San Mateo college opens high-tech science building

The College of San Mateo will unveil its state-of-the-art new science building today, including an updated planetarium and observatory that will be open to aspiring astronomers throughout the community.

The $28.3 million building, paid for by a portion of the $207 million Measure C construction bond, spans 58,000 square feet of space. Physical sciences dominate the first floor, while the second is devoted to biology and the third to chemistry, according to professor Mohsen Janatpour.

However, the new centerpiece is a student center where scholars can relax, share ideas or perform research in the new 20-machine computer lab.

“Symbolically, it sayswe put the students first — and they love it,” Janatpour said, referring to the fact that students packed the center this week.

For students and teachers alike, the new facilities are a step into the 21st century compared to the former science building, constructed in the 1960s. The new science classrooms, like others that have been upgraded throughout the campus, feature Internet access that allows students and professors to access the Internet or use computer modeling to enhance their lessons, according to College of San Mateo spokesman Michael Habeeb.

The new anatomy room functions “as though it’s several different kinds of laboratories in one space,” according to Charlene Frontiera, College of San Mateo’s dean of math and science. And the new chemistry lab uses a system called MeasureNet that allows students to get more accurate results and use fewer chemicals to perform their lessons.

Janatpour is especially excited about the new observatory, with its 14-inch telescopes and a new 20-inch model that will be installed this December. The accompanying planetarium’s projectors will broadcast 4,000 stars onto the domed ceiling — rather then 1,000 shown by CSM’s old, vacuum-tube-driven projectors.

Those facilities will open to the public in January, and are already booked with field trips from local elementary schools and meetings of the San Mateo County Astronomical Society, according to Janatpour.

The Measure C bond and the Measure A $468 million bond, approved in November 2005, have funded construction of new San Mateo Community College District buildings, including a new $4 million public-safety instruction building at College of San Mateo and a $30 million library and learning center at Cañada College. Measure A money will be used to upgrade classrooms throughout the district’s campuses, Habeeb said.

College of San Mateo will hold the grand opening of its new building today at 2:15 p.m.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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