Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg held a ceremony September 20 to mark the opening of the 23,500 square-foot expansion to the Christine Todd Whitman Science Center.
The addition, which nearly doubles the size of the existing building, includes four chemistry labs, a physics lab, a hybrid room that can function as both a physics lab and a lecture room, and two additional classrooms to accommodate the growing number of students interested in majoring in science-related fields.
Since the Christine Todd Whitman Science Center first opened in 2002, there has been an explosion in the number of students studying science at the College. Since 2007, the number of students enrolled in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs has increased more than 250 percent, from approximately 270 to 700 students, and the number of STEM degrees awarded has increased 500 percent.
“The Science Center addition is the latest example of the College’s longstanding commitment to STEM education. From the Galileo Scholarship, which since 2003 has provided close to 600 STEM students with approximately $1 million in scholarships, to our new Authentic Engineering course in which students create a real product for an actual company, RVCC has been a leader in promoting STEM education,” said RVCC President Michael J. McDonough.
“The state’s economic future depends on robust STEM education programs like we have at RVCC to meet the region’s workforce needs,” President McDonough continued. “The NJ Department of Labor projects that by 2018 approximately 269,000 STEM-related jobs will need to be filled in the state. The new state-of-the art facility, along with our dedicated and passionate science faculty, will ensure that RVCC continues to make a significant contribution toward meeting the workforce needs of the region.”
The Building Our Future Bond Act, which was approved by New Jersey voters in November 2012, paved the way for the addition. The $10.2 million project is being funded by $7.4 million in state funds and $2.8 million in support from the Counties of Somerset and Hunterdon.
“The new chemistry and physics labs will allow faculty to continue to modernize the laboratory curricula and incorporate new techniques and experiments in an environment that provides the utmost safety and energy efficiency,” said Dr. Sarah Imbriglio, Science and Engineering Department Chair and Professor of Chemistry. “The supporting instrument rooms provide significantly more space to accommodate the modern instrumentation and equipment required in these courses.”
The new chemistry labs include state-of-the-art, energy-efficient fume hoods and snorkel hoods at the benches that allow students to conduct experiments with maximum safety. The new physics labs include larger lab stations that allow students to carry out a wider range of hands-on experiments and activities. Each lab station is furnished with powerful equipment for data acquisition that facilitates the observation and analysis of abstract physical concepts. An Engineering Project Center, located adjacent to the physics lab, features a workspace, benches, power tools, and a 3D-printer to support both instruction as well as honors and independent research projects.
“I’m currently taking Circuit Analysis in the new addition, and it actually has white boards for each student, lab desks, and equipment right in the room. I already had my first lab and it’s amazing. We’re working with brand new equipment, and I have to say I never have been more excited for lab,” said RVCC Engineering Science major Keri Rickman of Ringoes.
RVCC’s commitment to sustainability is evident in the Science Center addition, which has been designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. The structure features such sustainable attributes as water and energy efficiency and recycled or regionally sourced building materials.
All of the College’s science students will greatly benefit from the “Gibson Center for Innovation in Science and Technology,” which is located in the Science Center’s new addition. The Gibson Center is supported by a generous $500,000 donation from Jim and Jill Gibson of Basking Ridge. The leadership gift will promote three pillars of teaching and learning:
• Early intervention programs that will provide pathways for nontraditional and under-represented students to meet the rigors of science, technology, engineering, and math programs at the College and achieve academic success;
• Undergraduate research and in-the-field projects that will enhance student research and deepen learning through innovative pedagogy;
• New academic programs in engineering and advanced manufacturing technology and in environmental sustainability that will lead to sustainable earning opportunities for RVCC students.
Raritan Valley Community College’s main campus is located at 118 Lamington Road in Branchburg, NJ. Serving Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for close to 50 years, RVCC is an educational and cultural center that is nationally recognized for its innovative programming, service to the community and environmental leadership. The College offers more than 90 associate degrees and certificates, as well as career training, professional development and personal enrichment courses. For further information, visit www.raritanval.edu.