After months of construction at the Sciences Library, the third-floor science center will open Friday at 9 a.m.
While finishing touches like the installation of smartboards remain, students can begin holding group study sessions and taking advantage of advising in the space. The 4,000 square-foot facility, which will have a grand opening in March, features study space conference rooms and a laboratory dedicated to developing outreach projects.
"The science center is unique in that it treats science education as one entity," said David Targan '78, associate dean of the College for science education.
The center will equally serve faculty and students, whether they are science concentrators or not, Targan said.
"We're trying to encourage all students to take advantage," Targan said. Non-science students can consult with faculty about appropriate science courses or can learn about outreach opportunities, he said.
The outreach program did not have a home before the science center was proposed. Outreach programs managed by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Jennifer Aizenman and Assistant Professor of Engineering Karen Haberstroh will now be housed at the center, Aizenman told The Herald.
Outreach is relevant to the majority of faculty members at Brown, Targan said.
"Many faculty are interested in or required to do outreach," Targan said. Though an outreach component is required by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Targan said that Brown outreach would have happened without the mandate. "Most were going to do it anyway," he said.
Aizenman works with Project ARISE, a program for local high school biology teachers. She also runs a mobile lab program that takes lab-based lesson plans to nearby schools. Haberstroh works with Physical Processes in Environment, a program for teachers at all grade levels.
Information about alternative outreach programs will also be available at the center. "The science center is intended to pull together all the different outreach activities, coordinate the efforts, and align the programs," Aizenman said.
Targan said high school teachers could use the outreach lab to actually do science and "advance professional development." The 46 participating teachers have already used the lab to isolate DNA and will use bioinformatics to analyze it this weekend.
"The science center serves as a resource for us to make our outreach more visible," Aizenman said.
Though group study space has existed in J. Walter Wilson, Targan said the science center is the third location for the Advising Central concept.
Professor of Geological Sciences Jan Tullis, a member of the Science Center Advisory Board, said she hopes students will be motivated to explore the sciences.
"I'm a total believer that we shouldn't have a science distribution requirement," she said.
"Students should take our classes because they really want to." Tullis said that the center is a part of an overall effort to improve the quality of advising and make science "collaborative, friendly, encouraging."
Five professors will hold office hours at the Center, Tullis said.
The project could be repeated on the fourth floor of the SciLi, as the growing use of electronic resources causes more shelf space to open up, but "not any time soon," Targan said. "We'll play it by ear and see what the demand is," he said.
The bulk of the "several million" dollar cost of the science center went towards a heating system that can serve the remaining floors of the library, Targan said.
Targan said the center's flat-screen televisions and smartboards are part of an initiative to bring new technologies to science education. Touch-screen controls for the screens are "unbelievably easy," but the smartboards may require a learning curve, Targan said.
The science center is also the pilot space for a new online reservation system that allows students to see who is occupying available rooms at an given time. For now, reservations must be made manually.
"Our idea is to make it immediately responsive and maximize the usage of the space," Targan said.
Targan said he's sure the space will prove popular.
"I can already see the need for more space," Aizenman said.