Science Community Anticipates New Ho Center

Nancy Ng

“Lathrop is a hundred years old and the last time that it was renovated was over 30 years ago,” Professor of Geology Charles McClennen said, lifting the rug in his office to reveal cracks on the floor.

“See, what they do is fill in the holes so I could roll around in my chair and not fall through the holes,” McClennen joked.

Once it is complete, the Robert H. N. Ho Science Center will become the new home of the departments currently housed in Lathrop Hall. The labs in both Wynn Hall and Olin Hall will retain their function and will be connected to the new science center by underground connectors, but Lathrop will undergo light renovation and will be converted for other uses to be determined over the course of the year.

“The new building will be 120,000 square feet, which is two and a half times the size of Colgate’s normal academic buildings,” Vice President for Administration Mark Spiro said. “We are providing space for three additional faculty and future expansion, but the reason for this considerable increase in size is that much better laboratory spaces are needed.

“The existing laboratories in Lathrop are under-ventilated, not clean and, frankly, they were not designed to support modern research instrumentation. We needed a lot more square footage to provide university-level research capabilities.”

In addition to holding the departments currently housed in Lathrop, the Ho Science Center was designed to give Colgate’s science students the competitive edge they will need to meet the research challenges of the 21st century.

“The science faculty was able to contribute significant input to the building’s design,” McClennen said. “Each department chair sat on a committee to figure out what their needs were, made lists of every space and figured out their dimensions and layout.”

Among the important new features will be a special Clean Room of less than 10,000 dust particles per cubic meter that will enable researchers to work at the nanotechnology level. Also installed will be a five-chamber greenhouse, each with different climatic capabilities ranging from dry desert to subtropical conditions.

Another key addition is a visualization laboratory capable of projecting images into virtual three-dimensions onto a dome. Using this laboratory as a visual teaching tool, instructors will be able to project images of complex molecular structures, astronomical objects and famous architectural features to further reinforce student understanding of academic lessons.

“Only a few other universities in the country possess such technology, so this is a real competitive advantage for Colgate,” Spiro said. “The new features in the Ho Science Center will provide Colgate with university-level research capabilities that few if any liberal arts institutions have.”

Intrinsic to the building’s interior design is its use of open space and glass that make its floors seem interconnected. One of the spaces that best features this concept is the two-story atrium that will function as a common area for students and faculty to interact.

“First generation buildings include all disciplines but they are all segregated,” Spiro said.

“Ho Science Center will be a second generation interdisciplinary science building and the best way to describe that is if you put each lab on a playing card and the faculty offices on a playing card, then shuffle the deck, you get a very integrated building in terms of spatial arrangement. This enables faculty and students from different disciplines to work more closely together than they normally would.”

Designs and diagrams of the building are available on the Colgate website under “Capital Projects” in the About Colgate project. There are text and links to architectural images as well as live webcams from three locations.

“In that way one can sit inside and experience the thrill of watching the building of the foundation forms and of concrete truck traffic on a good day,” McClennen said.

For Colgate science students, the new building is a source of great excitement. “The science center seems like it will be a great addition to campus,” sophomore chemistry major Dave Calabrese said. “I anticipate that I’ll be spending a lot of time there.”

Currently, construction of the center is in its beginning stages. Excavation has recently been completed and the pouring of the concrete has just begun. Erection of the steel structure is anticipated to take place in March and the eagerly awaited completion is still scheduled for July 2007.