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Facilities

The Division of Natural Sciences is one of the College of Arts and Sciences’ three divisions. Six Departments: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geosciences, Mathematics, and Physics comprise this division. The Morken Center for Learning and Technology houses the Office of the Dean, the Computer Science Department, and the Mathematics Department. The Biology Department, Chemistry Department, Geosciences Department, and Physics Department reside in the Rieke Science Center. In addition to our science buildings, the division also maintains the Carol Sheffels Quigg Greenhouse and the W.M Keck Observatory. All of these buildings are located toward the west end of PLU’s lower campus.


The Morken Center for Learning and Technology, which opened its doors in February 2006, is the first building at an independent college in Washington to receive gold-level certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Natural light floods airy, open spaces. Clean, minimalist lines simultaneously suggest a modern space dedicated to technology and innovation while referencing PLU’s Scandinavian heritage. Native species in the landscaping underscore a sense of place specific to the Pacific Northwest.

There are over seven miles of conduit running through the concrete floors to power advanced technology in the building. All common areas have wireless Internet access. Some computer science and computer engineering classrooms have computers at each desk. There are dedicated study areas for seniors completing semester-long Capstone coursework.

The building is heated and cooled through a system of 83 geothermal pumps, located 300 feet underground. It is a closed loop that uses water from underground wells to alter the temperature within the building depending on the season. The system uses less energy than traditional heating and cooling systems and is lower maintenance.


The Rieke Science Center is named in honor of the late William O. Rieke, M.D., PLU’s 11th president and noted scientist. Completed in 1985, the 88,500 square-foot facility is one of two buildings housing the Division of Natural Sciences and serves as the majestic anchor of the university’s lower campus.


The Carol Sheffels Quigg Greenhouse is named in honor Carol Sheffels Quigg, a generous donor and friend of the Division of Natural Sciences. The greenhouse was constructed in 2015 and consists of 1,700-square feet, a single growing space, and an adjacent head house.

The greenhouse includes fine-grained temperature controls through a Wadsworth VersiSTEP system. Heating and cooling is provided by a separate zone in the existing geothermal system that powers the nearby Morken Center for Learning and Technology. The greenhouse has its own control system to manage the ground source heat pumps. This innovative closed-loop, geothermal-energy system ranks it high among sustainable, energy-efficient buildings.

The greenhouse supports both teaching and research activities for faculty and students, houses a standing botanical collection, and serves the greater community through outreach and collaborative activities.


The W.M Keck Observatory  was built with the support of a $500,000 grant in 1998 from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles and saw “first light” in 2000. It houses a fully automated 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope built by Meade Instruments, and the telescope is fully integrated with an automated dome that tracks the movements of the telescope as it moves to different objects in the sky.

In addition to the familiar mode of direct observations through an eyepiece, observations at the PLU observatory can also be made digitally through a Santa Barbara Instruments Group CCD camera mounted to the telescope. Those images can then be saved for further processing and analysis.

The W.M. Keck Foundation is best known for supporting the construction of much larger professional research telescopes at remote locations such as the twin 10-meter Keck 1 and Keck 2 telescopes currently operating on the peak of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and which rank among the largest ground-based telescopes in the world. Their support of the PLU observatory has contributed significantly to the quality of astronomy education at PLU and to the university’s public outreach efforts.