College of Natural Sciences celebrates 50 years

Historical photo of woman in science laboratory
A female student works in a chemistry lab, circa 1915. Chemistry classes began early in the University's history and are now housed in the College of Natural Sciences. Photo from Colorado State University Libraries: Archives & Special Collections

Mathematics and natural philosophy, the precursor to physics, were among the first classes offered at Colorado Agricultural College when our institution was founded in 1870. A few years later, the first chemistry professor joined the faculty.

Today, those disciplines and others are housed in Colorado State University’s College of Natural Sciences. This year, the college is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a robust academic unit comprising the foundational sciences.

Led by Dean Jan Nerger, the college met notable milestones in the months approaching its golden jubilee: It opened two stellar new facilities, the Chemistry Research and Biology buildings, projects with a total combined budget of more than $125 million. It launched an undergraduate major in data science. Its well-known outreach program, the Little Shop of Physics, has engaged a total of more than 500,000 schoolchildren with stimulating, hands-on science experiments. And it heralded the election of an eminent faculty member, biology Professor Diana Wall, director of the CSU School of Global Environmental Sustainability, to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences; she is the University’s first female faculty member to earn the honor, which is among the highest a U.S. researcher can achieve.

During 2017-2018, the College of Natural Sciences also had six University Distinguished Professors, two University Distinguished Teaching Scholars, and five programs of Research and Scholarly Excellence – all barometers of exemplary teaching and research.

The College of Natural Sciences houses eight academic departments: biochemistry and molecular biology; biology; chemistry; computer science; mathematics; physics; psychology; and statistics. Within these departments, the college offers 13 majors and enrolls some 4,400 undergraduate students. It also is home to 184 tenure-track faculty and about 700 graduate students.