Pioneering Multidisciplinary Teaching: North Central College’s Science Center

North Central College is pioneering the way it equips students of every major to learn what they need today--and how they will work tomorrow--through its new state-of-the-art Science Center which opened March of 2017.

With sustainable, cutting-edge technology and space that transforms the way students and faculty collaborate, the approximate 125,000 square-foot Science Center is the embodiment of the College’s commitment to maintain its leadership in undergraduate science and research in a manner true to its liberal arts foundation.

The Culmination of Years of Effort and Vision

“The Science Center is the culmination of many years of effort and vision from our trustees, faculty, alumni and friends,” said Dr. Troy D. Hammond, president of North Central College. “Having combined a broad range of STEM disciplines in one amazing space with close mentorship of faculty in small classes, our students will get the best science education available anywhere.” For the first time in its history, the College will bring together biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, neuroscience, mathematics, physics, and psychology in the new facility. The building also allows for additional programming.

More Spacious Labs and Research Facilities

“I am excited about the new facilities with more spacious labs and research spaces. They are going to make our work safer and more efficient,” said Kelsey LaMartina, a junior at North Central majoring in biochemistry. “I am also super excited for some of the new instruments we will be getting, like a new and stronger nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer with an auto sampler, which will save students and professors hours of time running experiments.” LaMartina said she’s also looking forward to experiencing the various study spaces in the facility that were designed to promote the free exchange of ideas and more. A variety of gathering spaces “with white boards will be within footsteps of professors and classes,” said LaMartina. “Having all the STEM fields in the same building will allow for more collaboration and foster new ideas for research.”

Showing Interdisciplinary Nature of Science

According to Dr. Jeffrey Bjorklund, professor of chemistry and faculty shepherd for the Science Center initiative, “What we want this building to do is to showcase the interdisciplinary nature of science. People do not always remember that science, along with humanities and the arts, is a critical part of the liberal arts tradition.”

In addition, the new facility will provide “dedicated research space for students, making it easier for them to carry out projects throughout the school year,” said Bjorklund, adding that the design of the facility will also provide “a system where more students can work together and talk about their projects.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held March 27, marking the Science Center’s “soft opening.” A building dedication will take place Oct. 20 during the College’s annual Homecoming celebration. By fall 2017, laboratories will be fully operational.

This spring’s soft opening gives the campus community an opportunity to pause and celebrate the tremendous progress made on this remarkable facility, said Hammond. “As a valued partner in our community, North Central College and its success is Naperville’s success,” said Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico. “The new Science Center allows the next generation of scientists to learn their craft in a modern setting right here in our city and then make measurable change on a global scale. Congratulations to North Central College on the opening of this premier facility.”

Building Facts and Cutting-Edge Technology

The Science Center is equipped to accommodate the most sophisticated hardware, software and other learning technology. When fully operational this fall, it will feature 18 teaching labs, 16 research labs, 15 classroom/seminar rooms, Auditorium/Lecture Hall, 19 student gathering spaces, and 53 faculty and staff offices. The Center also employs a multitude of cutting-edge sustainability features. Energy-efficient windows with low thermal and solar transmission are installed throughout the building. Electrochromic glass is used in windows on the sun-facing side of the building.

Sensors in the glass reduce glare and heat load by providing building occupants the option to tint glass based on the time of day. This is designed to save energy and substantially increase the comfort level for the building’s occupants. Other features include rain gardens and a greenhouse. A 1,000-gallon rainwater collection cistern is linked with the greenhouse to collect rainwater for use in watering plants.This will reduce the building’s overall potable water demand. The Center’s ventilation system uses the latest building automation technologies to increase safety and comfort and reduce fan energy. A high-efficiency HVAC system for the entire building, along with energy-efficient lighting and occupancy sensors, have been installed.

About the Author
North Central College is committed to academic excellence; a climate that emphasizes leadership, ethics, values and service; a curriculum that balances job-related knowledge with a liberal arts foundation; and a caring environment with small classes. Visit and discover what it means to #BeCentral.