Coe receives prestigious $4.7 million NSF grant to support major renovation of Peterson Hall of Science

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
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2010-09-14 11:21:49 - General

Coe College has received a prestigious $4.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to renovate Peterson Hall of Science, the largest grant ever received by the college. The funding is an integral part of the $8.7 million required to transform the 40-year-old facility into a modern science center. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2011 to accommodate the college's academic calendar.

Earned through a highly competitive peer-review process, this NSF grant is one of six to 10 awards in the range of $2 to $5 million expected to be provided nationally to colleges and universities conducting scientific research. Not only does the award recognize the excellence of past research conducted at Coe, it also affirms the college's established national reputation for scientific programs and represents confidence in continued success.

The remodeling will involve reconfiguring space throughout the existing building, creating classrooms and laboratories that are fully capable of housing Coe's modern research-grade equipment. The success of faculty efforts has resulted in a growing number of state-of-the-art instruments, all of which require dedicated spaces and superior infrastructure. Finally, new mechanicals and lighting will be installed to create an inviting and welcoming educational environment.

To leverage the $4.7 grant from NSF and renovate the non-research areas of the building, Coe officials are in the process of raising $4 million to support the entire $8.7 million project. The entire project is an important component of the Coe College "Defining Moment" campaign, which moved into its public phase in December 2007.

A unique opportunity from NSF
Up to this point, NSF grants have not been available to support construction projects. In February of last year, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to save jobs and create employment, spur economic activity and invest in long-term growth. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the NSF received one-time stimulus money for the Academic Research Infrastructure Program: Recovery and Reinvestment (ARI-R²). ARI-R² is designed to support 21st century research and research training infrastructure in our nation's academic institutions and non-profit research organizations.

ARI-R² will revitalize existing research facilities such as Peterson Hall so that they can provide next-generation research infrastructure and facilitate the integration of researchers with shared resources such as remote instruments and research platforms, data repositories, and national computing facilities. Research facilities are shared spaces where sponsored and/or unsponsored research activities and research training take place. The ARI-R² program is unique in that it is a one-time NSF program which exclusively supports "brick and mortar" construction projects, thus providing Coe with an unprecedented opportunity.

Coe's successful science programs supported by NSF
Coe has had a long history of success working with the NSF. A national leader in providing research and publication opportunities to undergraduates, Coe annually hosts more than 50 undergraduates who participate in summer research. Coe is one of only a handful of small colleges in the United States designated as a site for the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). As well, Coe leads all eastern Iowa colleges in NSF grants received during the past decade, with 27.

Coe counts among its faculty ranks Fulbright, PECASE, and Carnegie Foundation-recognized scholars. During the past five years, Coe faculty and students have published more than 50 journal articles. This represents a level of scholarship that is extraordinary for a small undergraduate institution.

Not only are the sciences at Coe distinguished due to publishing with students, but also because the college has recently secured more than 10 major competitive grants for equipment, research, undergraduate research and instruction. Coe has received the American Physical Society Prize for Research in an Undergraduate Institution and various awards of similar stature.

Peterson Hall's academic programs offer a pipeline to careers in the sciences. More than 70 percent of recent graduates in the sciences have matriculated to graduate or professional schools. The acceptance rate of Coe science graduates who apply to medical school is 91 percent. Other graduates land professional positions in scientific research and industry. Cedar Rapids is an international leader in the bioproducts, food-processing and avionics industries, with Coe providing a steady stream of highly qualified science students for careers that benefit Iowa's economy.