditional lecture halls, we plan for flexibly structured classrooms and laboratories—reconfigured regularly to reflect the progress of teaching, research and internships. We envision shared space for clusters of faculty and students from various fields working on related projects for short or long terms. We intend a technologically “smart” building that will exploit the emerging possibilities of informatics, connect our discovery space through videoconferencing with that of the laboratories of our partner international universities, and ensure that our students conduct science with global knowledge and sensitivity.
The Science Complex is to be built in three phases, one of which has already been completed.
1. Foundation phase: The Tome Science Building , home to mathematics and computer science and physics and astronomy, constructed to accommodate workshop pedagogy and research-intensive curriculum was completed in 2000.
2. Keystone phase: The heart of the science complex, planning for this phase is almost complete. The keystone phase includes a new science building and the renovation of Althouse Hall. The former will house faculty from biology, chemistry and psychology and our new interdisciplinary programs in neuroscience and biochemistry and molecular biology. The renovated Althouse will be home to environmental studies and geology.
3. Capstone phase: A final, capstone phase of the science complex will be a new building to house those elements of biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and psychology not already in the new facilities. It will embody interdisciplinarity and will include all that we have learned in the first two phases of facility construction. Funding for the capstone phase is not included among the goals of our current capital campaign.
Goal: Construct Interdisciplinary Science Complex Keystone Phase —$30 Million
Back to Goals
Back to The Campaign