02/27/1995 08:00:00

Fletcher Jones Foundation Grants Caltech $250,000 for Lab Renovations

PASADENA—The Fletcher Jones Foundation of Los Angeles has awarded $250,000 to Caltech for the refurbishing of three undergraduate biology laboratories. The renovation is part of a major effort to serve the growing number of biology majors at the school by upgrading all undergraduate biology teaching laboratories.

There are now 81 undergraduate biology majors at Caltech, twice as many as there were five years ago. This rapid growth is due in part to a general increase of interest in biology among all students, as technological developments open up exciting new areas of research, and in part to Caltech's success in attracting more female students, who now make up 26 percent of undergraduates. Women are relatively more likely to choose biology as a major.

The three groups of laboratories used for teaching undergraduate biology can no longer accommodate all the students who are interested in lab courses. The award from Fletcher Jones will allow an expansion in size of about 50 percent, including new lab benches and work areas to handle the overflow of students. The renovation is unprecedented at Caltech in terms of its scale. The Institute has never before planned a complete and simultaneous renovation of an entire division's undergraduate teaching labs. The renovations will affect the cellular and molecular biology laboratories, the genetics and organismic biology laboratories, and the neuroscience laboratories.

Caltech's biology division has been a leader throughout its 66-year history, both in molecular biology, a field in which Max Delbrück's work on viruses earned him a Nobel Prize in 1969, and in understanding what genes are, how they work, how they interact during the development of organisms, and what happens when they malfunction. Genetic research also earned Nobels for Thomas Hunt Morgan in 1933 and for George W. Beadle in 1958. The division has maintained its place at the leading edge of biology and was ranked among the top 10 American universities last year by the newsletter Science Watch, both in molecular biology and genetics, and in biology and biochemistry.

Caltech continues to be recognized as one of the premier biology programs in the nation, where students can build a strong foundation in the basics of the discipline, study under preeminent scientists in the field, and tackle career-building research projects as undergraduates. From the class of 1994, 43 percent of Caltech's biology majors went to medical school, and 38 percent entered PhD programs.

The Fletcher Jones Foundation was founded in 1969 by Fletcher Jones, a man of unique talents, generosity, and foresight. As the cofounder of Computer Science Corporation and as its chairman and chief executive officer, he guided and stimulated it to leadership in the then innovative field of software computer services.

Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and a faculty of about 275 professorial members and more than 370 research members. The Institute has more than 18,100 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of nearly 1,900 people on campus and more than 6,500 at JPL. Over the years, 22 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni, and two faculty members have been awarded the Crafoord Prize. Thirty-seven Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science, and eight alumni and trustees and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award.

Written by John Avery