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Cover of Summer 2006 Issue

Well Worth The Wait
A New Science Center at Longwood University Opens with Great Fanfare and High Expectations

Kent Booty, Associate Editor

It took almost seven years to the day for Longwood's New Science Center to go from the planning stages to one of the finest facilities anywhere.

Science CenterThe four-story, 70,822-square foot building, near the corner of High Street and Griffin Boulevard, opened for the spring semester. The facility, called the most complex building that Longwood has ever built, replaces Stevens Hall, built in 1951. Its state-of-the-art educational technology will enable the science program to provide students with greatly expanded research opportunities.

“This facility means that faculty will have the opportunity to do our jobs as educators and research scientists more efficiently,” says Dr. Michelle Parry, chair of the Department of Natural Sciences. “For example, we will no longer have to reserve a computer on wheels, or COW as we fondly refer to them, each time we want to show a PowerPoint presentation during a lecture. We will be able to walk into any classroom and use the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art technology for instructing our students. We will no longer have to conduct research projects in the corner of our teaching labs, our offices, or, in my case, in my garage at home.”

Each lecture room and teaching lab has a “sympodium,” an interactive pen display that doubles as a computer monitor and A/V control panel. Using a pen, an instructor can write on any application, take notes, or just highlight information, all of which is projected onto a screen. Other technology amenities include:

  • Eleven teaching labs have cameras mounted over the student experiment tables, which can be selected by the instructor and projected onto the screen. The cameras can pan, zoom, and rotate. Each table has AC power and network connectivity.

  • Each of the teaching labs and the 14 research labs has a “flex camera,” which can be plugged into a computer from a USB connection to take photographs and video, which can then be edited and recorded onto DVD or CD. A built-in microphone enables audio to be recorded also. In addition to the flex cameras in the labs, students have access to 12 additional flex cameras, which can be hooked to their laptops.

  • A Geographic Information Sciences lab with 16 computers with 19-inch flat screen monitors to run cartographic, remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) software, three printers and a large-format scanner. Thanks to the lab, a GIS course was taught at Longwood for the first time in the spring semester.

  • A computer room with 24 computers and software specifically for the sciences, as well as general software.

  • Some 28 miles of network cabling, 768 network connections and 47 wireless connectivity access points, and more than nine miles of telephone wiring.

  • A sophisticated heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system that works in conjunction with the fume hoods and exhaust systems in the labs.
Dr. David W. Buckalew, associate professor of biology, at right, center, conducts lab in the new Science Center.
Dr. David W. Buckalew, associate professor of biology, at right, center, conducts lab in the new Science Center.

The T-shaped brick building has a rooftop greenhouse overlooking Wheeler Mall, and directly underneath the greenhouse are faculty and student lounges on the third floor and a balcony area on the second floor. The High Street entrance features a curved façade of glass panels behind six brick pillars. There are 18 lecture rooms (one holds 96 students) and teaching labs, 14 research spaces and 36 faculty offices.

The science center was officially opened last Dec. 6 in a ceremony in which Longwood dignitaries cut a ceremonial ribbon that consisted of a 16-foot-long model of a portion of the DNA double helix. The model was designed by two members of the science faculty, Dr. Consuelo Alvarez and her husband, Dr. Gary Lutz. The dedication festivities included a talk a few hours earlier by psychic investigator James Randi, who spoke to a full house in Jarman.

“As you know, we have been waiting for this moment for a very long time,” Longwood President Patricia Cormier told the audience just before the ribbon-cutting. “What you probably do not know is how long we have been waiting – seven years on December 18, to be exact, through two governors and now a governor-elect. It was Governor Jim Gilmore’s December 18, 1998 budget that provided the planning money for this building. We then went through several years of uncertainty as to how much money would be provided for the construction and what revenue source would be used.”

A long time coming, perhaps, but everyone seems to agree that the new Science Center was well worth the wait.