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University celebrates science sesquicentennial

| Thursday, September 25, 2014

In 1865, 23 years after Notre Dame was founded, the study of science was introduced to the University. To celebrate 150 years of Notre Dame science, the College of Science is hosting a yearlong series of events with the local community and national sponsors, Gregory Crawford, dean of the College of Science, said.

“We think it’s important, especially considering the vast expansion of our work and its value for society, to let the rest of the world know about our wonderful inventions and discoveries,” Crawford said. “We’re looking for more ideas from students, faculty and staff to help us celebrate and showcase this remarkable history that has led to where we are today.”

Marissa Gebhard, assistant director of marketing and communications for the College of Science, said the celebration will commence during Science Week, which will take place Oct. 6-10, with one event held by each science department during the week.

“Chemistry and biochemistry are hosting an ‘ACS [American Chemical Society] on Campus’ event, geared more toward graduate students for networking on October seventh to eighth,” Gebhard said. “The physics department will also host a DVT [digital visualization theater] show on Oct. 8 as well, which would be a great study break.”

Gebhard said the week’s schedule includes lectures in applied and computation mathematics and overlaps with the “Math for Everyone” lecture series. Science Week will conclude in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center with a taping of the national radio show “Science Friday,” Gebhard said.

“Ira Flatow, the host of ‘Science Friday,’ will be interviewing science faculty on stage about their research,” Gebhard said. “It will be edited, and then it will be broadcast that Friday, the 18th.”

Gebhard said early lab equipment, molecule models and fossils from Notre Dame’s science history collection is on display in the Raclin Gallery of Notre Dame History as an ongoing exhibit.

“It is very important that Notre Dame, as a leading Catholic university, has a reputation for rigorous scientific research because we are respected when we bring our virtues and values into conversations on issues like bioethics,” Crawford said.

The historical milestones of the science department at Notre Dame coincide with breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, Crawford said.

“Fr. John Zahm, for example, was an early voice who insisted that the theory of biological evolution was not in conflict with Catholic teaching,” Crawford said. “He was also an early champion of women’s involvement in science.

“Fr. Julius Nieuwland discovered the basis for synthetic rubber and worked with DuPont to carry the idea into commercialization, an early example of the kind of innovation and translation that is an important part of our work today. In 1904, Fr. Nieuwland, who was also a botanist, established the irreplaceable collection of 268,000 specimens in our herbarium in our Museum of Biodiversity.”

Crawford said the University’s involvement in research for the atomic bomb was due in large part to its investment in and commitment to new technologies.

“Research for the Manhattan Project during World War II was conducted on campus because we had one of the most advanced accelerators in the country,” Crawford said.

Science was an integral component of Fr. Sorin’s vision for Notre Dame, Crawford said.

“Science is obviously a necessary component of any well-rounded education, and Fr. Sorin’s vision to become a force for good in the world called for such a curriculum,” Crawford said. “Of course, science has become even more important today as we look for answers to big human problems in such fields as health, energy, and the environment.”

For the updated information on events planned for the 150th College of Science, visit http://science.nd.edu/events/150

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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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