News Release

See a time-lapse video of the construction of the Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan Science Building.


Science education in Illinois got a lot richer with the inception of  DePaul University’s winter quarter on Jan. 5 and the opening of the Monsignor Andrew  J. McGowan Science Building, at 1110 W. Belden Ave., Chicago.


The $40 million, four-story, 130,000-square-foot structure is the centerpiece of a successful $20 million fundraising campaign that will help to bolster DePaul’s vital role in promoting science education in Illinois.

Enrollment in DePaul science classes has increased more than 22 percent in the past eight years, and science majors have increased by 57 percent. The new state-of-the-art facility will allow the university to further its commitment to bring more women and people of color into the field of science than any other college and university in Illinois.


The environmentally friendly building, known on campus as McGowan South, was erected just south of its sister science building, William G. McGowan, and triples the amount of space dedicated to teaching science at DePaul.  Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan is the late brother of William G. McGowan, the late founder of MCI Communications.

The two McGowan science buildings combined dramatically improve DePaul’s capacity  to meet the goals of its science curricula, assures the scientific literacy of its students, provides laboratory experiences for all undergraduates and enhances the specialized education needed for students who plan to pursue careers in the sciences.


McGowan South houses the chemistry and environmental science departments and has allocated space to the biological sciences to accommodate the surging enrollment in that program. Science education courses for future teachers are also being taught in new building.

“This is where our next generations of scientists, health care professionals, policy makers and science educators will receive the kind of innovative, collaborative education for which DePaul is known,” said the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul. “This new hub of excellence will provide a rich resource for DePaul students, future K-12 educators and science-competent professionals for research labs and industry across Illinois.”

Designed by the architectural firm of Antunovich Associates, the Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan Building offers an aesthetic impression that is the hallmark of the firm and reflects DePaul’s high-end construction specifications.

The lobby is anchored by a dramatic atrium and staircase. Overlooking the staircase is a 26-foot mural of St. Vincent de Paul, the university’s patron. The mural, designed by photography student Mary Vucekovich-Jeon, is composed of 10,000 individual photographs of  students pursuing science studies. Furnishings in the lobby and throughout the building offer sleek lines, combining chrome and light woods with earth tone-colored fabrics. The carpeting in the lobby and throughout the building is constructed of low-volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Among the many beneficiaries of the new building are the 100 chemistry students who no longer have to run from the fourth-floor labs of their old building to the basement to test samples during experiments. Chemistry students can now enjoy a space that encompasses the entire third floor of McGowan South—28,650 square feet—which includes fully equipped teaching and research laboratories, sleekly designed student study/lounge areas and ample office space for faculty and research assistants.

“Our logistical problems are gone,” said Richard Niedziela, chair of DePaul’s chemistry program. “Now, with better lab layouts and instrumentation, we are able to teach students a range of modern methods that are used in chemistry—the same techniques that are used at Eli Lilly and Abbott.”


Chemistry, environmental and biological sciences, and science education programs were all immediately enhanced by the new science building. Features of the modern facility include:

  • A 150-seat tiered lecture hall with horizontal moveable whiteboards
  • Two smaller tiered classrooms that each seat 95 students and two flat-floor classrooms for 70-plus students
  • A multidisciplinary laboratory and teaching space
  • Twenty-three research labs and eight teaching labs
  • IP phones and overhead projectors in every classroom and laboratory
  • Generous storage closets that double as whiteboards
  • A bridge that connects the two science buildings
  • A coffee bar in the first-floor lobby.

Bob Janis, vice president for Facility Operations, says his analysis shows the building has earned enough points through the LEED green building rating system, designed to guide and distinguish high-performance commercial and institutional projects, for silver certification, or possibly gold. Obtaining LEED certification was a high priority for the building from the beginning, but DePaul won’t know the certification it received for several months. 

“Science facilities with powerful ventilation requirements, health and safety measures and equipment, such as de-ionized water producers, require a lot more energy than a comparable size office building,” explained Janis. “In light of those requirements, it was important that this structure be as energy-efficient as possible.” According to Janis, the new science building is expected to operate as much as 35 percent more efficiently than McGowan North due to advances in green technology and LEED features designed into it.

Green features of McGowan South include:

  • High-reflectance materials used in roofing and pavement fabrication
  • A green roof with two greenhouses and a planted garden
  • More than 25 percent recycled materials used in construction
  • Adhesives, sealants, paints and carpet that emit very low VOCs, lessening the impact on the ozone layer
  • Daylight harvesting and room occupancy sensors
  • Heat recovery systems
  • Extensive use of regional materials
  • High-efficiency mechanical equipment
  • Water-efficient landscape with native plants.           

James Montgomery, chair of environmental science at DePaul, and his students will realize the full impact of McGowan South’s green features as they incorporate monitoring and development of them into their research and instruction. “We’ll be planting indigenous and climate-appropriate plants and studying which plants generate heat,” he explained.

Eventually, he plans to establish a weather station on top of the building and have a systems monitoring mechanism in place that allows students to compare water and electrical consumption with other buildings on campus.


DePaul’s biology program, chaired by Stanley Cohn, is the university’s fastest-growing science program, having doubled its student enrollment to 600 in the past 10 years. The new building allows biology to become the sole department housed in McGowan North. “Being able to expand our space 10 years ago transformed our program,” said Cohn. “This latest expansion means we can continue to keep classes small.”


All of the other science program leaders involved agree that offering more courses at various times attracts students. In particular agreement is Lynn Narasimhan, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and director of DePaul’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Center (ISTC), which has a number of  programs for improving K-12 mathematics, science and technology instruction in Chicago Public Schools. DePaul currently provides math and science courses for more than 150 teachers each year.


Through Narasimhan’s work in the ISTC and other programs, DePaul also is helping to increase the numbers of under-represented groups—minorities and women—in the sciences.

In biology, 67 percent of students are female and 21 percent are minorities; chemistry boasts 66 percent female students and 23 percent minorities. Many of these graduates will prepare for careers in science education in elementary and secondary schools in Illinois.


According to Narasimhan and Niedziela, a design feature of the building—plenty of student-oriented space—encourages collegiality and peer tutoring among students considering a variety of careers. “Not all of our students are researchers,” explained Narasimhan. “Some are more interested in helping students learn; education is a core program here,” added Niedziela. “The building will make a difference in retention and recruitment.”


The sense of community that McGowan South provides is one that the science faculty are eager to extend to Chicago as well, and the community connection to science education at DePaul is one they all are helping to forge. Hosting open houses, science fairs and professional meetings are ways that the science faculty will engage the community.


Editors’ Note: Downloadable photos of the Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan Science Building are available on the Media Relations Web site at




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