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October 21, 2002

Math & Science Center enjoys grand opening

By Michael Terrazas

The sky used to be the limit for math and science students at Emory. Not anymore—with the opening of the Math & Science Center, now they can aim for the heavens.

Officially dedicated in an Oct. 8 ceremony, the $40 million, 138,000-square-foot facility will provide lavish new accommodations for three Emory College departments (environmental studies, math and computer science, and physics) and could give University students a few new options for their academic careers.

“There is no question that this is a tremendous addition to the college,” said interim Dean Bobby Paul at the ceremony. “This will allow teaching and research that has never before been possible.”

The dedication began a few minutes later than scheduled, partly because President Bill Chace was somewhat tardy.

“I was late,” Chace explained, “because this building is beguiling and seductive—I wandered into the planetarium, sat down, and found myself suddenly in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The president was referring to one of the Math & Science Center’s more high-profile features, a 60-seat planetarium, complemented by a 5-foot-long, 24-inch-diameter rooftop Zeiss telescope, capable of piercing through the bright Atlanta night sky and into space. Physics chair Ray DuVarney said the two state-of-the-art amenities could allow the department to offer for the first time degrees in astrophysics and astronomy.

The other two departments may not be getting new toys as sexy as the telescope and planetarium, but they do get signficant upgrades in research and teaching spaces equipped with the latest in “smart classroom” technology. Such a typical 40-seat classroom features a smart lectern outfitted with a dedicated computer, VCR, DVD and CD players, a document camera for overhead images and cable TV—all linked to the large viewing screen in front. Student desk spaces all have power and network connections for laptops.

“For the first time in the history of our department, we have spaces designed specifically for our teaching and research needs, with all the necessary supporting technology,” said math and computer science chair Dwight Duffus.

Interdisciplinary support and collegiality was on the mind of everyone who spoke at the building’s dedication; placed in such proximity to each other, the three departments will have plenty of opportunity for intellectual cross-fertilization.

“The center is going to make science very different at Emory,” Paul said. “By housing the departments together, the synergy among the disciplines will allow new opportunities to emerge that will provide a better education for students and foster even more creative research ideas.”

Indeed, the building itself is an exercise in all three disciplines; mathematics and physics, of course, are represented in the architecture and construction, but the Math & Science Center is on course to become Emory’s second LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified facility by the U.S. Green Building Council. Earlier this fall, the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building became the first structure in the Southeast to receive LEED certification.

A variety of factors will figure into the Math & Science Center’s possible LEED certification, but a few include:

• a 90 percent reduction in construction waste sent to landfill.

• a closed-loop water cooling system that will reduce water use by 69 percent, or 2.8
million gallons per year.

• a storm water retention vault for irrigation.

• motion sensors in nearly every room that automatically adjust air conditioning and lighting when rooms are unoccupied. Numerous and large windows allow for maximum use of natural light.

• custodial closets and copy rooms that are separately ventilated to prevent fumes from contaminating air quality in the rest of the building.

• seven showers for use by bicycle commuters, along with recycling stations on every floor and waterless urinals in some men’s bathrooms.

Environmental studies faculty member John Wegner served on the building’s planning committee, and the facility has environmental lab components such as an outdoor teaching space that features a solar-powered meteorological station.

“Our highest aspiration is to foster the imagination and creativity that our students will need to attack and deal with environmental issues,” said environmental studies chair Lance Gunderson. “The building finally brings us all together and provides us with much-needed space for teaching and research, which will serve us well as a recruitment tool to attract students and faculty to our program.”