Torrey Pines, 92037
Graduate Student Rec Center Creates a New Retreat for TSRI's Ph.D. Candidates
By Jennifer O'Sullivan
It's late afternoon at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the
mid-January sun begins to melt into the Pacific. Several graduate students
disappear into a building located off the wood deck, which serves the
TSRI Cafeteria and overlooks the Torrey Pines Golf Course. The chosen
spot for this 5 PM break, which for some students is merely the midpoint
of the day, is the new graduate student recreation center.
Referred to as the "Grad Condo," the space serves as a new retreat for
the 152 Ph.D. students from TSRI's Chemistry program and its Macromolecular
and Cellular Structure and Chemistry (MCSC) program.
"One of the ongoing complaints from students had been that Scripps didn't
have a gathering place where students could just hang out," says Graduate
Program Administrator Marylyn Rinaldi.
The bi-level Condo, which has two bedrooms, a fireplace, and a full
kitchen, has become just that. One of the bedrooms has been converted
to a room equipped with a computer where students can read, write, or
check email. Another room houses a full-sized pool table and a rack of
"Nobody's very good," says Chemistry program student Callie Bryan, setting
up a shot as fourth-year students Chris Anderson and Jim Turner look on.
"But you never know, over time..."
The presence of the pool table is credited largely to MCSC student Dwight
Barnes, who procured the table, redid the felt, and plans to level it
when he has a chance. "Dwight definitely did most of the work to get it
here," Chemistry student Keith Wilcoxen attests. "I just drove the van."
In addition to e-mail and billiards, the recreation center also offers
cable TV, a VCR, and a large, curved leather couch so that groups of students
can get together to watch CNN, a movie, or perhaps the upcoming Winter
Olympics. Student happy hours also take place on the outer deck twice
a month. Beyond recreation and leisure activities, dinners will also be
held at the Grad Condo, for example when groups of prospective students
"It's difficult for them when they first arrive," says Rinaldi, referring
to the graduate students who move to La Jolla from other states or even
other countries and need to make social connections. "We've wanted something
like this for a long time."
Originally intended to house visiting scientists, the condominium proved
to be too isolated from residential communities for any kind of prolonged
individual stay. Thus, the building remained vacant for years until Rinaldi
got permission to use it as another facility for the students. (The official
graduate student lounge is located in the Beckman Center for Chemical
Sciences behind the fountain and is used for thesis defense receptions
and small group student meetings).
The TSRI Graduate Office held a grand opening Halloween party in the
new recreation center last year. Students have since been able to use
the facility from noon to midnight daily and gain access withno,
not a secret knocka code entered onto the keypad near the front
"It'll take a while for people to get used to using it," says third-year
Chemistry student Warren Lewis, adding that because TSRI doesn't have
undergraduates the Grad Condo helps create more of a campus feel and will
certainly help with recruitment.
Ian Thorpe, another third-year student in the MCSC program, thinks that
future classes of graduate students will use the facility more and more.
He also notes that students often end up spending most of their time with
people in their same year. "[The recreation center] will help integrate
the classes more," he comments.
The sun has now vanished below the horizon and only empty pizza boxes
and a draining cooler remain. Dwight Barnes, procurer of the pool table,
wasn't able to make it to the happy hour and could not be reached to comment
for this story due to a review deadline, suggesting that while TSRI's
students will certainly enjoy the Grad Condo, no one's going to be bringing
home any pool tournament trophies.
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Spying on the new graduate student recreation center,
a.k.a. the "Grad Condo." Photo
by J. O'Sullivan.
MCSC student Ted Foss enjoys a game of pool. Photo by