Center supports science programs

Both students majoring in the sciences and those just trying to fulfill their quantitative reasoning and Group IV requirements now have a one-stop shop for their science-related needs, from choosing a lab to computing integrals for a problem set.

The Science and Quantitative Reasoning Center, which was created based on the recommendations of the 2003 Committee on Yale College Education Report, will provide a physical space for undergraduates to explore the sciences, Associate Dean of the Sciences William Segraves said. The center, located on the courtyard level of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, will combine administrative and teaching roles, providing teaching and research support as well as guidance in the sciences.

“The center has multiple purposes, all in the service of science and quantitative reasoning education, and will bring together the various functions that my office has been carrying out and that the CYCE called for,” Segraves said.

Although the science center has been functional since the beginning of this semester, Segraves said a ceremonial opening will most likely take place in the fall, after the completion of renovations that will allow for a broader range of activities.

Segraves said the center is proof of the development of the University’s undergraduate science program over the past several years. The center will administer research fellowships, faculty advising and support for undergraduate research symposia, he said. Segraves said the center will help develop Yale’s science program by facilitating a tri-fold focus on teaching, tutoring and undergraduate research.

“One of the goals in this year’s CYCE report was finding a way to expand class options and change the way faculty members are teaching them,” he said. “We want to be able to provide more support to faculty to bring more cutting-edge techniques into the classroom.”

Segraves said part of his vision for the center is for it to provide a location for science faculty to come together to discuss new teaching methods and work on science and quantitative reasoning curricula.

The center is also designed to be a place for science students to receive tutoring in subjects in which they might be struggling, Segraves said. He said he would like to use the center to expand tutoring times to late-night in addition to afternoons.

“It was really exciting the first time I came [to the center] and saw the conference room full of students meeting with students,” he said.

Frank Robinson, coordinator of the center’s tutoring program, said the program currently brings together about 50 tutors in math, economics and the sciences. He said the implementation of new quantitative reasoning requirements for the Class of 2009 and subsequent classes has led to a 70 percent increase in requests for math tutoring.

“Basically, we want people to come out of Yale knowing more math than when they went in,” he said.

Regarding the third purpose of the center, Segraves said the CYCE specifically called for the increase in undergraduate research opportunities and that putting students in laboratories would be an intellectually engaging and transforming experience.

“When I first joined the Dean’s Office in 2000, we had Perspectives on Science and we had the STARS program,” he said. “There basically weren’t any other undergraduate research programs. We have to start to expand the range of opportunities open to students in terms of research.”

Yale School of Medicine dermatology professor Doug Brash, who is now coordinating undergraduate research, said it is important for students to learn what field and style of research interests them.

“Students need to get used to the idea of distinguishing important questions from things that are nice to know,” he said. “The overall goal is helping students to become leaders in their field down the road.”

Segraves said Yale’s new focus on undergraduate science education parallels the University’s capital investments in the sciences.

“We really wanted to make sure that at the same time that Yale was making large investments in the infrastructure of science on Science Hill, in the Medical School and elsewhere on campus to make sure Yale was a top-flight research institution, that we make sure it continued to be a top undergraduate science institution as well,” he said.

Eleanor Millman ’07, a physics major, said she appreciates the support science majors are receiving.

“As a science major you spend a lot of time up on Science Hill, so it’s nice to have a place on main campus that is dedicated to science,” she said. “It makes you feel more a part of the general Yale community and that Yale really values the sciences in addition to the humanities.”

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