Millikan Set to be Completed Early

Anybody who’s taken a math class recently will know that estimation can be a tricky business. But for Pomona College’s new math and physics building, estimation has led to a pleasant surprise.

Although originally estimated to be completed in the fall of 2015, the construction of the renovated Robert A. Millikan Laboratory, which will house Pomona’s mathematics and physics and astronomy departments, has a new expected end date of summer 2015, according to Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services Robert Robinson.

“There have been very few issues with the project,” Robinson said. “We are currently ahead of schedule, and the building is within budget.”

During the renovation process, the construction has created problems for students, including less accessibility to nearby buildings and difficulty getting around campus due to missing sidewalks.

“Finding the most efficient way to get to the math department is something that has taken a few trials, but being in my third semester, I think I’ve found the best ways,” math major Alejandra Castillo PO ’17 wrote in an email to TSL. “The most challenging part may be crossing College Avenue with a bike. Since there is no crosswalk at the intersection of 7th and College Avenue, you sort of have to take a chance when crossing, and hope that cars are not in too much of a hurry, and will let you pass.”

The Millikan construction also displaced many professors and classes, because the two departments both had to temporarily move to the Seeley G. Mudd Science Library.

“I think the professors may face the most difficult hardship: lack of office space,” Castillo wrote. “I know the Science Library wasn’t built with the intention of housing three departments, but I think most professors have made the best of the situation.”

Despite the difficulties it has created, the Millikan construction has generated minimal criticism from Pomona students and faculty members. Instead, many expressed that they were looking forward to the new space and the services it would provide.

For the math department, the new Millikan means a new home that will cater to the collaborative working styles of many students.

“One of the great things about the math department is the way that math is done collaboratively, and the space plays a big role in that,” said Jo Hardin, an associate professor and the chair of the mathematics department. “We have a really vibrant mentor program, and students in all classes come and work together on their homework … so one of the nice things about the new building is that there are many different spaces that are conducive to group projects.”

For the Department of Physics and Astronomy, there will be new study and group workspaces, lab spaces, shop facilities and tools, said David Tanenbaum, a professor of physics and the department chair.

“The research labs for the physics department … will be far quieter and far cleaner and will be able to house more precise experiments than we were able to do in the old building,” Tanenbaum said. “There will be better temperature stability and better vibrational ability.”

Physics major Franklin Marsh PO ’17 said that he is excited about the new planetarium, including the 27-foot dome with 3D projection capabilities. 

“The physics department will be able to use this for interdisciplinary reasons,” Marsh said, adding that it is a “resource that will benefit everyone.” 

Millikan will have other spaces open to the entire student body as well. There will be a new colloquium room that will be available for large-scale campus events, and the old parking lot is being transformed into a courtyard that can also house events.

The new classrooms are being designed with flipped-classroom and online learning opportunities in mind, with better lighting and room for cameras to film classes. Millikan may also qualify for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification, a quality unusual for laboratory buildings.

Robinson said that the Millikan construction has generated minimal criticism.

“If I had to judge concerns or complaints versus all the other projects, there have been virtually none,” Robinson said. “It has been a breeze.”

Tanenbaum hopes that the new building will be able to compensate for the difficulties of the past two years.

“I hope it is all worth it,” Tanenbaum said. “The building is supposed to last 50 years. This is two years of inconvenience for our departments, and while it has been inconvenient, it has probably been as good as you could expect it to be.” 

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