Posted by William Nunnelley on 2001-10-11

Samford University will dedicate its new $27 million Sciencenter this month with a series of four programs highlighting the sciences and the building's state-of-the-art electronic, audio-visual and wet-lab learning features.

A quartet of noted scientists will deliver lectures and the Samford departments of biology, chemistry and physics will show off the building with demonstrations and exhibitions in the center's planetarium, conservatory and other facilities.

Dr. David Wilkinson of the University of Durham, England, who combines research in theoretical astrophysics with service as a Methodist minister, will deliver the opening lecture Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Samford's Reid Chapel. His topic, "God, Time and Stephen Hawking," is also the title of one of his books, several of which deal with science and religion. He has received both the Chalmers Prize for Theoretical Physics and the Reidel Research prize.

Open house at the Sciencenter, located adjacent to Reid Chapel, will precede Wilkinson's lecture at 6-7:15 p.m.. The public is invited free to all Sciencenter dedication programs.

Other programs scheduled for the dedication period are:

Tuesday, Oct. 23, Dr. Struther Arnott, Haddow professor and senior research fellow, Institute for Cancer Research, London, 7:30 p.m., Reid Chapel. Topic: "Believing Scientists."

Thursday, Oct. 25, Dr. James Duke, herbalist and botanical consultant, Herbal Vineyard, Inc., Fulton, Md., 7:30 p.m., Reid Chapel. Topic: "Tale of Two Gardens."

Friday, Oct. 26, Dr. Kathie Olsen, chief scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., 5 p.m., Sciencenter. Topic: dedicatory address.

The 90,000-square foot Sciencenter features a 100-seat planetarium which is the largest at a teaching institution in Alabama. The planetarium uses a $250,000 projection system, audiovisual equipment and theater-quality sound to create the night sky on its domed ceiling. It is one of only six of its design in the nation.

"The effect is one of total immersion in the universe," said Dr. Tom Tarvin, chair of the Samford physics department. The dedication program will be a 25-minute presentation on the search for water in the solar system.

The Sciencenter also features a 2,000-square foot conservatory divided into three climate zones–desert, tropical and regional. The facility enables the study of medicinal plants found in today's pharmaceutical drugs and herbal supplements.

Various scientific demonstrations are planned for the open house periods including one on the workings of a Foucault Pendulum, a permanent fixture in the Sciencenter lobby.

The new building features extensive lab space in all three departments. The biology department designed its teaching space of 10 labs and three lecture rooms to emphasize hands-on learning.

"Our teaching emphasizes inquiry-based learning with group work and hands-on experimentation," said Dr. Ron Jenkins, biology department chair. "Students learn best when they are the creative ones, rather than merely copying and memorizing class notes."

Another feature of the new building is space dedicated to teaching biochemistry, one of the fastest growing areas of current scientific research.

The Sciencenter opened this fall after two years in the construction process. It marks "a burst of new energy and emphasis upon the sciences at Samford," said University president Thomas E. Corts.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.