Saturday October 6, 2012

SHEFFIELD -- Acclaimed science writer and Yale University lecturer Carl Zimmer informed his audience that high school and college students across the country are hunting viruses. Now, Berk shire School is now equipped to join the quest.

On Friday, the school formally dedicated its new $20 million project as the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center during a campus-wide ceremony, with Zimmer de livering the keynote address.

The center’s namesakes are two former teachers, Rick Bellas and Tom Dixon, known for advancing the use of technology and science at Berkshire School, respectively.

Among its other functions, the center is home to the preparatory school’s Advanced Math/Science Research program. It is headed by new director, April Burch, who specializes in the study of viruses of bacteria, and she will enlist Berk shire School’s students to aid in her research.

"Math and science is imperative in the world we live in today," said Michael J. Maher, head of Berk shire School during the dedication ceremony.

He said the goal is for the center to enable 21st-century students at the school to go further, look deeper and understand more about the world around them.

"I enjoy the center so much. It’s one of the reasons I came to Berkshire," junior Elif Kesaf of Turkey told The Eagle, after getting two books signed by Zimmer. She is also a student in the Advanced Math/Science Research program.

"To be in high school and be able to do college-level research is a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to phage hunting," she said, using a term for searching for bacteriophages, or viruses, many of which are not harmful.

The Bellas/Dixon Math and Sci ence Center is a 48,000-square-foot combination of campus legacy, sustainability and modern architectural marvel.

It contains six math classrooms, eight science classroom/laboratories, a 100-seat teaching auditorium, department offices an the Advanced Math/Science Research Lab, equipped with state-of-the-art research tools and technologies. The building increased the amount of space devoted to math and science study by 129 percent.

The math and science classrooms were formerly located in Berkshire Hall. The vacated space is in the process of being transformed into a new art studio space and gallery.

The new math and science center took about a year to build and stands in the footprint of Memorial Hall, which was constructed in 1919, and the adjoining Glenny House. Together, they served as the heart of the school for many years, according to Lucia Mulder, director of communications for Berk shire School.

Today, salvaged wood from Memorial Hall has been re-purposed in the vestibules of the new center. Designed by Centerbrook Architects and Planners of Con necticut, the center is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Envi ronmental Design) Gold certified.

Other sustainable features in clude expansive glass walls and skylights which utilize natural light; a terraced landscape featuring native flora, outdoor classroom space and bioswales made to filter runoff. A clean-burning wood pellet biomass boiler generates hot water heat to minimize fuel oil use, and a construction phase waste management plan was reported to reduce the building’s carbon footprint by diverting 81 percent of waste from landfills and incinerators.

"It’s very current and timely," said Swetha Kodali, a Berkshire School senior from New Jersey.

The center, along with the school’s recently installed eight-acre solar field emphasizes the school’s practice of environmental sustainability.

To see more images and specifications on the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center, visit: www.berkshireschool.org/page.cfm?p=1092.