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New Lab Named for Keck Foundation

By monét cooper

The portal to the new biochemistry teaching laboratory looks like the entrance to any other room on the third floor of Merrill Hall. But its nondescript door belies the goldmine of hi-tech equipment inside: a centrifuge for separating different substances; machines that purify water and sense acidity levels; microscopes; a refrigerator for storing solutions and experiments; and other instruments of various sizes, shapes and uses.

Many professors, administrators, staff and students walked through the doors of the new lab, equally admiring the new equipment and the students’ prowess at explaining the importance of such machines as the “horizontal gel electrophoresis systems.”

The new $218,000 lab and the new biochemistry course will help gain national accreditation for the College’s Chemistry Department, said Willis B. Sheftall ’64, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, at the Friday, February 18, ceremony dedicating the laboratory in the name of the W.M. Keck Foundation.

Last spring, the foundation gave the department a $400,000 gift. The grant was written by assistant chemistry professors Lance Shipman and Subhash Bhatia, and John Hall, chair of the Department of Chemistry.

“The gift goes beyond $400,000. It’s a vote of confidence by one of the leading scientific foundations,” said President Walter E. Massey ’58 during the ceremony. “The fact that they want us to name the laboratory and dedicate it to the Keck Foundation is significant.”

Besides equipping the biochemistry lab, the grant money has enabled the department to hire additional faculty and to update the general chemistry and organic chemistry laboratories.

Hall predicts that the updated labs and faculty additions will help increase the number of students who earn degrees in chemistry from Morehouse and pursue graduate degrees in the sciences.

Professors now have the equipment to write their own lab manuals and can better engage students by showing them, not just telling them, about chemistry.

“The grant has [changed] the way we present material to the students,” said Bhatia. “It challenges us to find new ways to do science and makes us aware of different pedagogical approaches to enhance student learning.”

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