About the Center
The Volen Center celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019.
Since its construction at the heart of the Brandeis campus, the Volen National Center for Complex Systems has been a key focal point of the Brandeis campus. The structure was dedicated Oct. 20, 1994, and has served as a gateway to the Brandeis Science Complex for the past 25 years. Planning for the construction of the building began in 1989 with funding from the federal government. Additional funding from the government and donations from benefactors followed. The total cost of construction was over $31 million.
Major donors to the construction of the Volen Center include: George and Ida Bursak, Rabbi Benjamin Kreitman (Gloria and Sidney Danzinger Foundation), Majorie and Charles Housen, Honey Kugler, Nancy Lurie Marks, Dr. Neil and Madelyn Messinger, Paula Michtom, Joseph Schwartz, Dr. Kay Stein and Dr. Harold Stein, Majorie Stonehill, Majorie and Alan Tichnor, Lewis Weinstein, Kent Lawrence (M.R. Bauer Foundation), Benjamin and Mae Volen, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, W.M. Keck Foundation, Raytheon and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The center's primary focus is the study of one of the most complex of complex systems — the human brain and mind. When the Volen Center was formed in 1989, its mission statement was "to advance our understanding of cognitive processes, perceptions, neuroscience, and the development and application of parallel computer systems." As part of this mission, a retreat was first held in May 1989. This retreat has evolved into the annual Volen Retreat. True to the collaborative focus of the center, the Volen Retreat includes talks from multiple disciplines of Brandeis faculty. Thanks to the M.R. Bauer Foundation, a lecture series and weeklong Distinguished Lecturer Visitors series bring scientists from all over the world to the Brandeis campus to talk about their research and interact with faculty, postdocs and graduate students.
The bricks and mortar of the Volen Center provided essential office and lab space. In addition to the building, new Brandeis faculty became a part of the Volen Center. Leslie Griffith joined the center in September 1992. Susan Birren followed in July 1993 and Jordan Pollack in September 1994. Faculty and labs of Computer Science, Linguistics, Biochemistry and Neuroscience moved into the completed structure in May 1994.
What has been impact of the Volen Center? Barbara Wrightson, who was the program project coordinator during the Volen construction and is now the director of budget and planning in the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, said that "the Volen Center helped to nurture the fabulous growth of the neuroscience program at Brandeis." Additionally, shortly after moving into Volen, the Computer Science department experienced a boom in enrollment. The department saw its enrollment double in the decade after the center opened.
The center's two lower floors are reserved for offices and lab space for the Computer Science department, experimental psychologists (Robert Sekuler, Jennie Gutsell, Angela Gutchess) and the administrative offices. The Volen Center office, which is home to Biology, Neuroscience and Division of Science Personnel and Technology staff, is located in Volen 206. The Computer Science office is located across the hall in Volen 261. Mailboxes for the Linguistics and Computational Linguistics program are also located in Volen 261.
The upper two floors are wet lab space for biochemists (Dorothee Kern, Dan Oprian, Niels Bradshaw), biologists (Eve Marder, Paul Miller), and experimental psychologists (Art Wingfield).
The Volen Center includes two classrooms on the first floor which are used primarily for undergraduate instruction. The new Vertica Computer Science Lounge, located directly off the lobby, is a computer lab and lounge for computer science majors and those students taking computer science courses.