Torrey Pines, 92037
Graduate Student Rec Center Creates a New Retreat for TSRI's
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
"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
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 quiet 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 cue sticks.
"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 visit campus.
"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
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 door.
"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
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.
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 J. O'Sullivan.