CCC celebrates its new science center with ribbon-cutting ceremony


Joseph Porrello

San Pablo, CA- CCC President Dr. Tia Robinson-Cooper and her colleagues prepare to formally open the the campus Science Center on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo/Joseph Porrello)

By Joseph Porrello, Editor-in-Chief

Administrative leaders, faculty, staff, and students from Contra Costa College, as well as the architects and designers of the campus’ science center, gathered Thursday evening to formally open the building that started holding its first classes this semester.

“This state-of-the-art building will open up doors and career opportunities to CCC students for years to come,” said Contra Costa President Dr. Tia Robinson-Cooper.

The $72 million project was mostly funded by bonds.

The building features a variety of architectural innovations throughout its three-story, 50,000 square-foot surface, college leaders said.

San Pablo, CA- The back-side view of Contra Costa College’s new science center on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo/Joseph Porrello) (Joseph Porrello)

“I remember the groundbreaking ceremony… we envisioned something that ended up turning out to be this absolutely extraordinary space,” said Contra Costa Community College District Interim Chancellor Mojdeh Mehdizadeh.

The first-floor features staff offices, a computer lab, and six classrooms with anatomy and physiology laboratories.

San Pablo, CA- A look inside a laboratory and the equipment in the new science center on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo/Joseph Porrello) (Joseph Porrello)

The Dean’s office, biology laboratories, and The Center for Science Excellence can be found on the second floor. The Center for Science Excellence is a Presidential award-winning program that offers financial and academic support to students majoring in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Our college is committed to increasing access to students from every background in the STEM field,” said Robinson-Cooper. The college has received several Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS) grants focusing on advancing STEM and social justice.

San Pablo, CA- Contra Costa College President Dr. Tia Robinson-Cooper starts the festivities by being the first to address the crowd on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo/Joseph Porrello) (Joseph Porrello)

Located above The Center for Science Excellence on the third floor is a 55-seat planetarium along with laboratories for engineering and chemistry.

“Even the planetarium itself has a unique design and structure, usually planetariums are outside of the main building,” said Vice Chancellor for Facilities, Planning and Construction, Ines Zildzic.

San Pablo, CA- Contra Costa College Science Department Professor Jon Celesia shows off the new planetarium’s functions on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo/Joseph Porrello) (Joseph Porrello)

Chair of Astronomy, Computer Science, Engineering, Geology and Physics, Jon Celesia noted a student who walked into the planetarium recently saying, “This puts CCC on the map,” and another student who said, “UC Berkeley doesn’t have anything like this, they should call this UC San Pablo,”

“And I agree,” said Celesia.

Also featured in the science center are open student study areas on every floor and a rooftop astronomical observation deck that will be used for star-watching parties in the future, among other events.

“The building and project are a testament to our collaboration, unity, and community pride,” said Robinson-Cooper.

Joseph Porrello

The building also won the California Community Colleges Board of Governors Energy and Sustainability Award, which recognizes projects that are environmentally friendly to their district.

“The building honors our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and using existing campus solar power to offset its energy use,” said Robinson-Cooper.

Being the first Zero Net Energy building in the district is yet another accomplishment for all those involved with the building’s culmination.

Including an all-electric heating and air conditioning system prevents the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels, and classroom lighting dims automatically according to available natural sunlight to conserve electricity.

“Science buildings normally consume probably about 70 percent of energy on any given campus – they’re huge energy hogs,” said Zildzic.

Additionally, fritted glass was used for the windows, which reduces heat and glare from the sun, and multiple shades of brown brick adorn the building’s exterior.

San Pablo, CA- The front-side view of Contra Costa College’s new science center on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo/Joseph Porrello) (Joseph Porrello)

“The brick was chosen to literally represent the communities that this college serves. It was really meant to reflect diversity and inclusion,” said Zildzic.

The SmithGroup architectural design team out of San Francisco designed the building to have three entrance points for easy access and lots of windows and open space.

Leading team architect Hiroko Miyake, a 30-year expert in the business (24 years with the SmithGroup and six years in Japan), shared some of her thoughts on the building’s design.

“I wanted to design the building for the community. All the different aspects of the building are connected by thinking about how people flow,” Miyake said. “By using lots of openness and windows, we try to create curiosity. We hope the people inside will be motivated to move by curiosity, promoting natural exercise and healthiness.”

Miyake added, “The campus was already really nice, but hopefully we could provide a little spark to it.”

Joseph Porrello

Thursday marked a busy day on campus, in addition to the Science Center’s formal opening. The Extended Opportunities Programs and Services (EOPS) program held their graduation ceremony and Rep. John Garamendi (D-Davis) came to visit earlier in the day.

District Governing Board Secretary and Ward One Trustee John Marquez (and a Contra Costa College alum) ended the ceremony before the ribbon-cutting with an impromptu reminder of the holiday.

“I would be remised if I did not recognize the special occasion for today and the reason for me to wear my cholo hat: I want to remind all of you that today is Cinco de Mayo,” Marquez said. “Viva Cinco de Mayo! Viva Cinco de Mayo! Viva Cinco de Mayo!”.