In 2008, under the leadership of interim director, John Wiley, a university-wide competition was held and five research themes, as well as their senior faculty theme leaders, were identified. These founding themes were Bionates, Epigenetics, the Living Environments Laboratory, Optimization and Systems Biology. At the close of 2010 the Discovery Building was completed, and three organizations moved into the building: the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, a Research Center under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE); the Morgridge Institute for Research (MIR), a privately funded institute focused on improving human health by conducting and translating innovative, interdisciplinary biomedical research in partnership with UW-Madison; and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and Town Center and building management staff for WARF. The Town Center is a place to gather, share ideas, and celebrate science, creativity and exploration.

The award-winning modern space at 330 North Orchard Street is a visionary public-private partnership housing twin research institutes. The research space within the Discovery Building is shared equally between MIR and WID. The building is officially called the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, reflecting the two separate research institutes, but for clarity it is most commonly referred to as the Discovery Building. The building was funded through support from WARF, the State of Wisconsin, and John and Tashia Morgridge.

The initial mission of WID, as defined by the Academic Planning Council of 2007, was stated as follows: “The mission of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery is to enhance human health and welfare by facilitating interdisciplinary research spanning biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technologies. This research will lead to discoveries of new biomedical treatments and technological applications. WID will engage faculty members from across the campus and all divisions of the university in creative collaborative research, education, and outreach.”

WID was created in 2010 to explore new ways of sparking innovation in science and engineering. WID’s first 7 years were dedicated to building an outstanding array of research programs. The areas in which we have developed tremendous expertise are data science, tissue engineering, multi-omics, nanomedicine, and complex systems. The current mission of WID, as updated in 2017, is stated as follows:

The mission of WID is to discover and inspire through interdisciplinary research conducted in a dynamic, collaborative community. We will advance frontiers of knowledge, accelerate development of solutions, and engage the State of Wisconsin through interdisciplinary research.


Hybrid Zone X (2013-2015)

Center for Complexity and Collective Computation (2011-2015)

Games+Learning+Society (2012-2016)

Field Day Lab (2014-2016)


Collision Labs

Counterfactual Campus

Humanities Hackathon

Hybrid Cinema


C4 Lecture Series


Distinguished Scholars @ Discovery

Frontier Fellows

Emerging Interfaces Award