The Penn State Eberly College of Science got its name in 1990, and scientists at Penn State have been making a name for themselves and the University for 145 years. Two of the University's first four faculty members were scientists, President Evan Pugh held a Ph.D. in chemistry and Jacob Whitman was a professor of natural science. Of the University's 15 presidents, five have been trained in fields found in the Eberly College of Science. Along with Pugh, that group comprises: chemist William Allen, astronomer and mathematician John Fraser, botanist John Oswald, and biologist Joab Thomas.
Current faculty members include seven members of the National Academy of Sciences, considered one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a U.S. scientist, and three members of the British Royal Society. Their efforts uphold a tradition of faculty excellence in the sciences at Penn State. For example, Penn State faculty members were the first to: "see" an atom (physicist Erwin Mueller); discover practical synthesis of the pregnancy hormone progesterone (chemist Russell Marker); and to discover planets outside our solar system (astronomer Alex Wolszczan). University researchers also designed the world's largest optical telescope, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. College graduates include a Nobel Prize winner and three U.S. astronauts.
Seven Academic departments comprise the college. Faculty in those departments — astronomy and astrophysics, biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and statistics — rank among national and world leaders in their respective fields. The college provides basic science instruction to students from across the University. The college offers a dozen undergraduate majors, enrolling roughly 2800 students. Included in these majors are some whose content is unique or nearly unique, including the pre-med-medicine program, the science/MBA program, the biotechnology major, and a pre-med major.
Nearly one half of all juniors and seniors in the Eberly College of Science participate in undergraduate research, either on campus with faculty or off campus as part of the cooperative-education program. In the past year, separate grants were awarded to the Department of Biology and the Department of Statistics for efforts to restructure large lecture classes, create smaller, inquiry-based settings for students, and then study the impact of those changes.
Growth of the college's research and education programs will continue. Part of that growth includes the addition of a chemistry building and a life-sciences building on campus, with construction scheduled to start in summer 2001. Already a partner in operation of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, Penn State has been selected as NASA's Lead University Partner for the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer satellite project. As part of a $24.3 million contract, the University will be the home of the satellite's Mission Operations Center and will provide a large portion of the new observatory's manpower and materials. The satellite is scheduled for launch in 2003. Funding for several other major research projects was awarded in the past year as well. Included in that group was $4.29 million for an interdisciplinary materials research center, the Center for Collective Phenomena in Restricted Geometries.