Walking through the Robert A. Millikan Laboratory, Pomona College’s new physics and mathematics building, it is easy to visualize what the building will look like next fall. Light from the ceiling’s skylight reaches all three floors, helping to illuminate the scattered study spaces and blackboards. A floating staircase connects the first floor to the second floor, where the atom sculpture from the original Millikan can be seen in the window. Although workers are still putting the finishing touches on the 75,000-square-foot building, testing lighting and touching up paint, Millikan is almost ready for faculty to move in to their new offices and for spaces to host students.
The $63 million construction project began in fall 2014 after three years of planning and is scheduled for completion by June 1.
Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services Bob Robinson said that the construction process for Millikan was faster than anticipated due to efficient construction methods, careful planning and favorable weather conditions, among other factors.
“I’d have to say that of all the projects I’ve been involved with here, this one, without a doubt, was the smoothest I’ve experienced ever, which is maybe a testament to the planning,” Robinson said. “Because of its prominent location and the heavy foot traffic and so on, we tried to plan for every contingency.”
The new building’s features include an 80- to 100-seat colloquium and an “immersive theater dome,” which will function as a planetarium and a venue for 3D movie showings. In the courtyard, the “physics interactive” will include whisper dishes, fulcrums and other equipment for interactive physics experiments.
Robinson expects that the building will earn Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest possible LEED rating, thanks to its energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems.
“The building itself is larger than the original Millikan, but from an energy standpoint, it uses probably half the energy that the old Millikan used,” Robinson said.
The lower level of the new building has prep areas, research labs and student project rooms. The first floor will house physics faculty offices, classrooms and labs, while the second floor will host the mathematics department.
Professor David Tanenbaum, the physics and astronomy department chair, said that he thinks the new building will inspire collaboration between the departments of physics and astronomy, mathematics and other subjects.
“There will be a new set of shops in the building, which will be the shops for all of Division Two, and they’ll have lots of really great new state-of-the-art kinds of things, like laser cutters and 3D printers,” he said. “And that, I think, will bring a lot of people into the building for different reasons.”
Tanenbaum and mathematics department chair Jo Hardin frequently provided input about Millikan during the planning and building process.
“There were many of us in math and physics who have been intensely involved in providing input for the new building (for many years),” Hardin wrote in an email to TSL. “Many of our ideas were integrated into the building; some were not.”
Some faculty members proposed numbering all the rooms in the new building with prime numbers, but the request was denied.
“The prime numbering system would have large gaps in the sequence and could be confusing to first time visitors and guests that enter Millikan Laboratory,” Robinson wrote in an email to TSL. “This could also represent a hardship for visually impaired students that rely on a traditional numbering sequence in a braille system. Finally, should there be a non fire emergency that required a response from Campus Safety and/or Claremont Police, the lack of familiarity with a prime number system could cause delays in response time exacerbating the situation.”