Preparing For the Challenges of the 21st Century

Every major issue facing our world today requires science and mathematics as part of the solution, from global warming and environmental protection to cancer and stem cell research, world hunger and bioterrorism. In providing its undergraduates with direct experiences in collaborative, interdisciplinary and investigative approaches to science, St. Olaf is producing graduates who are fully prepared for leadership roles in confronting the challenges of the 21st century.

Not long ago, biologists, chemists, physicists and mathematicians worked in dedicated classrooms and labs,
conducting research and solving problems independent of their peers in other fields. For example, psychologists talked about behavior and biologists tried to understand what nerve cells looked like. Today, neuroscience — a field now poised for remarkable rates of achievement in clinical depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases — dictates that biology and psychology be inexorably intertwined.

The professional practice of science has become an intricate discovery process that continues to meld the theories, tools and techniques of multiple academic disciplines. St. Olaf College mirrors this real-world model by teaming students and faculty members from various departments for coursework and research into emerging areas of expertise. Classes in bioinformatics, biophysical chemistry, molecular genetics and psychophysiology illustrate this commitment.

The St. Olaf Center for Interdisciplinary Research, housed in the link that connects the natural and physical sciences with mathematics, computer science and statistics, emphasizes applied experiential learning by teaming statistics students with faculty and students from other disciplines. Students collaborate not only on problem-based research but will also work on projects such as monitoring the effectiveness of the green building and green roof.

Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences will meet the ever-changing needs of 21st century science. It not only reflects the principles of an education that reaches inward to students’ strengths and outward to their place in the world, but also connects St. Olaf College to its history of excellence in science and mathematics education and to a future where that education is critically important.