Second NASA Grant for Science Center: Groundbreaking November 3

Dominican University of California has received a second award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to support construction of the University's Science Center. The $250,000 award was included as part of the 2005 NASA Appropriations Bill. This is in addition to the $1.5 million Dominican was awarded from NASA in 2004.

"I am delighted by the opportunity to again partner with NASA to establish this state-of-the-art learning center that will take science education to an unprecedented level at Dominican," said Dominican University President Dr. Joseph R. Fink. "With this new building, we are positioning ourselves to not only train the next generation of science teachers, but also to train tomorrow's doctors and scientists."

Dr. Fink announced today that the groundbreaking ceremony for the Science Center is November 3, 2005.

Dominican has received almost $9 million in gifts and grants to support construction of the $17 million facility, and the fundraising campaign continues. Last spring, the University's Board of Trustees approved plans to proceed with a funding mechanism for the center. The University will sell bonds through the California Educational Facilities Authority (CEFA) to assist in funding construction costs.

When it opens in 2007, the Science Center will build upon Dominican's program strengths in science, nursing, and education - as well as respond to the severe national shortage of math and science teachers shared by the State of California. Dominican's Division of Education prepares secondary teachers in art, biology, chemistry, English, foreign languages, geosciences, mathematics, music, physical education, physics, social science, and special education. Last year, the University partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) specifically to train intern teachers in mathematics and science.

The two-story, 35,000 square foot building, designed by San Rafael-based TWM Architects, will house more than 30 classrooms and labs, including teaching, biology, chemistry, and computer technology labs for faculty and student use. The architects have gone to great lengths to ensure the new building is a harmonious addition to Dominican's campus. Influences include Alemany Library's copper roof and Guzman Hall's deep, recessed windows. Outside, the entry plaza will be linked via a footpath to the plaza outside Alemany Library, thus creating a true academic core on campus. Cahill Contractors is the general contractor.

The new science facilities will serve all of Dominican's students - from general education undergraduates with science requirements to the rapidly expanding Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The number of biology students at Dominican has grown from 32 students in 2001 to 142 students in 2005. And this year the University hired four scientists to help establish a biomedical research program that will prepare graduates to work in the Bay Area's booming biotech industry. The new faculty members are involving undergraduate students in stem cell and breast cancer research.

"As the Bay Area emerges as a national center for biomedical research, we want Dominican University to play a bigger role in this arena and prepare our students for careers in the biomedical sector," said Sibdas Ghosh, chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "In the Bay Area, mostly graduate students get exposure to biomedical research opportunities. We want to make sure our undergraduates get this exposure."

Among the new hires is Mohammed El Majdoubi, Ph.D., who previously served for four years as director of the Cell Imaging Core in the Center for Reproductive Sciences at UC San Francisco. Maggie Louie, Ph.D., joined the department as an assistant professor of biochemistry. Dr. Louie has spent the past four years conducting breast cancer research at UC Davis and will continue this research at Dominican. Dominican also has hired two adjunct science professors to teach and conduct research on campus.

At Dominican, Dr. Majdoubi will use mouse embryonic stem cells to study the development of hormone-secreting cells in the brain. Such research could provide medical treatment to neuroendocrine-related diseases such as Kallmann's, Prader-Willi, and Rubenstein-Taybi. Louie and her students are studying the long-term use of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen. She also plans to research the role that the heavy metal cadmium - found in soil, water, and rocks - plays in the spread of breast cancer cells.

Adjunct professor Dr. Christelle Sabatier is studying the genetic tools of the model organism C.elegans to better understand early development and how individual parts of an animal's body develop into their final morphologies. Dominican students will be involved with this research. Sabatier will teach the undergraduate genetics course at Dominican.

Adjunct professor Dr. Roy Bimal Krishna, a pharmacologist recently at New York University, will teach a course in human physiology. He also will continue with his research into hypertension, a leading cause of myocardial infarctions, renal failure, ischemic heart disease and stroke.

Research is a key component of a science education at Dominican. Work on research projects has helped Dominican students successfully compete against students from much larger institutions to win internships at Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Stanford Medical School, NASA, Children's Hospital Oakland, Dartmouth Medical School, Case Western Reserve University, and UCSF Medical School. In 2005, Dominican biology students enjoyed a 100 percent acceptance rate to medical school.

"All science undergraduates are provided with an opportunity to experience research starting their first year at the University," says Dr. Ghosh. "Research is embedded in the students' learning experience. Sometimes smaller schools think research cannot be done, but we do it as part of our teaching tool, and once our new science building opens, this research really will take off at Dominican."

Artistic Renderings of New Science Center
at Dominican University of California