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New Science Center Proposed

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    "The ultimate benefit of the research we do in our labs is not only measured by the results we generate from our experiments, but by the interest the lab experience sparks in these young individuals to go out, advance their education and make discoveries that will benefit us all." ~ Martin Gonzalez, associate professor of biology
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Our plan is to create a new science center to house multiple teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, offices and multidisciplinary gathering spaces.

Southwestern’s highest priority is to create an exemplary undergraduate science facility, which will foster an inclusive and cross-disciplinary community and will enhance Southwestern’s tradition of excellence in science education. 

Sciences at Southwestern

Our plan is to create a new science center to house multiple teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, offices and multidisciplinary gathering spaces.

The result? A new building transformed by space, light, technology and movement to illuminate the essential role the sciences play at Southwestern and in society at large.

The $24 million project will integrate the building with the rest of the academic mall and strengthen the Southwestern educational experience for all students.

Today’s teacher-scholars expect to work side-by-side with students on a wide variety of research projects. The increased number of students interested in collaborative research requires the creation and continual renewal of laboratories and working spaces.

At Southwestern, science students have research experiences typically available only to graduate students at larger research universities, and three quarters of our graduates who have applied to medical, dental and veterinary school over the past 15 years have been admitted.

Southwestern University’s location in Georgetown and Williamson County positions it well for participation in the rapid growth of the health care and health care education sectors in our region. Faculty and students are already partnering with the Texas Life Sciences Commercialization Center to bring innovative biotechnology products to the marketplace.

In Houston, Southwestern students are working in the labs at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute along side world-class scientists.

The new facility will be a place where future physicians, researchers and teachers are led by committed faculty in the ongoing quest for knowledge and understanding.

More than 40 percent of all Southwestern applicants express interest in our science programs and about one in five students majors in one of the natural sciences, making Fondren-Jones Science Hall the second most used academic building on campus. Built in 1954, Fondren Science Hall was renamed Fondren-Jones Science Hall in the early 80s when renovations were completed with the support of Houston Endowment. A wing constructed in 1999 added laboratories, offices and classrooms. While our science facility is structurally sound, it has not been updated in more than a decade (some areas in 50+ years). Today’s strong student/faculty research program requires additional and more sophisticated laboratory spaces, along with up-to-date science equipment. Southwestern is creating a science community that bridges disciplines and prepares students for science in the 21st century.

Southwestern’s teacher scholars sustain active research programs while maintaining a full teaching load, dedicating considerable energy to research strategies and project design that make it possible for students to participate as true collaborators. As researchers, co-authors of papers in peer reviewed scientific journals, and presenters at regional and national professional conferences, Southwestern students gain experience that is more commonly found in graduate school and that prepares them well for graduate and professional study.

Research at Southwestern

The research conducted by Southwestern’s science faculty enlivens and informs their classroom teaching. The following examples just begin to scratch the surface of their scholarly activities/pursuits: Biology: Maria Todd, Maria Cuevas and Rebecca Sheller, Associate Professors of Biology at Southwestern, and two students each year, are studying the effects of elevated versus normal levels of claudin-3 protein (found in the tight junctions that link adjacent cells together and prevent leakage between cellular layers) on cell-to-cell adherence and communication in normal and breast cancer cells. Their research may someday lead to gene therapy for cancer.

Chemistry: Since 1985, the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department has received research grants from the Robert A. Welch Foundation that provide equipment and stipends for students conducting summer research. Welch scholars work closely with the faculty mentor for eight weeks on projects in the areas of medicinal, organic, analytical, environmental, inorganic and biochemistry. Students also have the opportunity to present their results at national meetings. Kinesiology: Scott McLean, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, and his Paideia(R) cohort are working with the Wilco Wellness Alliance–part of the Williamson County Health District–on a program called “Exercise is Medicine,” in which doctors prescribe exercise to their Type II diabetes patients. The students are providing materials for “Fit Kits” for each participant.

Mathematics: Five mathematics majors attended the 6th annual Texas Undergraduate Mathematics Conference in 2010. Students gave talks at the conference on “number bracelets” and on research done during one student’s NASA internship on how to find irregularities in material used in the nose cone of shuttles. Physics: A Southwestern student and an alumnus teamed up with Bill O’Brien, Associate Professor of Physics, on a research project conducted in the Juneau Icefield in Alaska. Their results may help researchers in remote areas of the world by making more power available to those using solar energy to power their instruments.

Computer Science: In Spring 2010, Associate Professor of Computer Science Suzanne Buchele worked with one of her students on his honors thesis titled, “The Development of the Windows Easy Language Shell (WELSH).” Her student was one of only three accepted to present a paper at the Consortium for Computer Sciences in Colleges South Central Regional conference in Austin.

The new Science Center will finally provide the infrastructure and equipment to properly support the dynamic scientific scholarship of faculty and students at Southwestern.