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Millikan Renovation Plans Underway

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Aaran Patel - The Student Life
A committee composed of students and faculty from Pomona is discussing plans for a renovation of the school's Robert A. Millikan Laboratory, which houses classrooms and faculty offices for those departments. The renovation will begin in June 2013.

Plans are underway for a major renovation of Pomona College's Robert A. Millikan building, scheduled to begin in June 2013. Millikan houses the school's Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

A committee composed of faculty and students from those departments, as well as representatives from the Office of Facilities and Campus Services and the Dean of Students Office, has been discussing the project for over a year and is currently preparing to review design proposals from various architects. In addition to updating the structural and aesthetic design of the building, one goal of the renovation is to add sustainability features to Millikan with the hopes of earning another LEED certification for Pomona.

Since the renovation is expected to take at least one year to complete, professors’ offices will be moved to trailers, and classes will be taught in various classrooms across Pomona's campus once the project begins.

Millikan, which was built in the fifties, is one of the oldest academic buildings on campus and the last of the science buildings to be renovated. According to the Pomona College Magazine, renovations of the Seaver science buildings were completed in 2009. The Andrews Laboratory Building for Mathematics and Physics was built in 1999, and the Lincoln and Edmunds Buildings, which house the departments of Psychology, Geology, and other sciences, were opened in the fall of 2006.

According to Shahriar Shahriari, the William Polk Russell Professor of Mathematics at Pomona and a member of the committee discussing plans for renovation, Millikan suffers from a number of infrastructural defects as a result of its age.

“Its accessibility and sustainability leave a lot to be desired, the air conditioning and heating systems are outdated, the plumbing needs fixing, and even though the building looks earthquake-safe from the outside, there were a few problems,” he said.

Professor David Tanenbaum of Pomona's Physics and Astronomy Department also emphasized the importance of updating the mechanics of the building.

“It’s aging, [and] we need to fix that," he said. "Our plan is to build a building that will last us the next 50 years."

"We’re also aiming to get a LEED Gold certification in keeping with the college’s goal of earning LEED Gold certifications for its projects,” he added.

Final renovation plans will also take into account the needs of the departments housed in the building, according to Shahriari.

“We want to make the building more inviting and useable for interaction among students and faculty," he said. "We did an informal study some years ago where we sent students to all the academic buildings on campus during the evenings, and we counted more students in Millikan than in the Seeley G. Mudd Science Library back when it was open and all the other academic buildings combined."

“Our spaces do double duty, as classrooms during the day and places for mentor sessions at nights," he added. "Our offices also double as places where we do research and meet with students. We want our spaces to be re-envisioned so that they’re more suitable for all these purposes."

Tanenbaum pointed to a number of possible renovations in the vicinity of Millikan that could affect the building, along with the expected internal changes associated with the planned renovation.

“We have a list of ideas to improve offices and lab spaces," he said. "The parking lot behind Millikan will possibly make way for a science courtyard, a student thoroughfare that will enhance the connection between Millikan and [the] Skyspace [art installaton]."

"We’re also talking about knocking Millikan Auditorium to make a sightline that connects Skyspace to Seaver,” he added.

Shahriari said any required move for faculty offices or classrooms during the construction phase, which is not slated to begin for well over a year, could be unpleasant, but necessary.

“It’s inconvenient,” he said. “But [it's] a small price to pay for a good building for the next 50 years.”

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