Center for the Sciences Building
Pierce's new complex, set to open in late spring, will be home to life sciences, chemistry, physics and planetary science, veterinary technology and nursing
The new Center for the Sciences Building may just be that something.
After nine years of planning, designing and construction, the $57 million structure, highlighted by an eye-catching planetarium dome, is scheduled to open in the late spring.
"After working on it all these years," said James Rikel, professor of life sciences at Pierce, "it will be wonderful to have this huge task finally done."
The complex will house the departments of life sciences, chemistry, physics and planetary science, veterinary technology and nursing. The science center is among about 85 new structures going up on L.A. Community College District campuses as part of the Sustainable Building Program.
The Pierce project, which encompasses an area of more than 100,000 square feet, will have a two-story building that looks out on a courtyard and a secondary structure that will house the veterinary group
State-of-the-art technology will be found throughout the complex, which will consist of six separate sections containing 22 labs and six lecture rooms along with the planetarium. With a faculty of 40 along with part-time technicians, the facility will be used by 3,000 to 4,000 students.
Highlights of the project include:
- Physics and planetary science
The planetarium will be capable of projecting computer-generated digital images on its ceiling and can receive materials from such sources as NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Through the use of photography and animation, students will be able to take a visual journey to the moon and the outer planets.
"They will be able to look back at the earth from the perspective of the moon," Rikel said, &ldqu;or go back in time to see what the sky looked like a hundred years ago."
Telescopes will be situated on a large deck outside the planetarium.
- Chemistry department
It will have a computer-based lab that can access materials generated by sophisticated -- and expensive -- devices at other colleges and universities.
- Life sciences
It will have a room specifically built for its human cadaver program, as well as an animal dissection room.
"It will be a chance to study the horses, goats and cows we have on our farm when these animals pass away," Rikel said. "They will be frozen for future dissection. It's an opportunity for pre-vet students to better experience large-animal anatomy."
Computer-driven mannequins will simulate medical problems students must learn to solve. Students will have high-tech devices available for those sessions.
- Veterinary clinic
"It will serve as a small veterinary hospital," Rikel said, "a place where people can bring pets for vaccinations and medical issues on the weekend, but, at the same time, a place to teach students."
Each of the sections will be unique.
"All of the lectures labs in our building will be highly specialized for their function, designed and built for that particular discipline," Rikel said.
All of the departments will have more space than they currently enjoy, a luxury especially appreciated by the veterinary and nursing sections because they are currently operating in inadequate conditions, Rikel said.
"They will finally get enough space to effectively run their programs," he said.
The concept that most excites Rikel is that all these departments will now be in one place.
"Right now, they are spread out in separate buildings that are not very close to one another," he said. "One of the biggest changes with this new facility is that faculty members will be able to see each other on a regular basis. The academic communication will be vastly improved."
"Our science faculties were already leaders in their fields," said Dr. Joy McCaslin, interim president of Pierce, "but now, this allows them to all be together."
Though the building is scheduled to open in mid-May, the first classes won't convene there until the fall semester, Rikel said.
Once the doors are open, Rikel has no doubt students will be anxious to get in.
"The demand will be much higher than our ability to accommodate them," Rikel said. "For example, my anatomy class this past semester had 114 students who wanted to add it, but it has a limit of 36. Even with the new buildings, even though we will be prepared to do a lot more, to be able to serve more students, we will have to have a bigger budget."
No argument from McCaslin.
"Our student population has doubled in the last decade, from 12,000 to 24,000," she said. "Now we have the buildings to put them in, but we still have a difficult budget situation."