Searles Science Building


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Searles Science Building

Searles Science Building

On the west side of the Quad along Park Row, the Mary Frances Searles Science Building  is home to the computer science, physics and astronomy, and mathematics departments.

Built in the 1894, Searles underwent a complete renovation in 1998. It houses many state of the art classrooms and computer labs.  Bowdoin is one of the most active research institutions among liberal arts colleges today - and students play important roles in much of that research.  

Computer Science

The Department of Computer Science offers major and minor programs, as well as an interdisciplinary major with mathematics, and provides a solid foundation for either postgraduate study or a career in industry. Bowdoin College's RoboCup team, Northern Bites, won the RoboCup 2007 world championship games held in Atlanta, Ga., beating teams from Japan, China, Germany and Australia as well as the team from Carnegie Mellon University, considered to have one of the best computer science programs in the country.


The mathematics program emphasizes both the practical applications of mathematics the theoretical beauty of the discipline.  Bowdoin is nationally known for our calculus reform efforts as part of a nationwide effort to revitalize the teaching of calculus. All calculus courses include a computer laboratory that explores calculus using Mathematica, a sophisticated software package that integrates processing, numeric and symbolic computation, graphics, and programming. Real-life applications are stressed.


The department averages about 12 majors per year. In some years, there are majors in the 3-2 program, where they take three years of physics here and take two more at Columbia and Cal Tech. At the end of the five years, they will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree from Bowdoin, and a bachelor of science degree from the engineering school. Bowdoin physics majors enter a variety of fields (geophysics, optics, engineering, aeronautics, and environmental engineering, for example), and many go on to graduate school.

The department is well equipped for both research and instruction. Two super conducting magnets are used in research. Experiments in semiconductor systems with non-linear optical effects use a nanosecond-pulsed dye laser. A helium leak detector and a computer-based data acquisition system are available for cryogenic work. The department has a class 1000 clean room for processing semiconductors and other applications requiring a controlled environment. Recently the department established a phonon-imaging laboratory that allows the study of heat propagation in solids. This is a low temperature imaging system utilizing a pulsed laser to excite thermal waves in semiconductors and insulators. Other supporting equipment includes a high-vacuum evaporator and a rapid thermal annealer, and a mask aligner for photolithography.

The department has its own machine shop and a full-time machinist for the construction of specialized apparatus and the repair and maintenance of its existing equipment. The shop’s major equipment includes three lathes, two milling machines and a recently acquired computer-controlled mill. Its resources are available for student instruction.

The opportunity to do independent research, usually in their senior year, is a valuable experience for physics majors. A student pursuing an honors research program is working with a faculty member, assisting in current research in that professor’s special area of physics. The student may coauthor papers that are published in scientific journals. As well as submitting a thesis, the student presents the research findings at a seminar for students, parents, and guests.

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