Monthly Message from Chancellor Howard Gillman
The countdown is on. In just a couple of weeks, UCI will begin notifying freshman applicants of their admission status. It’s an exciting time for young people, who will be tasked with making a decision about how they will learn, grow and achieve their dreams. We can’t wait to welcome these outstanding students to the Anteater community and share what makes our institution such a remarkable place.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing from many alumni who returned to campus for our annual homecoming celebration. The event provided an opportunity for our alumni and friends to reconnect to the campus, enjoy some family-friendly fun and learn from UCI innovators. Our growing alumni base of more than 166,000 is a diverse group of individuals who are actively changing the world by marshaling their passions, talents and educational expertise to solve problems, empower others and do good deeds.
Locally, Maria D. Hernandez ’86 is serving as presiding judge of Orange County’s juvenile court. Judge Hernandez earned a bachelor’s degree in social ecology at UCI and went on to receive her law degree at Western State College. Today, she regularly meets with troubled teens in her courtroom to offer guidance, support and hope for a better life. Across the globe, Jimmy Leak ’12 is working with a nonprofit organization to counter terrorist recruitment tactics in impoverished African communities by collaborating with villagers to provide education, health and sustainable farming programs. And Sakina Ibrahim, M.F.A. ’14, an alumna of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for her book Big Words to Little Me: Advice to the Younger Self, which offers insights and direction to young girls on setting goals and overcoming obstacles.
A Nobel legacy
UCI has a long, proud history of studying particle physics, dating back to the 1960s when Frederick Reines was appointed the founding dean of the School of Physical Sciences. Thirty years after arriving on the Irvine campus, he was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of neutrinos, subatomic particles that played an important role in the formation of the universe. Today, that legacy continues with physics & astronomy professor Henry Sobel, a protégé of Dean Reines who has devoted his life to the study of neutrinos. Professor Sobel was honored with an invitation to attend the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics award ceremony in Stockholm in December. The prize was bestowed on Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada for the discovery of neutrino oscillation. UCI is a major partner in Japan’s Super-Kamiokande, a device used for the Nobel Prize-winning discovery.
At the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, Professor Sharad Mehrotra is leading an effort to study privacy challenges brought on by our increasingly networked world. As part of the project, funded by a $5 million DARPA grant, Donald Bren Hall is being converted into a testing zone for systems to better safeguard people’s identities and confidential data. To achieve this, the structure is being outfitted with sensors, cameras and scanners. Occupants will then have the ability to select privacy preferences and decide which sensors can assess what data, such as their whereabouts within the building. The project seeks to address concerns about personal information in the cloud environment, mobile computing and the expanding “Internet of Things,” a global conglomeration of connected devices that continuously scan, sense and share data.
Saving the Salton Sea
The Salton Sea is currently facing an environmental and economic disaster that will affect the entire Southern California region. As the lake slowly dries up, wind will kick up microscopic toxic dust clouds, which will threaten the health of hundreds of thousands of Californians. Recently, Tim Bradley, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and director of the UCI Salton Sea Initiative, was appointed to the California Natural Resources Agency’s science advisory committee to help preserve the body of water. In this role, Professor Bradley will work with experts in air quality, engineering and environmental compliance to develop a plan to reverse the lake’s degeneration.
Uniting UCI's health enterprise
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I have appointed Dr. Howard Federoff, our vice chancellor for health affairs, as chief executive officer of the UC Irvine Health system. As CEO of UCI’s health enterprise, Dr. Federoff is responsible for the administration of our clinical locations, UC Irvine Medical Center and the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange, and UC Irvine Health’s numerous primary and specialty care outpatient centers. Dr. Federoff has done an extraordinary job providing strategic guidance on our clinical operations as interim CEO of Orange County’s only elite academic medical center. Combining this responsibility with his role as vice chancellor in overseeing our health-related schools and programs will ensure a vital alignment between our clinical expansion and the expansion of our academic and research missions in health.
Mosquitoes, malaria and ZikaRecently, Anthony James, Distinguished Professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, has been widely featured in the media for his research on mosquitoes that could be translated to assist in combating the Zika virus. He and a team of scientists at UC San Diego were able to genetically modify mosquitoes to block the transmission of malaria. In an interview with ABC, Distinguished Professor James said the same process in which a mosquito’s DNA is altered to reject malaria could be applied to the Zika virus. You can watch a video about his cutting-edge research on our YouTube channel.
Last month, Professor Emerita of German Ruth Kluger was invited to speak during a memorial ceremony on Germany’s annual Day of Remembrance for Victims of National Socialism, that nation’s version of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Before German Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of Germany’s federal parliament, Professor Emerita Kluger, who is best known for her award-winning autobiography, shared her experiences of forced labor and survival as a youth in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Her moving speech, which you can watch online, received a standing ovation.
Black History Month
At UCI, we are fortunate to have a vibrant, diverse community of scholars, learners, leaders, social activists and history-making Anteaters who come together to share ideas and make an impact in the world. One such Anteater is Joseph L. White, often referred to as the “godfather of black psychology,” who was recently featured in Monitor on Psychology, the American Psychological Association’s magazine. In the Q&A-style article, Professor Emeritus White reflects on his experiences with civil rights movement leaders, mentoring students and shaping the field of black psychology by challenging the status quo.
I am happy to share that last month, UCI’s African American studies program was formally established as a full-fledged department within the School of Humanities. Led by inaugural chair Bridget Cooks, the departmentalization of the program represents an important milestone in the development of African American studies at UCI. As a program, African American studies has been in existence at UCI for more than 20 years and has a breadth of academic strengths, including critical race theory; African and African American art, drama, film and literature; the history of the African diaspora; and minority politics and social justice.
If you are looking for a way to learn more about African American culture, narratives and histories, I invite you to attend the Festival of Contemporary African American Culture on February 26-27, hosted by UCI Illuminations, the African American Student Experience Committee, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of Music, and the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. The two-day event will include inspirational music and dance performances, artist talks, and lectures on the evolution and impact of hip-hop and jazz.
Chancellor Howard Gillman