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College of Science and Mathematics

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Inside 180

Baker Center interior

Take a closer look at how students are using the new Warren J Baker Center for Science & Mathematics.

The new Warren J. Baker Center for Science & Mathematics is a busy place. Located at the heart of the Cal Poly campus, its six floors and 189,000 square feet provide classroom and lab space for 1,500 students at any one time and study space for another 400. But to really get a feel for how the Baker Center is transforming science education at Cal Poly, you need to take a peek inside.

Tuesday, 2 P.M. / room 338 / Chemistry Studio Class

Students around computers in a chemistry lab
Photo compliments of ZGF Architects LLP, © Tim Griffith

The music playing over the loudspeakers is barely audible over the group discussions in Grace Neff’s Chemistry 125: General Chemistry for Engineers studio class. In this integrated lecture and lab classroom, students sit in clusters of eight with two lab partners sharing a computer. The studios allow faculty to teach in innovative ways and give students the opportunity to actively discover science by doing experiments and immediately exploring the data with their professors.

Lab partners Jeff Reeves and Tyler Watkins, both mechanical engineering sophomores, are finishing up an experiment on the freezing point of an unknown substance. They will pool their data with the rest of their group to identify the substance. 

“It feels hands-on,” Reeves says of the studio approach. “During the lectures, she [Neff] can just show you what she’s talking about.”

Civil engineering freshman Julihanna Mandeville echoes her classmate’s sentiments. “I like this way better because you learn about it and do it on the same day. It’s easier to understand when they’re together rather than seeming like two separate things.” 

She’s also a fan of all the space outside the classrooms. “It’s in the heart of campus, so if I have a break in between classes, I go upstairs. It’s really easy to get group studies together or to get help from teachers.” 

Nikhitha Byragani, a mechanical engineering sophomore, and her lab partner are still in the midst of the experiment. Various test tubes sit in beakers of ice, and a temperature probe is connected to the computer, which graphs the temperature in real time. 

Byragani enjoys the interactive nature of the studio. “It makes a classroom more of a group thing than a bunch of people sitting in rows trying to see the board. It makes the class experience more intimate.” 

Computer engineering senior Vincent D’Alessio is more than happy with the new studio’s setup — the color on the walls, the comfortable chairs. “I like coming to class more,” he says. “It makes me more excited for chemistry.” 

wednesday, 12:10 P.M. / Work Space Outside Professor Eric Kantorowski's Office

Left- Professor Eric Kantorowski holds office hours in the study space outside his office.
Photo credit: Left- ZGF Architects LLP, © Tim Griffith, Right- Jonathan Shapiro

Seven students sit around three of the many tables outside Chemistry Professor Eric Kantorowski’s office as he reviews the answers to their last organic chemistry quiz. Their laptops, notebooks and books are spread across the table as they watch Kantorowski graph spectra and write chemical structures on the glass dry erase board.

With this new space making a group approach to office hours possible, the session has become interactive. Students throw out possible ways to synthesize a compound and answer each other’s questions. 

“The space available throughout the Baker Center has helped students and faculty connect in new ways,” Kantorowski said. “The space is inviting; permits students and faculty to mingle; and has created many opportunities for academic, research, and career conversations that would not otherwise occur to such a high degree.” 


Science-inspired artwork fills the walls in the Baker Center.
Photo Credit: Jay Erker

Shelby Carow, a sophomore communication studies major, is settled in with her laptop writing an essay for her Small Group Communication class. She has classes in the nearby English building and comes to the Baker Center for the hour between classes. 

“It’s a comfortable place to hang out and do my work. This is a comfortable chair, and it’s very quiet in here. It’s so convenient,” Carow says. 

Mary Giordano, a fourth year nutrition major, sits on one of the large padded benches near the building entrance and leans against the wall. She’s making jewelry using Kumihimo, an ancient Japanese weaving technique. 

“It’s really stylish. I like the architecture,” Giordano says. “I had a lab on the fourth floor. It was really nice, a lot of hoods and cool technology. I love this place.”




Dedicating 180

Through the three decades of his presidency, Warren J. Baker’s leadership transformed Cal Poly into the nationally recognized comprehensive polytechnic university it is today. 

Last November, faculty, staff, studentsand friends of the university gathered to dedicate the building and recognizeBaker’s contributions. Alumni and friends of the university were also honored for their generous donations that made the Baker Center a reality. 

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