Neuroscience, Go to Floor Four, Sabin-Reed
At Smith, and nationally, neuroscience
has been among the fastest-growing scientific fields in the
past two decades.
The study of the nervous system
incorporates several scientific disciplines beyond biology,
such as chemistry, psychology, physics, philosophy and mathematics,
attracting increasing numbers of scholars and spotlighting
the need for collaboration.
Michael Barresi, assistant professor of biological sciences,
in one of his new Sabin-Reed lab spaces.
Since it was added to Smith’s
majors in 1997, neuroscience has attracted a consistently
growing cadre of students, now ranking among the college's
most popular science programs with 56 majors. But,
the latest growth in the department is a physical expansion
of lab spaces and a consolidation of faculty offices.
The fourth floor of newly renovated
Sabin-Reed Hall now houses what could be called a “neuroscience cluster,” lined
with department faculty offices, lab spaces and lounge areas
“The best thing about this is that I have program colleagues as my neighbors
now,” said Michael Barresi, assistant professor of biological sciences, about
the conglomeration of neuroscience faculty. “This changes everything.”
Barresi oversees an extensive
lab and research facility, all used by his research team
of between 12 and 14 students.
Barresi welcomes the expanded
lab space at his disposal, as he was fast outgrowing his
old lab in Burton. “Getting more
than three students in there plus me was difficult,” he recalled. “Now, my students
have more individual space to work with. There’s more ownership of projects,
of ongoing research, more of a feeling of, ‘This is my space, my project.’”
Barresi is joined on the Sabin-Reed
fourth floor by fellow neuroscience faculty members Mary
Harrington, the Tippit Professor in Life Sciences; Richard
Olivo, professor of biological sciences; Margaret Anderson,
professor of biological sciences; and Annaliese Beery, psychology.
Harrington has enjoyed the increased
interactions with her students that comes with the convenience
of having an office next door to her lab. “My students are more likely to pop into my office with
questions now,” she said, “and I am more likely to pop into the lab to make suggestions.”
Also, Harrington noted, with
a neuroscience cluster of faculty and labs, majors in the
interdisciplinary field have a sense of place. “It is important for them
to get to know each other,” she said, “since they are in classes with a wide
range of other science majors. Also, we are able to get to know students working
in the labs of our colleagues.”
In addition, added Harrington,
the lab and office proximity allows she and her colleagues
to co-supervise research projects and share resources.
“There’s an increased frequency of interaction now,” said Barresi. “It fosters
better efficiency. This is everything I want.”