Renovations Improve Labs, Student Experience at Carnegie Hall

Allegheny College celebrated the 100th year of Carnegie Hall by showcasing renovations that have transformed the building into a state-of-the-art center for the study of psychology and neuroscience.

Students, faculty and staff, along with representatives of companies that participated in the renovation of the building, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Friday. The event celebrated both the history of the building and its future as the modern home of Allegheny’s psychology and neuroscience programs, two of the most popular programs on campus. The neuroscience program also is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

“The research, the faculty-student collaboration, and the education — both in and out of the classroom — that these programs produce is second to none,” Provost and Dean of the College Ron Cole said. “This project shows that Allegheny is committed to providing our students with the facilities and resources that will prepare them to be change makers in the fields of psychology and neuroscience.”

The renovations were supported in part by two grants, one from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the other from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.  In April, the Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded Allegheny a $1.6 million grant, $1.5 million of which was directed to this project.  And part of the Commonwealth’s 2014 $2 million grant was dedicated to this renovation.

The first phase of renovations began in 2014 with improvements to faculty offices and the creation of new research space on the second floor of Carnegie. The second phase, between May and August 2016, included work on the building’s heating, cooling and electrical systems and renovations to the main and bottom floors including completely new suites of lab spaces. Students and faculty now have access to modern laboratories in neuroscience and physiological, behavioral, health, cognitive, social, developmental and clinical psychology.

“This is a new, exciting chapter in the long history of Carnegie Hall,” said Sarah Conklin, chair of the neuroscience program. “This is a building all of us — students, faculty and staff — can be proud of as we celebrate its centennial and look to the future.”

The renovations go beyond the aesthetic to improve the student experience, said Aimee Knupsky, chair of the psychology department and director of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities.

“Allegheny students have the opportunity to work with expert faculty on collaborative, hands-on research, an opportunity not available to their peers at many other undergraduate institutions,” Knupsky said. “Now they’ll do so in a beautifully renovated facility with cutting-edge tools and resources at their disposal.”

Those resources include laboratory spaces for social, cognitive, clinical, developmental and physiological psychology experiments, including research on autism, drug addiction, stress, moral behavior, learning and memory, and emotion In addition, the facility includes equipment to measure sleep and electrical activity in the human brain, as well as spaces for animal research on neurodegenerative disease and for sensation and perception from both cellular and behavioral perspectives.

“It’s so refreshing to have all this new space,” Adam Brandner, a senior psychology and neuroscience double major, said of the renovations. “If you have an up-to-date lab, it’s going to show in your work. It’s a better place to learn.” Brandner, of Gibsonia, Pa., is president of the college’s Neuroscience Club.

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) in January presented Allegheny College with the inaugural Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment. Allegheny was the only baccalaureate college in the nation to receive the honor, which recognizes the exceptional research experiences Allegheny provides to its students.

Carnegie Hall is named in honor of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who provided the lead gift for its construction.

Photo credit: William Owen