The Interior Design of Julian Science and Mathematics Center: 65 million years in the making
Ah, Julian. The picturesque brick building on campus where so many students convene for science and mathematics courses. The building is a fan favorite of students of all disciplines though. It’s got it all: quality air conditioning, bathroom fixtures from this century, an elevator, no ghosts, and A FREAKING DINOSAUR! Well, just a Dinosaur head, but still. You’ve definitely seen it, in fact you can’t walk in the front door without passing it, but most students don’t know much about it. Some students even have the nerve to complain that Julian should have a coffee shop (there is one across the street), apparently not satisfied with the 65 million year old skull greeting them. This mysterious dino head even has a name:
STAN is a Tyrannosaurus rex from the Late Cretaceous period, and his real head is actually at the Museum of Black Hills Institute in South Dakota. The head we have in Julian is actually a fossil cast replica, but we can still call it STAN!
Fossil cast replicas are a common practice for dinosaurs and other magnificent beasts from the past. They’re meticulously crafted with precise details being preserved so that an individual fossil specimen can be shared beyond the walls of a single museum. Many fossil casts are so detailed that they’re actually used for scientific study, not just flashy display.
Our STAN came to DePauw with the major renovations of the Percy Lavon Julian Science and Mathematics Center in the early 2000s. Upon adding the entire atrium and most of the spaces in the building we know and love today, DePauw was also tasked with filling those spaces with valuable displays. Wanting to make sure every visitor knew that Julian was a home for science, planting a Dinosaur skull in the lobby was a natural, iconic centerpiece. The fossil cast of STAN has been stoically guarding the building for over a decade now.
The original, living and breathing predator died in what is now present day South Dakota, but at the time it looked more like a hot floodplain. The consensus on Tyrannosaurus rex and Dinosaur behavior seems to change somewhat frequently as scientists continue to discover clues in the fossil record, but it is safe to say Stan was a lumbering menace during his reign. The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research has studied scarring and signs of broken bones across Stan’s fossil specimen, suggesting a lifetime of fighting with other dinosaurs, including fellow Tyrannosaurus rex. Although we only have the head at DePauw, students who take a closer look can find scars along his “cheeks” as well as a wound on the back of his braincase that might be from a bloody bite to the head.
To put it simply, Stan definitely saw some action. Now his fossil cast acts as a reflection of what life on Earth was like 65 million years ago. It wasn’t easy for him to get here though: the preservation of his skeleton relied on the chance timing of how and where he died. Scientists don’t know what ultimately brought the big dino down, but his carcass was likely dwindled and scattered quickly by scavengers and weather. Luckily (for us, maybe not Stan), his body was covered by sediment, possibly from flooding, and he was buried and preserved as a fossil. Stan is actually one of the best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens we have discovered, which is again thanks in due to chance timing and location. While The Field Museum’s SUE is better preserved and more complete in whole, STAN’s head is actually the best preserved skull specimen. STAN’s poor skull was broken into smaller pieces before being buried, which prevented it from being crushed like SUE’s was (who has it worse: SUE with a crushed skull or STAN with a skull in pieces?). Due to this greater preservation of the skull, STAN is of great value to understanding the Tyrannosaurus rex. STAN really took one for the team by dying, having his skull broken in pieces, and being buried for 65 million years. Pour one out for STAN.
“So, why is he called STAN?”
-Relentlessly unsatisfied DePauw student
A badass like this seems like it should have a better name than STAN, right? KILLER LIZARD, HELL BITER, RICCARDO, and REX KWAN DO come to mind as a few suitable alternatives. Well, STAN gets his name from Stan Sacrison, the man who initially found the fossil. The alternative name for the specimen is actually BHI #126378… so let’s go with STAN.
If you want to learn more about STAN or just marvel at the his awe-inspiring specimen, stop by his display case in Julian. The display features more information on STAN and his discovery, as well as replica teeth and furcula bone (You know, the old bone that links dinosaurs to birds) donated by former Geology major James Puckett ’67. The display cabinet itself was actually designed and built by Larry R. Baker II, a local carpenter. You can’t miss it, it’s the big glass box with a T. Rex head in it.