Senior Dave Tiberi was eager to show off equipment in the new instrument laboratory at Saint Vincent College.
The scanning electron microscope allows students to analyze the elements -- the building blocks of chemical compounds -- in tiny samples, he said. On another lab bench was an ion chromatograph used in environmental research. Nearby was a third instrument that tests materials using a technique called "gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy." It can detect and identify the presence of specific molecules, and its results are used in fields as varied as industrial research, law enforcement and airport security.
"The new labs are amazing," Mr. Tiberi said. "They are completely different from what we had when I was a freshman."
Mr. Tiberi, who lives in Fairbank, northwest of Uniontown, is president of the Chemistry Club at the college.
The instrument laboratory is located in the $39 million Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion at the Catholic college in Unity, near Latrobe. Saint Vincent held an open house this week to show off the results of eight years of planning and construction. The family and friends of Mr. and Mrs. Dupre donated $7.6 million toward the cost of the project. Mr. Dupre, a 1953 graduate of Saint Vincent, and his family are the former owners of Seven Springs Mountain Resort. He holds multiple patents for snow-making devices.
The pavilion links what had been four separate buildings. The project included 60,000 square feet of new construction combined with 50,000 square feet of renovations. The pavilion is home to the college's Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing. The school has almost 450 students, an increase of about 30 percent over the past five years, college officials said.
One of the ideas behind the combined pavilion was to encourage cross-disciplinary cooperation, Boyer School dean Stephen M. Jodis said. Professors also seek to get their students into labs and using advanced equipment early in their academic careers, he said.
Students from as many as 30 classes a semester make use of the new digital imaging lab to do biology class assignments and original research, he said. The results of some of that research are summarized on posters suspended from a 6-foot-high picture rail that lines pavilion hallways.
That cooperation extends to other departments within the university, John Smetanka told visitors during a stop at the new Angelo A. Taiani Planetarium. Philosophy instructors use planetarium projectors to show how the names of constellations are linked to Greek myths, he said. Anthropology students learn about how different groups of ancient people viewed the night sky.
Mr. Smetanka is professor of physics and vice president of academic affairs. He and assistant professor Dan Vanden Berk are hosts for free monthly public planetarium shows. Mr. Taiani, a Saint Vincent alumnus and retired NASA engineer, funded the planetarium and adjoining astronaut exhibit.
The pavilion also is home to the 100-seat Dr. Frank J. Luparello Lecture Hall, which is used by classes in all disciplines, student government and choral groups.
Architects from the Pittsburgh firm of MacLachlan Cornelius & Filoni sought input from faculty and administrators in designing the building, Mr. Jodis said. Their suggestions helped to determine classroom design that includes interior windows that allow visitors to observe students working in labs.
The pavilion complex also has internal passageways linking some of the laboratories. That design element eliminates the need to carry chemicals down busy hallways.
Saint Vincent students are encouraged to get together informally to discuss ideas and to work in groups, Mr. Jodis said.
Large couches have been placed near windows on all floors of the science buildings. They offer views of the college's rural setting in Unity. Several rooms have been set aside as labs and research libraries, primarily for juniors and seniors, where they can discuss their research projects.
Walls in some of those areas have been treated with erasable paint so students can scribble their ideas, project timelines and flowcharts on them.
Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 724-772-0184. First Published March 14, 2013 4:00 AM