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Autumn 2003 | Volume 26, Number 4 | Features
Back to the Future

Once Hailed as Ultra-Modern, the MSLC Is Being Renovated for the Next Generation of Computer Scientists, Engineers, Mathematicians and Physicists

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF Physics John Lindberg has yet to experience a day when he did not want to go to work. And now his passion for the classroom is riding an added wave of enthusiasm: In five months, he and his colleagues in computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics will take possession of a renovated Miller Science Learning Center (MSLC).

The remodeled Miller Science Learning Center will boast a dynamic new environment including improved lighting, upgraded air distribution system and lecture/lab space that studies say will enhance learning two- to fourfold over what was possible in the facility as it was previously configured.

The new $5.4-million home to the “dry sciences” will be — like the new 63,000-square-foot Science Building across campus — a breathtaking commitment to engaging the culture at the forefront of scientific discovery and technological exploration.

When it opened in 1976, the MSLC was hailed by the National Science Foundation for its energy-efficient design and its possible applications to industry. Over time, however, the concept of all sciences sharing one common lab space became impractical, and the separation of classroom and laboratory restricted a student’s ability to learn.

The new MSLC will become an exclusive haven for the scientific disciplines that typically utilize dry work spaces — as distinct from those, such as biology and chemistry, that use “wet” sinks for liquids and living samples. Gone are the days when students using sensitive measuring instruments will be distracted by other students working with flammables. And hands-on learning in the new MSLC will take pre-eminence over traditional “reading and lecture” methods. With classrooms and labs combined, students will observe through increased demonstration.

Students in a basic computer programming class in the MSLC used to take notes from a white-board presentation. Only later, when they had access to a computer, could they apply what they had learned. If questions arose, they often had to wait until the next class to ask them. “Now they’ll be at keyboards and can apply the knowledge directly,” says Lindberg. “They can ask questions on the spot.”

For his physics students, instead of learning Newtonian laws by measuring collisions with a tape measure and a stopwatch, they will have carts equipped with motion sensors that automatically relay pertinent information to a computer. “The results illustrate a favorite adage of mine,” Lindberg notes. “I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.”

To achieve the dynamic new environment, the insides of the MSLC are being completely gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. When finished, it will boast twice the number of lab stations and a net gain of three classrooms, and all four of the dry sciences will have their own dedicated spaces.

Computer science will have a large project room designed specifically for projects, labs and research in computer networking, computer architecture and high-performance computing. Mathematics will gain a dedicated seminar room and a teaching classroom with computers and mathematical software. Engineering will have expanded dedicated teaching labs and student project design space. Physics will enjoy dedicated spaces for upper-division lab classes and an optics lab. In addition, spaces dedicated to science education and math education have been designed specifically for the training of teachers in these critical areas.

The MSLC enhancements, coupled with the opening of the new Science Building, make an important statement, says Seattle Pacific President Philip Eaton. “SPU’s investment in the sciences is significant,” he explains. “It shows that we want to be part of the scientific advances taking place in our culture.”

“It’s an exciting time to be here, to see the active, up-and-coming researchers who have joined the SPU faculty,” says Lindberg, who adds that he thinks of the new and improved MSLC as no less than a place of scientific investigation into God’s creation.


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