Panel, Tour and Reception Mark Science Center Opening

A celebration of the opening of the new Science Center brought together guests and alumni to experience the most recent addition to the campus on Saturday, Oct. 20. The event included a panel of alumni working in science who spoke about the role of science in a liberal arts education at Amherst, guided tours of the building and departments and a reception which featured a performance by the college’s choral society.

The event began with remarks by Andrew Nussbaum ’85, chair of the board of trustees, who called the new building “unprecedented” and “the most impressive undergraduate science facility in the nation.” He said that the center was built on time and under budget, and thanked everyone who was involved with the project. The center, he said, will “open up opportunities for Amherst students for generations to come.”

Bradford Hager ’72 P ’12, a professor of earth sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kimberlyn Leary ’82, an Amherst trustee and an associate professor of psychology at Harvard, Julie Segre ’87, a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute and Harold Varmus ’61, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine and a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine College, all spoke on the panel. It was moderated by Shirley Tilghman, a professor of molecular biology and president emerita at Princeton.

When asked about the importance of a liberal arts education in science-related fields, Segre responded that her education enabled her to “write specifically but not have it be technical.” Varmus highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of science and praised the small Amherst class sizes that allowed him meet scientists in different fields. He also pointed out that liberal arts colleges send similar proportions of students to graduate schools as larger universities.

The alumni and other guests gathered at the ending reception to hear the choral society. Robert Schlein ’89, an alumni, said the building “opens up the campus” and though he wasn’t a STEM major, he thinks it’s impressive.