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Willens Engineering Life Sciences Wing Unveiled

This fall students are returning to the Technological Institute to find gleaming new facilities awaiting them: the Willens Engineering Life Sciences Wing, a six-story, 50,000-square-foot addition for students and faculty in the life and biomedical sciences.

Made possible by a significant gift from Ronald and JoAnne Willens, the Willens Wing offers cutting-edge facilities — including offices, labs, and common space — in a modern design that integrates seamlessly with the original, 1942-construction Tech Institute.

“These new facilities will enable our faculty and students to continue their groundbreaking work at the intersection of engineering and the life sciences,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “

Located on the top three floors of an addition to the northern side of Tech (between the existing B and C wings), the LEED Silver-certified Willens Wing features an airy two-story atrium, two computer-equipped conference rooms, and common areas with seating for group work and informal meetings. It is decorated with Terrazzo stairs, glass floors, and cherry millwork throughout.

The Willens Wing will be the permanent home for the Integrated Molecular Structure Education and Research Center (IMSERC), which will cover nearly 12,000 square feet and provide analytic services across the life and biomedical sciences. It also includes 17,000 square feet of laboratories and about 8,000 square feet of offices for professors, including eight McCormick faculty members: Guillermo Ameer and Milan Mrksich of the biomedical engineering department; J. Edward Colgate, Kevin Lynch, Todd Murphey, and Michael Peshkin, of the mechanical engineering department; and Mitra Hartmann and Malcolm MacIver of the biomedical and mechanical engineering departments.

A second, 49,000-square-foot addition on the south side of Tech (between the existing F and G wings) accommodates expanding program needs of the McCormick School of Engineering and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, including a shared clean room facility and space for the Earth and Planetary Science Department.

Ron Willens is co-founder of the technology company Livingston Enterprises, which Lucent Technologies bought in 1997. The company made remote access equipment and software that allowed hundreds of users to dial into large corporate networks or Internet service providers. JoAnne Willens is a retired technical illustrator. 

Two of their sons and one granddaughter have graduated from Northwestern; another granddaughter is currently a student at the University.