This solar-powered building has earned national acclaim as a showcase for green building technologies and operating systems. Photovoltaic panels on the center's roof and parking pavilion capture renewable energy from the sun and south-facing windows allow for passive solar heating. Indoors, a specially engineered wetland called the Living Machine purifies non-potable wastewater for reuse in toilets and the landscape. Flows of energy and cycling of materials are monitored and displayed by a sophisticated system (150+ sensors) that gives real-time feedback, teaching about sustainability in the built environment.
Oberlin's physics building is named for aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, whose older sister attended Oberlin and taught them about physics. Research facilities here were renovated in 1993 through a National Science Foundation grant. These include labs equipped for infrared spectroscopy, solar cell characterization, magnetic characterization, x-ray diffraction, radio astronomy, vacuum thin-film deposition, and experiments with radioactive materials. Wright is part of the Science Center complex.
In the dome atop Peters Hall, an observatory features a telescope with a 14-inch aperture for viewing comets, stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomena. The telescope is also equipped with a CCD imaging camera. Installed on the adjacent outdoor viewing deck are five smaller telescopes. The observatory is open to the public (weather permitting) on the first and third Fridays of the month after sunset during the academic year. In addition, a small teaching planetarium projects the 1,000 brightest stars and the planets onto a dome 4 meters in diameter.
Oberlin is among the first liberal arts colleges in the nation to provide undergraduates with access to a supercomputer that can process gigantic data sets. Purchased in 2005 through a grant from the National Science Foundation, Oberlin's supercomputer has 70 dual, 64-bit nodes - each with 8 gigabytes of RAM, a gigabit ethernet switch, and a 10-terabyte file server. In addition to its applications in chemistry, physics, astrophysics, and computational biology, the computer provided momentum for an interdisciplinary initiative, the Oberlin Center for Computation and Modeling.
A 600-MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer allows faculty members and students to study the composition and structure of organic compounds in both solution and the solid state. Oberlin is the only undergraduate liberal arts college to have an NMR spectrometer of this caliber. It was purchased with the assistance of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The instrument room also contains a 400-MHz NMR spectrometer, installed in 2007, which is used for routine molecular characterization by students engaged in research and by various science courses.
This modern, integrated complex houses the biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, and neuroscience departments, as well as the Science Library. Its design promotes maximum collaboration among the science disciplines, as well as between students and faculty mentors. The center is equipped with NMR spectrometers, vacuum deposition chambers, flow cytometers, a confocal microscope, and more. Completed in 2002, the Science Center incorporates technology into classrooms and laboratories, and hands-on research into every student's science education.
Two labs are available for work in neuroscience and immunology. They have clean benches equipped with hoods that minimize the risk for contamination of cell lines. These labs are also equipped with flow cytometers for measuring changes in cell lines and storage for preserving samples at very low temperatures.
This lab is equipped to chemically synthesize small proteins from amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins. The lab includes an automated peptide synthesizer, as well as a high-performance liquid chromatography system. Various peptides are then studied using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to elucidate their three-dimensional structures.
This lab enables neuroscience students and faculty to work with nerve cells. Six air tables that eliminate vibrations and electrical interference allow for accurate measurement of the electrical activity of a single cell.
Housed in a specially designed room of the Science Center, Oberlin's confocal microscope provides remarkable cellular detail and resolution; it also produces three-dimensional images that can be rotated and viewed from different angles. The equipment, used primarily by faculty and students in neuroscience and biology, was purchased through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Researchers use this microscope for elemental analysis of a variety of specimens, including minerals, microfossils, semiconductors, plankton, pollen, and synthetic crystals. The instrument magnifies about 200,000 times (compared to just 1,000 times with a traditional light microscope). Purchased with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation.
This instrument measures the magnetic properties of materials in fields from 0 to 2 T and in temperatures from 4K to 300K. Using a set of vector coils, measurements of magnetic anisotropy and inhomogeneities can also be made. The device, located in the physics department, was purchased with a grant from the National Science Foundation.