Driving Discovery

Bolstering a long history of scientific discovery in Arts & Sciences

Investing in the Future to Continue a Tradition of Scientific Excellence  

The Driving Discovery initiative created world class facilities, provided ongoing support for dynamic faculty, and continues to attract outstanding students. 

To train the next generation of scientists and compete for external research funds, we knew we needed to recruit talented new faculty and graduate students. We also knew growth would require space and equipment. Our science infrastructure must be able to support the demands of today’s research technology. 

Driving Discovery was established to usher in a new era of scientific discovery in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.  The initiative allowed us to fund a renovation of Bryan Hall, replacing outdated facilities with state-of-the-art laboratories, teaching areas, and collaborative spaces. It also provided support for faculty members who are launching exciting research programs, expanding course offerings, and creating new research opportunities for students. The increased resources for graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships has been critical to continuing our tradition of attracting outstanding students.

Newly renovated Bryan Hall boasts state-of-the-art scientific facilities. 

Thank You, Donors!

Private support helped us recruit and retain outstanding scholars and students and build the connected infrastructure their forward-looking work requires.

Contact the Arts & Sciences Advancement Staff

A History of Excellence

Over the course of more than a century, our distinguished faculty have conducted Nobel-prize winning research, created groundbreaking interdisciplinary programs, and inspired new generations of scientific leaders.

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William Chauvenet 1862

In 1862, William Chauvenet becomes Chancellor of Washington University. A professor of mathematics and astronomy, Chauvenet emphasizes strength in the sciences and founds the university’s first freestanding mathematics department. The Mathematical Association of America’s prestigious Chauvenet Prize in Mathematical Writing is named in his honor.

Anna Isabel Mulford 1895

Anna Isabel Mulford defends her dissertation in botany, one of the university’s signature programs. Mulford is the first student to be granted a PhD at Washington University; all earlier doctorates were awarded to faculty.

Arthur Holly Compton 1927

Arthur Holly Compton is awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Physics in recognition for his groundbreaking work at Washington University. Earlier in the 1920s, as the Wayman Crow Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, Compton carried out X-ray scattering experiments that confirmed both quantum mechanics and relativity, elucidating what became know as the Compton Effect. Compton later served as Chancellor of the university.

Joseph Kennedy 1946

Joseph Kennedy, division leader in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Division for the Manhattan Project, joins the chemistry department at Washington University and acts as chair for the following decade. He recruits five colleagues from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and with this initial core faculty establishes the department’s strong research and graduate programs.

Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences 1973

The Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, comprising six preclinical departments of the medical school and the biology department, is established under the direction of P. Roy Vagelos, head of the department of biological chemistry.

McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences 1974

A major gift from the McDonnell Aerospace Foundation establishes the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, endowing eight faculty positions, half in the Department of Physics and half in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Samuel Weissman 1980

Samuel Weissman, a Manhattan Project scientist and esteemed member of the Department of Chemistry faculty since 1946, is named professor emeritus. At Washington University, Weissman became a pioneer in the development of electron spin resonance (ESR) as a tool for exploring chemistry. The annual Weissman Lecture Series was created in his honor.

Rita Levi-Montalcini 1986

Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen are jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition for their 1952 discovery of nerve growth factor. In her autobiography, Levi-Montalicini called her three decades at Washington University "“the happiest and most productive years of my life.”