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Wake Downtown

The line that separates science from the liberal arts isn't set in concrete

Story by Wake Forest University June 20th, 2017

thinking outside the lab

Wake Downtown classes began in January 2017, marking the start of a new era for Wake Forest University. Science education has been reimagined with unique undergraduate programs in engineering and biomedical sciences that offer STEM-centered courses grounded in the liberal arts. Students might start the day in a popular first-year seminar that explores the analytical methods of Sherlock Holmes, and spend the afternoon in a drug discovery and design class.


A chilly day greets students as they get off the shuttle bus on the first day of classes in January.

creativity is the new kid in science class

Course offerings for Spring 2017 include 18 courses from nine college departments. Science classes focus on molecular biology, organic chemistry and biochemistry. But STEM students can also cultivate their creative talents with classes like Bioinspiration and Biomimetrics (an interdisciplinary entrepreneurship and biology course), Practices of Citizenship (which explores the role of imagination, invention and discourse in the making of citizens), or Creativity and Innovation (linking inquiry to innovative project development).

Making a point in the Practices of Citizenship class.
Students in a first-year seminar on the Analytical Methods of Sherlock Holmes prepare a 7% Solution.
First-year students Isy Duffy ('20) and Zak Amen ('20) joke around as they work on their 7% Solution.
Learning the methods of Sherlock Holmes in a first-year seminar class.
Students in AlessandraVon Burg's Practices of Citizenship class hold a discussion.
Sebastian Ivory ('17) listens intently as Wake Forest Provost Rogan Kersh and Winston-Salem State Dean Corey Walker teach.
Communication professor Alessandra Von Burg leads a discussion on citizenship.
Chemistry professor Brad Jones checks his students' work in their first -year seminar on the science of Sherlock Holmes.

Hands-on learning

The Wake Forest tradition of experiential and engaged learning continues at Wake Downtown. Students in Professor Uli Bierbach's organic chemistry lab work on separating components of a drug using chromatography.

Undergraduates work on an experiment in their organic chemistry lab.
Chemistry professor Uli Bierbach gives the pre-lab lecture.
Graduate student teaching assistant Natalia Bremner-Hay demonstrates the technique for separating the components.
Promise Nwoko ('19) and Jose Morales-Santos ('19), center, learn the process of chromatography.
First-year student Xiaotian Jiao ('20) poses briefly in the organic chemistry lab.
Jasmine Roby ('20) carefully measures temperature.
Keeping a detailed lab notebook is crucial in the sciences.
Students work together in their organic chemistry lab.
Xiaotian Jiao ('20) checks her lab notebook during the experiment.
Wake Forest students work on separating components of a drug using chromatography in their organic chemistry lab at Wake Downtown.

these boots were made for... creative writing

Creative thinkers are effective problem-solvers. Wake Forest professor Jan Detter teaches Creativity and Innovation at Wake Downtown, asking her students to take a single shoe and write a story about its owner.

A student in Professor Jan Detter's class on creativity studies a child's shoe.
Professor Jan Detter teaches her students the importance of creative thinking in a class at Wake Downtown.
Students choose a single shoe and write a story about its owner.
Allie Hubbard ('18), left, and Mary Grace Budd ('18) write about a child's red boot in Creativity and Innovation class.
Writing a gangster story about the owner of these fancy shoes are Will Kent ('19) and Emma Kook ('18).
Working with a silver lamé winter boot are, from left, Isabel Lafortezza ('19), Kaela Griswold ('19), and Morgan Powers ('19).

renovating space & innovating science

In true Wake Forest fashion, Wake Downtown provides an ideal educational environment where the potential of our students is met with endless opportunity. With state-of-the-art labs and classrooms inside reincarnated factory buildings, Wake Downtown is located next to the new main campus of the Wake Forest School of Medicine – not only to give our students proximity to those labs and research spaces, but also because our undergraduates will collaborate with School of Medicine faculty in coursework and research.

The statue of Bowman Gray stands sentinel over the courtyard of Wake Downtown at dusk.
Footnote: Photos by Ken Bennett, ©Wake Forest University