All of Oberlin's science faculty members pursue active research programs, and all have lab space appropriate to their work. In addition, faculty labs are configured for work with several student assistants, enhancing opportunities for undergraduate research. Space exists for up to 45 student researchers in biology, 30 in chemistry, and 15 in neuroscience.
Completed in 2002, the Science Center was designed to accommodate modern methods of science education. Classroom spaces are flexible and can accommodate both traditional lecture instruction and group work. All teaching laboratories were built with hands-on instruction in mind, and faculty members' laboratories were designed to enhance faculty-student collaborative research, a common experience at Oberlin. An array of instrumentation-such as a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer-is available for student use - the kind of research equipment reserved used only by graduate students at other schools.
Each discipline has its own area of the building, with associated faculty offices and laboratories, classrooms, instructional laboratories, student-research labs, and seminar rooms. Common areas-the science library, a first-floor atrium, a second-floor lounge, and two computer labs-tie the disciplines together. The structure makes it easy for faculty members and students from all departments to meet and mingle with one another.
The building design also facilitates cost-effective sharing of instrumentation: the neuroscience and biology departments both use Oberlin's confocal microscope, for example, and the scanning electron microscope is shared among the physics, biology, and geology departments. Placement of instrumentation within the building has also been carefully considered, so that needed equipment is adjacent to related student and faculty laboratories.
While used primarily by the departments it houses, the Oberlin Science Center is open to all departments in the College. Many students come into the building for lectures or films in the West Auditorium. And the building's central location on campus, inviting common spaces, large lecture halls, and beautiful science library attract people from all over the campus to study or relax.