BY Zachary Bader ('07)
You don't have to be a science major to appreciate the progress of the sciences at Loras. In fact, if you are a student at Loras, you are guaranteed to benefit, first-hand, from the fruits that progression. While the traditional sciences consist of the fields of biology, chemistry and physics, Loras is breaking the sciences out of their cookie-cutter mold and leading the charge toward interdisciplinary research and study that impacts not only science majors, but the entire student body.
Loras maintains strong programs in biology, chemistry, electomechanical engineering and physics secondary education, but the information among fields is becoming increasingly shared. “Information and knowledge are spread wider than individual departments,” said molecular and life sciences division chair David Speckhard, Ph.D. In fact, Speckhard and his colleagues are pushing for an expansion of that collaboration with different programs on campus, particularly the behavioral sciences and mathematics programs. “We want to have different problem-solving skill sets side-by-side,” said Speckhard. “We’re trying to broaden our approach, which is consistent with the new general education curriculum and the collaboration that’s happening in the research and professional communities.”
Building a Foundation
Loras’ emphasis on collaborative work in science is just the latest in a history of cutting-edge advancement. Loras’ chemistry program got its first big boost in the 1960s, with the help of the Rev. Msgr. George Schulte, Ph.D. Schulte helped the College secure Undergraduate Research Participation and Institutional grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which led to the purchase of new instrumentation. “Schulte helped us get equipment when equipment was becoming important,” noted Speckhard. The chemistry, biology and physics programs also upgraded their facilities during this time period by moving into the St. Joseph Hall of Science in 1963. As a result of these improvements, the chemistry program was approved for accreditation by the American Chemical Society in 1970.
The biology program began in the 1920s and at the time, the major was primarily intended to prepare students for medical school. According to former Loras student and biology professor Joseph Kapler, Ph.D. (’48), the program really began to diversify after World War II. With the end of the war and the implementation of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (commonly known as the “GI Bill”), enrollment boomed and the biology program was forced to accommodate a variety of students with different interests. The College began to offer courses that would prepare students for biological research, graduate school and teaching. (full story