Campus / RenovationUpper-level neuroscience teaching lab.
The New Seaver South
Story by Mary Marvin / Photo by John Lucas
Students in Professor Rachel Levin’s neuroethology class cluster around aquariums and computers in
the lab on the second floor of the recently reopened Seaver South building. Some work with a software
program that simulates swimming in virtual fish. Others analyze the electrical signals sent to laptop computers
from aquariums of ghost fish, whose steady humming signifies sex, species and status. The new lab,
which is part of a one-year, $34 million renovation, is not only a stateof- the-art facility, but also an example
of how much teaching and lab instruction have changed in 50 years.
When the building opened as Seaver Laboratory in 1958, the design of the classrooms and laboratories suited
the lectures and lab instruction in biology and geology. But, with the advent of collaborative learning and research
and advances in technology, the building had become out-of-date. The benches weren’t deep enough to hold
computers, outlets were few and inconveniently located, and some professors had to go back and forth between
two classrooms just to teach one introductory lab.
Renovation began in January 2008, when Seaver South was gutted, leaving only the exterior and load-bearing walls. The building, which reopened last winter
as a home for some of the work of biology and neuroscience, was completely redesigned, with the hallways
moved to the north side, and classrooms and labs enlarged and reconfigured to promote interaction with
faculty and students. Octagonal workspaces, fitted with sinks for wet labs, replaced long lab benches, and the
electrical, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems were upgraded.
“One of the things that has changed in the past 20 years is labs are much more creative—a more faithful representation
of what real research is like,” says Jonathan Wright, professor of biology and one of the faculty members
consulted on the redesign of Seaver South. “The redesign reflects that by allowing for more versatile space
planning with larger and squarer teaching labs and a more centralized layout.”
Another welcome change is that light from full-height windows floods the hallways, classrooms and
labs. “The natural light now draws you in to the workspaces,” says Wright. “I’m sure that it subconsciously
promotes research, just because students and faculty enjoy being here.”
What’s in Seaver South?
Four upper-level teaching labs for Ecology, animal behavior, molecular biology and plant physiology.
Two introductory teaching labs.
Computing lab, equipped with Macintosh and PC computers, printers, scanners and a large-format poster printer.
Two introductory classrooms.
Warm and cold aquarium rooms with moveable tanks and racks.
Two staff offices.
Offices and research labs for new Neuroscience faculty members.
Three introductory classrooms in the “Commons Area,” which links Seaver South to Seaver North (opening this summer).
North exterior walkway with access from College Avenue to the new main entrance and to the Richard C. Seaver biology building.