The Department of Natural Science moved into our new home in the center during the summer of 2001 and we continue to find new and exciting ways to make teaching and learning in the sciences a rewarding experience both for our students and for our faculty and staff.
As you enter the front doors, you find the 99-seat multi-media teaching auditorium immediately on the right. This is a wonderful teaching space that is the envy of the entire University. Comfortable seats and plenty of working space allow students to be actively involved in the classroom activities. Excellent acoustics make it easy to teach and be heard. Each student station has both power and data connections for rapid internet access so that notes and graphics can be provided easily to students. A multi-media presentation center and projection system allows audio-video presentations from any source an instructor might wish to use. Students are encouraged to learn presentation skills even from their very first science courses.
Leaving the auditorium, you walk down the hall to the suite of laboratories dedicated to molecular and cell biology. In these laboratories, students in "mol/cell" biology learn the biotechnology of growing cells in culture media and of making measurements on those cells to learn the chemistry and biology taking place in isolate cell populations. Laboratory work in this field forms the foundation of present-day biotechnology and prepares students for what is happening in forensics, DNA and cell biology research laboratories. It also teaches students foundational biology at the cell level needed to understand how the whole body functions during health and how drugs act to help cure illness.
In the molecular and cell biology laboratories you begin to see a theme around which the facility is built: Every laboratory accommodates no more than 24 students and every student has all the necessary equipment at each station. There are no graduate student teaching assistants at DeSales University. Every laboratory section is taught directly by the major professor who teaches the lectures. By keeping the laboratory sections small, and by providing hands-on laboratory experiences at each station, we make sure that each student gets the individual attention she or he needs to have the best opportunity to succeed in the sciences. Our students work hard at their science courses. And they do so with the help of professors who are working equally hard with them.
Across the hall from the "mol/cell" suite are three dedicated laboratory spaces in which students who are conducting their senior research activities can set up and carry out their projects. Once again, we find students working one-on-one with faculty, but now in a much closer mentoring relationship in which experienced research faculty provide students a guiding hand to help them learn the ins and outs of scientific research.
Further down the first floor hallway are two more biology teaching laboratories, one designed mainly for microbiology; the other for anatomy and physiology. Once again, each lab has only 24 stations, keeping the sections small and individual attention high. Each of these laboratories has two large television monitors which are linked so that every student has a clear view of the material being demonstrated. In addition to videotape, these monitors can display slide material under a microscope, the video output from ultrasound or clinical monitors, and the output from computer screens. Each station in these laboratories also has power and data connectors like those in the auditorium so that students can bring laptop computers for video and text work in the laboratory.
Across from these two laboratories are five faculty offices used by the biology faculty. As you visit, you find that nearly every door is propped open and the professor is either in the office or nearby in one of the labs. Our faculty spend a huge amount of time available to students. Teaching is our principal calling, and we do it well.
You can get to the second floor either up the stairs or via the elevator. The entire building is easily accessible to those who have disabilities.
At the top of the stairs is the room with the best view on campus - the environmental biology laboratory. Specimens of the wide variety of living organisms are available in this laboratory as well as the equipment to be able to study them both in the laboratory and in their native habitat. This area also boasts two growth chambers which provide a controlled environment for studying various effects on plant growth. These are used not only for student and professional research but also for class work as well.
Most of the laboratory space on this floor is dedicated to chemistry laboratories and you will find three 24-student labs designed for the three principal aspects of chemistry. The first laboratory you encounter is used for general and introductory chemistry and has the equipment and structure you would expect in a modern teaching laboratory. The second laboratory is designed for teaching analytical and physical chemistry and offers wide bench areas for the complex glassware and analytical instrumentation used in these labs. The third lab is used for teaching organic chemistry and provides a large working hood for each pair of students in the lab. Between the general and analytical labs is a spacious balance room which gives access to 12 new analytical balances for students working in both laboratories.
Safety is a major feature of the chemistry area and all labs are equipped with eyewash stations, fire suppression equipment and deluge showers. In addition, the air exchange in the labs is carefully controlled and monitored so that any fumes generated in the laboratory work are immediately removed from the lab to the outside and never enter the other areas of the building.
Students in the chemistry program have access to some of the most modern analytical equipment available. A recent grant enabled the purchase of a 60 MHZ magnetic resonance spectrum analyzer which sits in its own dedicated space between the analytical and organic laboratories. Across the hall is a busy instrumental analysis lab with a gas chromatograph / mass spectrometer, several spectrophotometers operating in the infrared and ultraviolet as well as visible wavelengths, an atomic absorption spectrophotometer, and both gas and liquid chromatographs.
Student laboratory experiences are intentionally designed to ensure that they actually work "hands-on" with this equipment and learn its operation rather than merely watching or reading about it. Our small numbers and close relationship between faculty and students make this an easy and natural process.
As you continue your tour, you also find on the second floor, a well-equipped Human Performance Laboratory. This facility allows research and teaching in the area of human physiology related to exercise and performance stress. It serves students in the Sport and Exercise Science Program as a learning laboratory. It also provides research space for students with an interest in the field, and is a testing laboratory serving our Bulldog athletes to help them achieve their best performance. Metabolic, stress EKG, joint strength, and blood metabolite analysis permit a wide range of physiological tests on human subjects to help assess their performance state and capability.
Continuing on down the hallway you see the physics laboratory, again continuing the theme of 24 student stations. This spacious laboratory boasts large work surfaces and storage spaces needed for the variety of physics experiments and demonstrations done by the students over the course of the two-semester physics program. When not being used as a physics laboratory it also serves as an ideal small-group teaching space for problem solving and recitations.
Across the hall from the physics lab is a comfortable conference room which is used for department gatherings and for small group student presentations and meetings. And in the atrium space at the end of this hallway, overlooking the building entrance through large picture windows is a student lounge equipped with comfortable chairs, sofas, and tables. During any time of the day or evening, you will find this area filled with students studying, having a bite to eat, and simply enjoying "hanging out" together.
We hope you enjoyed this tour of our new home. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful teaching and laboratory facility. But we also know that it's the quality of the students we bring here and the work we put into our teaching that fully bring the building to life. We hope that you will come and be part of that important process !!