two students and a professor in white lab jackets and safety eyewear

Microbiologist Jason Tor (right) during a lab with his Chem 14 students.

New Department Name Emphasizes Natural Sciences


he W.M. Keck Science Department has announced its renaming as The Department of Natural Sciences of Pitzer and Scripps Colleges. The name change was determined last fall following several rounds of nominations and voting by the department’s faculty and staff. A decision was made to emphasize “natural sciences” in the title because it is central to the department’s identity, explained Ulysses J. Sofia, who serves as the department’s dean.

“We wanted a name that truly describes who we are,” he said. “Everyone decided that ‘natural’ should be used for clarity to differentiate us from the social sciences.”

department of natural sciences logoThe department provides the hub for science training for students from Pitzer College, Scripps College, and Claremont McKenna College (CMC is currently transitioning out of the department to operate its own science program).

A key feature of the department’s approach to science education is providing science majors with intimate classroom experiences and opportunities to work closely with faculty. The department offers majors in biology, chemistry, or physics along with interdisciplinary majors in biology-chemistry, neuroscience, environmental science, and more.

Until 2009, it was known as the Joint Science Department; in that year, the department and its building were renamed as the Keck Science Department in recognition of a gift to the program from the Keck Foundation.

In addition to the name change, Sofia said that the faculty and staff of The Department of Natural Sciences are awaiting another highly anticipated change for the department later this year: completed construction of The Nucleus. The 70,000-square-foot building, which is located just west of the department, will expand science resources and facilities for faculty and Pitzer and Scripps science students. The Nucleus is expected to open in the fall.