New Science Facilities At Baylor University: A Faculty Perspective -- Dr. Marianna Busch

May 21, 2002

by Lori Scott Fogleman

The groundbreaking on the Baylor Sciences Building May 17 included a faculty perspective on the university's 10-year vision and the impact the sciences building will have on Baylor. Below are the remarks of Dr. Marianna A. Busch, professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry, who has been on the Baylor faculty since 1977.

From a faculty perspective, the new science building provides the facilities we absolutely need if the science departments are to help in achieving Baylor's 10-year vision. This new Vision will take the university to the next higher level, and by 2012 we see ourselves taking our place beside such top tier American universities as Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Duke.

When I served on the steering committee for the 1984-86 self-study, new science facilities figured prominently on the agenda. Now a dream of the 80s has become the reality of a new millennium -- in a way that far exceeds any expectations that arose from this early self study. Who in the 1980s could have conceived of a $103 million, four-story, 500,000-square-foot structure that brings together departments from two buildings that were completed when Baylor was half its present size? For that matter, who in the 1980s could have predicted how science would change in only 15 years and how these changes would affect teaching and research?

Science faculty today are confronted with a myriad of changes that directly affect their ability to offer a quality, competitive teaching program to their students. For example, advances in science have occurred and continue to occur so rapidly, that it is no longer possible for any one individual to teach well in all areas of his or her own discipline, even at the undergraduate level. Good science teaching now requires staffing by many more faculty in a much greater variety of subdisciplines. Faculty must also make a determined effort to remain current in their fields.

Experience has shown that the best way to remain current is to conduct original research -- in partnership with students and other faculty. Contributing to new discoveries in science with others creates an atmosphere of excitement that is both stimulating and infectious. Science faculty have long recognized that research with students is the highest form of teaching, a form in which critical thinking skills, logic, good judgment, creativity, writing, oral expression and the ability to develop strategy are all reinforced, along with basic scientific principles. The new building will house modern, up-to-date laboratories that provide the increased space needed for more faculty and the improved facilities needed to carry out modern scientific research at a level needed to achieve top tier status. Baylor science faculty will now have more opportunity to remain teacher-scholars throughout their professional careers, and students -- even at the undergraduate level -- will have the opportunity to experience the joy and excitement of doing real, hands-on science.

The new building will also provide modern classrooms where teaching and learning can take place using the latest developments in electronic technology. This will include instructional computer programs, computer simulations, access to the World Wide Web and multimedia presentations. However, studies have also shown that some of the best student learning now takes place outside the classroom, not in isolation, but in groups. The new building will provide a variety of interaction spaces and meeting areas outside the classroom where faculty and students can engage in conversation, and students can study and work together to facilitate learning in an informal environment.

Boundaries between the different science disciplines, once clearly defined are now blurred, and new areas that bridge several traditional disciplines are increasingly important. By housing more than one discipline under the same roof, the new science building provides more opportunities for interdisciplinary research and teaching. Faculty can now envision possibilities for more team-taught courses and more interaction between research groups in diverse, yet related areas. Interdisciplinary centers housed in the new building will focus on current areas of research and teaching where the interests of the science disciplines intersect. Students who participate in these centers will learn how the sciences reinforce each other and how research is conducted as a team. This is excellent training for the real world of work, where career skills involving cooperation and team effort provide important keys to success.

Instrumentation has always been an important part of scientific research at an advanced level, but today, hand-on experience with instrumentation costing thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars is absolutely required for modern teaching and program accreditation, even at the undergraduate level. The new building will provide important core facilities where expensive, but essential instrumentation can be shared by several departments and used for both formal teaching and student research.

New facilities, new instrumentation, enhanced opportunities for teaching and research -- these will all help to attract world-class faculty and the brightest, most enthusiastic students. The building opens a new era for the sciences at Baylor. The science faculty are proud to be a part of the Baylor 2012 Vision. We look forward to enhancing programs that will provide the highest quality educational experience to students at all levels, to attracting some of the world's preeminent scientists, to developing learning centers for those who wish to participate in both established and newly emerging fields of scientific research, and to making Baylor University not only a top-tier university in this country, but the foremost Protestant university in the world.

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