Monday, December 20, 2010

The Handpainted Lab

A room plastered with handprints marks the end of a long-standing tradition. For over a decade each graduating senior in the computer science major has placed a painted handprint onto the lab’s brightly colored walls. The hands signify the many hours of study and research of a class’ four years, their sense of community, and provides a visual for current students to see the imprints of the scholars before them.

The lab, based in MacDonald Hall, has been home base to the computer science major for over 25 years. But as the last week of classes came to a close for the fall term, this department was just getting started. Over the break, the computer science major will close shop in MacDonald Hall as they prepare to relocate in Gordon’s newest academic building on campus—the Ken Olsen Science Center.

Stephen Brinton and Russell Bjork, two of Gordon’s computer science faculty, reminisce over the years spent in their unusually decorated but homey “hand-painted” lab. “It’s not unusual to find our students huddled in the corner of this room with the glow of computer screens lighting their faces,” says Brinton. “The MacDonald lab is a small place, and it served us well by unifying students within the major. But the new space will create a lot of opportunity.”

The move will centralize the computer science major, placing it in closer proximity to many other science disciplines such as physics, chemistry and engineering.

Bjork, one of the first computer science professors at Gordon 30 years ago, is excited for the new collaborative opportunities for his students. “Forging links between the majors is of utmost importance,” said Bjork. “That same interdisciplinary collaboration will also show students outside our program the value of computer science today.”

“We will miss the handprints of all the past students,” said Brinton. “But we’re brainstorming ways we can take a segment of it with us. You'll have to visit us come the spring term and see just how.”

The first hand prints made their mark on the computer science lab nearly 14 years ago. The prints, under a sign for the Class of 1997, are centered on the back wall of the lab. Photo: Professor Bjork lays his hand amongst the prints of graduates from 1997.

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