Alstadt DNA lab dedicated in Zurn Hall

More than 50 guests attended the dedication of what is fast becoming known as the crown jewel of Zurn Hall – the Donald and Judith Alstadt Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Research – on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The new facility – a state-of-the-art DNA lab – is described by Dr. James Adovasio, dean of the Zurn School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, as “potentially one of the best in the triangle area that includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo.” Further, he called it the manifestation of a compelling commitment Mercyhurst has made to further advance a science program that is experiencing radical growth across the board: students, faculty, facilities, curriculum and research.

The lab is named in honor of Erie businessman and scientist Donald Alstadt, chairman emeritus of the board and former chief executive officer of Lord Corporation; and his wife, Judith Alstadt ’53, who, for many years, taught elementary school in the Erie School District.

Prior to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Adovasio addressed the crowd and introduced Don Alstadt, whose contribution to the college Adovasio characterized “as a remarkable continuation of a distinguished scientific career.”

Following Alstadt’s brief remarks, Dr. David Hyland, biology department chair, took the floor and described the lab and its capabilities, calling it “the center of what is going to be happening in science at Mercyhurst College.”

“We now have a laboratory I’ve been dreaming about for some time,” he said, “… an inviting, bright, and attractive environment filled with state-of-the-art gear … an environment where both faculty and students can fully explore the world of molecular biology.”

The lab will be utilized by virtually all science disciplines at Mercyhurst. In fact, Hyland said, “A number of our existing courses, such as cell biology, immunology, cellular biochemistry, and genetics, will be moved into this lab and, more importantly, new courses in molecular biology will be developed.

“With the addition of a clean room, we will also be able to conduct DNA analysis in conjunction with the department of applied forensic sciences. Furthermore, cell culture studies will be conducted in partnership with the department of chemistry and organic residues will be assayed for the department of anthropology.”

Hyland went on to express his gratitude to many in the crowd, including Adovasio, Dr. William P. Garvey, Dr. Thomas Gamble, Tom Billingsley, Darlene Melchitzky, Jeff Illingworth, Ernie Crowther of Crowther Construction, and especially, to the Alstadts.

The Alstadts made a major gift to Mercyhurst during the Alden Science Challenge, one of the successful components of the Preserving the Legacy capital campaign.

Their gift was part of the $332,027 raised from 327 donors between November 2003 and June 30, 2004, to match the challenge issued by the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester, Mass. By meeting that match, the college received $100,000 from the Alden Trust.
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