The Lafayette community welcomed keynote speaker and professor of informatics at the University of Pennsylvania, Graciela Gonzalez Hernandez, as part of a week long celebration of homecoming weekend and the Grand Opening of Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center. An expert on health informatics and natural language processing with a background in computer science, Gonzalez’s research lies at the intersection of many of the disciplines now housed in the new building.
Gonzalez’s talk, entitled “The Myths and Misconceptions about Social Media Mining for Health Research,” focused on the complexity of research using social media and debunked certain preconceptions held about the usefulness of social media data.
Gonzalez described her work in biomedical informatics as “an interdisciplinary team working together,” similar to the spirit of work Lafayette hopes to see in Rockwell.
President Alison Byerly said Gonzalez was chosen because her work “combines…the work of the life sciences with interest in computer and media issues.”
“Given that the building is home to biology and computer science…as the primary tenants as well as environmental studies and other fields, a speaker whose work…is at the intersection of biology and computer science seemed like a really nice choice,” she said. “A lot of the spirit behind the way in which the building was conceived was that it would be a center for interdisciplinary work and would create lots of interesting proximity and adjacencies between people working in different fields.”
Construction of the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center began in May of 2019, and the $75 million dollar building has been open to students, faculty, and visitors since the beginning of the fall semester. Home to a variety of scientific programs and departments such as Environmental Studies, Biology, and more, RISC was “intentionally designed to spark and strengthen interdisciplinary connections, a distinct feature of a Lafayette Education,” according to the Lafayette website.
Rockwell is also described on it’s website as an embodiment of “Lafayette’s commitment to sustainability”, with a LEED Gold certification and a 46% reduction in energy usage and a 40% reduction in water usage. In addition to being a model for sustainability, RISC provides an open space for students to congregate, study, and grab food at the new EcoCafe.
“I love going to Rockwell to meet friends for lunch, and to study,” Clare Mckeown ‘20 said. “The open air atmosphere and natural light is really conducive to getting good work done.”
“[Rockwell] is being used in a way that is just exactly how it was designed,” said Vice President of Finances Roger Demareski. “[You] walk in there almost at any time, and there’s students gathered, sitting, studying.”
Rockwell also provides a home for majors that did not have a specific location on campus prior to the building’s construction.
“As an Environmental Science major, we have never had a place to call our own before the new building,” Anne Marie Mozrall ’20 said. “It has already provided me with a lot of unique opportunities, such as a place for me to do my research on invasive crab species.”
Today also marks the official grand opening of the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center. The official ceremony is an invitation only event, and celebrates the opening of the new building with a dinner and a tour of some of the building’s prominent and unique features.
The dedication ceremony will also feature speakers from the administration, faculty, and the board of trustees. Following the ceremony, students and professors from the neuroscience, biology, computer science, and environmental and environmental science departments plan to showcase their work inside the new building.