University News

New Metcalf dedicated as space for collaboration

By
Science Editor
Monday, February 13, 2012

Members of the Brown community gathered Friday evening to rededicate the Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory, the new home of the department of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, which underwent a $42 million renovation over the past year and a half.

Corporation Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 opened the event by formally rededicating the building and thanking the donors, architects and University supporters behind the renovation. “It’s just an absolutely magnificent and brilliant piece of work,” he said.

The University had originally planned to build a new brain science building but, in the wake of the recent recession, decided instead to renovate the Metcalf complex. The CLPS department was relocated to Wayland Square during the renovation and moved back into Metcalf last October. The renovated building opened for classes in January.

“It’s hard to believe that it was just a few years ago that this space was considered to be the worst classroom on campus,” said CLPS department chair William Heindel, speaking to an audience of Corporation officials, donors and department members in the Metcalf Auditorium.

Heindel also spoke about the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the CLPS department, which was formed in 2010 as a merger between the department of cognitive and linguistic sciences and the department of psychology. By placing faculty offices arbitrarily throughout the building, for instance, the department hopes to encourage collaboration.

The ceremony included video footage of Metcalf prior to the renovation, which some faculty members said had changed little since the building’s construction in the 1920s. Labs in the basement, for instance, used to flood several times per year. The video also highlighted features of the renovated building, such as the virtual reality lab, the MacDougald Family Library and the glass “dome room” used for department meetings.

Following the video presentation, Associate Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Michael Frank presented an example of interdisciplinary research being done in the department. Frank’s current research examines uncertainty in decision-making and is an example of neurogenocomputomics ­— the intersection of neuroscience, genetics, computer science and behavioral economics.

President Ruth Simmons called the new building’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration “a perfect example of the Plan for Academic Enrichment in action.”

“Brown is entering a new era of achievement in mind, brain and behavioral sciences, and this state-of-the-art facility will play a dynamic role in nurturing that success,” she said.

Simmons also thanked donors who supported the renovation. “We can so easily forget what it takes to build a university,” Simmons said. “This is evidence of what we need to do over and over again to keep this place flourishing.”