New Physics Buildings to Help Involvement in Telescope Project
COLLEGE STATION —
Design plans for two new physics buildings have been approved by the Board of Regents and construction will begin on the buildings as early as May.
Their construction is part of a $35 million donation to Texas A&M by George P. Mitchell, Class of 1940, with the intention of helping the University become a top school in physics and astronomy.
“We didn’t want to have a second-rate program,” said Edward Fry, head of the physics department. “We wanted to have (a) top ten program if we were going to do it at all.”
Student interest in astronomy is increasing dramatically at A&M and at other universities in the country, he said.
“At UC Berkley 25 percent of the undergraduates take astronomy as an elective,” Fry said.
He added that at A&M enrollment in undergraduate astronomy classes has grown by approximately 20 percent each year, for the past several years.
The physics department’s goal is to rank in the nation’s top 10 schools for physics, Fry said.
Mitchell commissioned architect Michael Graves to design the two new physics buildings.
The buildings, which will both be named after Mitchell, will allow the physics department to consolidate its labs and classrooms, which Fry says will improve classroom instruction.
“A key part of physics is good lecture demonstrations and it’s difficult to move demonstrations, so they’ve been cut way down,” Fry said. “That will all be rectified.”
Mitchell’s gift will allow the University to be more closely involved with the Giant Magellan Telescope, an instrument expected to make significant strides in the field of astronomy.
“We have now been able to infer the presence of planets that are in orbit around other stars, but with the Magellan Telescope, we will be able to block out the light from the star to see the planet,” Fry said.
In addition, the Department of Physics has begun hiring new faculty members, including Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach and U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Leonid Keldysh.
Freshman physics major Andrew Bradshaw said he believes the progress in the physics and astronomy programs will greatly enhance his education.
“I’m actually looking into astronomy as an extension, so it would be a great benefit to have those resources available,” Bradshaw said.
Everyone will benefit from the grant, said Don Curtis, assistant dean of liberal arts.
“Any time any of the colleges receives a gift, especially on the level of Mr. Mitchell’s, it benefits the University as a whole,” Curtis said.
For more information about other people and programs that help make Texas A&M University unique, visit thebatt.com.
The post New Physics Buildings to Help Involvement in Telescope Project appeared first on Texas A&M College of Science