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New Brockman Hall dedicated

By Hallie Jordan     3/31/11 7:00pm

Over 150 people gathered for the official dedication of the new Brockman Hall for Physics and Astronomy on Thursday, March 24.

The ceremony included speeches from several Rice leaders including President David Leebron and Chair of the Board of Trustees Jim Crownover.

"Brockman represents in a fundamental way our commitment to curiosity-driven research," Leebron said.

He reiterated its importance, emphasizing that Brockman Hall is what Rice needs to compete for world-class faculty.

"Physics had been part of our university since the beginning," he said.

The state-of-the-art building will allow the physics department to participate in modern physics research, Department Chair Barry Dunning said.

One key reason for Brockman's creation was to help the department collaborate and function as one entity, Dunning said.

"This is an opportunity to bring together everyone," Dunning said. "Our faculty had been spread out over five buildings."

The idea to have a new physics building was initiated by former Dean of Natural Sciences Kathleen Matthews. According to Matthews, the project began in 1998.

Brockman was designed by the firm KieranTimberlake Associates and emphasizes Rice's interest in good architecture.

"It reiterates the importance of architecture to provide environments that inspire people," Leebron said. "It makes every building around it look better as well."

Although it is featured in the building name, the astronomy department will remain at its current location in Hermann Brown Hall.

"The site was chosen because it is in the natural science area, and we wanted to create sort of a focus area, but we could not have built a building big enough for astronomy here," Dunning said.

With Brockman's two-foot-thick floors eliminating vibrations, physics research can now go on all day and night, Dunning said. In Herzstein, researchers had to wait until night to do their work because of so many vibrations from the building, he said.

Herzstein will be renovated this summer, and the political science department is scheduled to relocate there from the Baker Institute. However, some physics classes will still be taught on the second floor and in the amphitheater, Dunning said.

"We are exceedingly fortunate and will be able to move to the next level in physics," Dunning said. "Rice is being very good to us."

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