This September the William Eckhardt Research Center opened, designed for precision science and collaboration between the physical sciences and molecular engineering. (Photography by Tom Tian, AB’10)


PSD facilities keep up with an ever-progressing scientific landscape.

In 1961 faculty members conducting space exploration research, in both the Department of Physics and the Enrico Fermi Institute, were spread across and off campus; physicist John A. Simpson proposed a building to unite them. Completed in 1965, the Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research (LASR) boasted a foundation and roof designed with future expansion in mind. Simpson knew that research would advance, and such progress requires leading-edge facilities.

Half a century later, Simpson’s preparation is paying off. Just as science is built on previously laid groundwork, the University plans to build upon the original design, adding two floors and making extensive internal renovations to LASR over the next two years.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3155","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"301","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]] “Our computer science department, like most, lives in a building constructed in the ’90s,” says Kolb. “But their buildings are from the 1990s, not the 1890s.” Opened in 1894, Ryerson will be modernized, befitting the leading-edge work done by the department’s computer scientists. (Photo courtesy Department of Computer Science)

The modernization of LASR comes amid tremendous growth the Division of the Physical Sciences has ushered in over the past decade, notes Dean Rocky Kolb. In 2006 the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science brought together physical and biological sciences. The Searle Chemistry Laboratory was renovated in 2009, and the Searle Cleanroom and Nanofabrication Facility—the University’s first controlled-environment laboratory for nanoscience research—launched in 2013. This September the William Eckhardt Research Center opened, designed for precision science and collaboration between the physical sciences and molecular engineering. LASR is slated to begin construction in November 2015, ultimately serving as the new and improved home to the Fermi Institute and the Kadanoff Center for Theoretical Physics.

“The division’s goal is for every unit to have new or renovated facilities by 2022,” says Kolb. Now that the Eckhardt Center has opened, Jones Laboratory—previously home to PSD administration—will begin renovations and eventually house the Department of Statistics and the division’s new undergraduate program in Computation and Applied Mathematics, jointly run by the Departments of Statistics, Mathematics, and Computer Science.

Space made available in Eckhart Hall and Ryerson Physical Laboratory by the move to Jones will become upgraded instructional and collaborative research spaces for mathematics and computer science, respectively, and the division hopes renovations to Hinds Laboratory—the home of the Department of Geophysical Sciences—will also be completed by 2022.

In addition to new construction and adaptive reuse, PSD continues to maintain and upgrade shared core facilities: nuclear magnetic resonance, crystallography, mass spectrometry, a machine shop, an electronics shop, an engineering center, and a graphic arts design and print studio. The PSD invests in the tools its scientists need—one of the most concrete ways the division invests in the scientists themselves.


The University designs new facilities to offer campus researchers the best possible equipment and resources but recognizes its responsibility to the global community as well. Environmental sustainability is a primary concern, and in 2010 the University implemented a sustainable building policy, based on the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. Every new building must comply with these standards.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3154","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"393","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]] William Eckhardt Research Center. (Photography by Tom Rossiter)

William Eckhardt Research Center



The Eckhardt Center features natural illumination created by light designer James Carpenter and artwork made in collaboration with the Museum of Science and Industry.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3156","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"382","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]] Searle cleanroom. Shivakumar Bhaskaran, manager of the new clean room in the Searle Chemistry Laboratory building, holds up a three-inch silicon wafer emblazoned with the University of Chicago phoenix. The logo consists of a 50-nanometer-thick layer of gold with a five-nanometer-thick adhesion layer of titanium underneath. (Photo courtesy Shivakumar Bhaskaran)

Searle Cleanroom and Nanofabrication Facility


  • Opened 2013
  • 2,680 square feet in the basement of Searle Chemistry Laboratory
  • Class 100/1000 environment (reduces contaminants by 99.99 percent or 99.9 percent, respectively)
  • Specialized equipment includes deposition, etching, and lithography tools
  • Adjacent biological sample prep area and soft lithography laboratory
  • First multiuser clean room on campus; open to entire UChicago research community
  • Creates new opportunities for faculty appointments in nanoscience research 


Advanced by the semiconductor fabrication industry, the tools inside the clean room are also used to create intricate nanoscale devices.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3157","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"309","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]] Searle Chemistry Laboratory. (Photo courtesy University of Chicago Facilities Services)

Searle Chemistry Laboratory


  • Gut renovation 2009, originally constructed in 1968
  • 85,000 square feet; four floors plus basement
  • UChicago's first LEED Gold research building, with green garden roof
  • Department of Chemistry synthetic and theoretical labs, administrative offices
  • Computation Institute
  • Shared chemical instrumentation facilities for nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction


Laboratory services are modular for potential reconfiguration in response to future scientific needs.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3158","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"240","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]]Gordon Center for Integrative Science. (Photography by Tom Rossiter; photography by Jason Smith)

Gordon Center for Integrative Science



The Gordon Center features walls made from the same Indiana limestone used in the main quad and a colonnade of six-story steel columns acting as a modern interpretation of Cobb Gate, a block and a half east on 57th Street.