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Renovations to improve science, engineering laboratories

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Lab ribbon cutting


L-R: James Wooten Jr. of ITW, who is a UIC grad, College of Engineering Dean Peter Nelson, Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, ITW CEO David Speer and U of I President Michael Hogan.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

They’ve educated two generations of science and engineering students — and they’re showing the telltale signs of middle-aged wear and tear.

Now, four labs in the Science and Engineering Laboratories building, used for classes in organic chemistry, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and geotechnical engineering, are getting up to grade with the help of a $1.1 million gift from Glenview-based ITW Inc., formerly Illinois Tool Works.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 25 formally dedicated the three College of Engineering labs. Renovation on the organic chemistry lab used by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences begins next term.

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, U of I President Michael Hogan, engineering dean Peter Nelson and ITW chairman and CEO David Speer did the honors.

“We were founded on good Midwestern values — hard work, getting people engaged and giving them a chance to succeed,” Speer said. “This is the kind of partnership we hope to continue and extend with UIC.”

ITW, an international corporation founded in Chicago a century ago, creates a wide range of products from automotive gears to plastic six-pack beverage carriers. Its annual revenue approaches $16 billion and it employs 60,000 people in 57 countries.

Speer said he hopes ITW’s donation for the SEL labs will help UIC train the kinds of scientists and engineers his company wants to hire.

“The lab infrastructure was in bad shape,” said civil engineering professor Krishna Reddy, who uses one of labs for his soil mechanics course.

“The equipment was old and outdated — not the more sophisticated equipment that industry uses.”

Reddy said the upgrades make his lab state of the art, to better prepare students for jobs after graduation.
Cheri Chappelle, ITW’s director of diversity and inclusion, said UIC’s diversity and quality of education were factors in making the gift.

“At UIC, we have found this combination of well-qualified, well-prepared engineers who happen to be very diverse,” she said.

Both Hogan and Allen-Meares said the interdisciplinary research and education that UIC provides are the key to training today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs.

“That’s where the world’s going — cross-college, interdisciplinary big science collaboration,” Hogan said.

With dwindling state funds for the university’s operating budget, partnerships with industry will take on growing importance, he added.

“We have to partner with companies like ITW that have a need for the services we provide, the research we generate and the students we train,” he said.

“Our future and their future are linked inextricably.”

Allen-Meares commended ITW senior vice president and general counsel — and UIC graduate — James Wooten Jr. (‘78 LAS) for his role in making the lab renovation a reality.

She noted that ITW employs more than 50 UIC grads.

“We educate them, and then they find jobs,” she said.

“What more could a chancellor want?”


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