Mission and Values > Programs > Vincentian Mission Institute > Current VMI Cohort > Rick Niedziela

Rick Niedziela



I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, attending both a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school.  Wanting to stay in the area for college, I continued the string and enrolled at DePaul for my undergraduate studies with a major in Chemistry.  My experience with the Chemistry faculty inspired me to continue on to graduate school.  I received my Ph.D. from The University of Chicago in 1995 and then went on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a post-doctoral assignment.  Because of my experiences as an undergraduate student, I longed to come back to DePaul to contribute to an educational program that served me well as a first generation college student.  Indeed, I was hired back in Autumn, 1998 and have been here ever since.  I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry.  During my tenure at DePaul, I have participated in many different roles including two terms as department chair, a Faculty Council representative, a member of too many committees to list, and currently as Associate Dean for Administration in the College of Science and Health.  I teach at all levels in Chemistry, from general chemistry to advanced graduate courses in molecular dynamics.   My research is centered on the optical properties of organic-containing aerosols, small, microscopic particles of matter that are abundant in the lower region of the atmosphere.  I live in the southwest suburbs with my wife Lisa and my three daughters Lauren, Maggie, and Sara.


Why DePaul?

As mentioned in my biography, my experience at DePaul as an undergraduate student is the one thing that motivated me to come back here as an instructor.  DePaul was certainly a different place back in the mid-80s with respect to size and its physical plant.  Its fundamental character, however, has not changed.  It is still a welcoming home for first generation students like me whose families never had a track record of attending college.  DePaul also continues to emphasize excellence in education.  I am still thrilled by the fact that I get to know my students and in doing so, tailor their educational experiences to what best suits them.  DePaul produces as high of quality of student as any other top notch university in the nation.  Indeed, many of the students whom I have had the pleasure of working with have gone on to great careers and have done wonderful things.


Why VMI?

Rarely a day goes by at DePaul without mention of St. Vincent or St. Louise, so given my years at DePaul I certainly have a general understanding of how their work guides the operation of the university.  At this stage in my career, however, I find that it is time to take a deeper look at the profound influence both saint’s lives have on the education of DePaul students.  As a product of the Catholic school system in Chicago, I also wish to learn more about the relationship between the Church and its institutions of higher learning.  I think the VMI program will go a long way towards fulfilling both of these goals.