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Illinois Science Council

Illinois Science Council

Mr. Eugene Sunshine
Senior Vice President for Business and Finance
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL 60201

Dear Mr. Sunshine:

Science and technology play a critical role in economic development in Chicago and in the City’s reputation as a world-class city.  Northwestern University’s plan to replace the old Prentice Women’s Hospital with a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility, to me, clearly would enhance that reality.

Preservationists should be applauded for their role in seeking to save the heart, soul and history of our city.  But in this case, losing this one building will not diminish Chicago’s reputation for great architecture – both historical and current.  Rather, a new state-of-the-art facility could go a long way in ensuring Chicago’s future as one of the nation’s leading centers of science research. 

Advances in this golden age of biomedical research have saved countless lives and greatly improved quality of life and longevity.  I would hope the planned new building would provide an ideal environment for leading scientists to interact easily with each other across scientific fields and buildings to achieve the types of interdisciplinary breakthroughs that can’t even be imagined today.

As president of the Illinois Science Council, I strongly advocate for the importance of advancing scientific research and Chicago’s key role in that extraordinary progress.  Chicago increasingly is known as a tech hub that attracts big industry – a priority of Mayor Emanuel’s and something to boast about.  Equally important, the City can brag about its four major research universities, six museums and two national laboratories.  Those institutions employ thousands of leading scientists engaged in cross-institution collaborations. 

The controversy about saving Prentice is not surprising.  I understand that Bertrand Goldberg is a very important architect of the modernist movement, even if not everyone appreciates the look and style of his buildings.  But I believe that arguments for historical preservation of the old Prentice building are clearly outweighed by the value to society and to the long-term future of the City of Chicago of the work to be done at the new research facility.

Because of the University's prominence in Chicago, and the prominence of the site within the city, I trust that Northwestern will consider the importance of the architectural design of the new facility as well as its interior and functionality.  Interdisciplinary biomedical research in the 21st century is critical to making important advances against the many diseases that cost our society so many lives and millions of dollars.  Based on the University's long history of dedication to scientific and technological research in many areas, I am confident it will pay due attention to facilitating extensive collaboration among researchers.  Scientific collaboration today relies not just on electronic capabilities, which is common now, but also on equipment design, office and lab placement, and space layout envisioned and implemented with an eye towards future decades.

The Illinois Science Council was founded to increase public understanding of science and technology, and is especially committed to boosting recognition of Chicago’s rich array of scientific institutions, which are the City's greatest under-appreciated assets.  The research facility Northwestern is planning could be integral to that recognition.  I consider it a win-win-win that such a facility will generate significant economic development in a critical sector in Chicago and could boost Chicago's reputation as a world-class City of Science.  For that reason, I strongly support Northwestern's intent to give researchers what they need to make biomedical advances in curing life-threatening diseases.


Monica M. Metzler
Illinois Science Council