March 2016

Fifty years ago, UCI was born to advance an audacious goal of improving society through exemplary research, discovery and education. And while UCI and its community have done excellent work thus far, it is time to plan for the campus’s brilliant future. Developed with extensive participation from the Anteater community, UCI’s new strategic plan sets forth an ambitious objective to reach new heights of distinction and social impact.

The higher education landscape is shifting, requiring us to draw on our entrepreneurial roots and apply new strategies to ensure our longevity. In order for UCI to continue to thrive, we have to be willing to take our future into our own hands – develop new partnerships, invest in research that matters, serve our community in meaningful ways, and provide the best educational environment for each and every Anteater. I am confident that by working together, we will continue to do great things.

50th Anniversary Academic Symposia

Last month, I had the pleasure of participating in the Future of Higher Education symposium, a signature event held in celebration of UCI’s continuing 50th anniversary. The event featured an array of leaders in higher education, including Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences and former UCI chancellor; James E.K. Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical Center; Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College; and Michael Riley, editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Higher Education. It was an excellent opportunity to have a thought-provoking conversation about the path forward for American campuses, with such topics as tenure, online learning and access to education. Perhaps the most significant issue addressed was the need to forge new partnerships in order to increase enrollment of California residents who deserve a world-class education. You can watch the full symposium on our YouTube channel.

Additionally, UCI’s National Academy of Engineering members recently held a symposium on the future of engineering, part of a yearlong series that included a National Academy of Sciences discussion on climate change and in the spring will feature a National Academy of Medicine session on the future of medicine. With a panel of renowned experts and researchers and illustrious keynote speakers, the two-day NAE symposium offered a deeper look at how cutting-edge technology, engineering practices and breakthrough research are shaping progress in energy, manufacturing, life sciences and the environment.

The future of higher education 

School of Education dean

I am pleased to share that Richard Arum, chair of New York University’s Department of Sociology, has been selected as the new dean of UCI’s School of Education. A renowned leader in the sociology of education, Professor Arum brings a wealth of experience in the areas of student learning and college and career readiness. I have no doubt that his skills and expertise will help position UCI to become a major force in the state’s educational future. He begins his appointment June 30.

Arum named dean of UCI’s School of Education 

Faculty, student achievements

Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia was recently elected the recipient of a Humboldt Research Award, an accolade given in recognition of a researcher’s lifetime achievements. As part of the award, Provost Lavernia – who also is a Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering & materials science – is invited to carry out a research project in cooperation with specialists in Germany.

Alon Gorodetsky, assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials science, recently received the Presidential Early Career Award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their careers. Gorodetsky will receive $1 million from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to continue his research on the properties of squid skin that can be applied to developing infrared camouflage coatings for military use or body temperature-regulating fabric.

Additionally, four undergraduates in the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences’ Minority Science Programs received awards for their research presentations at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. Carolina Herrera, Mohamad Dandan, Tiffany Batarseh and Cynthia Rodriguez will be recognized in the March 25 issue ofScience. The Minority Science Programs, supported by the National Institutes of Health, aim to prepare students to pursue doctoral degrees and careers in biomedical research. Congratulations to these outstanding Anteaters!

Methane research

Recently, you may have heard that the Aliso Canyon natural gas well blowout was the nation’s largest methane release, emitting upward of 100,000 tons of the greenhouse gas. UCI researchers were at the forefront of uncovering this information. UCI, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, UC Davis and others collaborated to find that during the peak of the Aliso Canyon disaster, enough methane was released into the air every day to fill a balloon the size of the Rose Bowl. UCI atmospheric chemist Donald Blake, who co-authored the study, published in Science, has spent his career collecting and measuring air pollutants across the globe – including from the Porter Ranch residential area.

Former UCI postdoctoral researcher Francesca Hopkins and Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science Jim Randerson also have spent their careers tracking and analyzing pollutants and greenhouse gases. Their study recently published in theJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres identifies methane-emitting hot spots across the Los Angeles Basin, including power plants, water treatment facilities and cattle in Chino. Their research may play an important role in locating and fixing leaks similar to the Aliso Canyon one. Both projects received prominent national news coverage by several media outlets, including the Los Angeles TimesSmithsonian and Newsweek.

Poverty research institute

David Neumark, Chancellor’s Professor of Economics at UCI
David Neumark, Chancellor’s Professor of Economics. 

UCI professors and researchers are actively seeking ways to enhance the quality of life for community members and improve the world around them. Chancellor’s Professor of economics David Neumark will lead a new research institute to examine the long-term effectiveness of poverty alleviation programs in the U.S. The Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute, funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, will fill the research gap on antipoverty programs by engaging in targeted studies in major policy areas that influence economic self-sufficiency, including the minimum wage and earned income tax credit. The hope is that by researching existing programs, the institute can improve policies and further the personal and economic success of individuals.

UCI launches research institute devoted to effectiveness of antipoverty programs 

Tri Alpha Energy

Toshiki Tajima, Michl Binderbauer
Tri Alpha Energy Chief Science Officer Toshiki Tajima (left), a UCI professor and alumnus, and TAE Chief Technology Officer Michl Binderbauer, also a UCI alumnus. 

I am filled with pride when I learn about Anteaters who have the tenacity, passion and vision to think big and imagine a world better than the one they grew up in. At Tri Alpha Energy, a Foothill Ranch-based company co-founded by pioneering UCI physicist Norman Rostoker, Anteaters are hard at work to produce clean, abundant and sustainable energy for power grids across the globe. Michl Binderbauer, a UCI alumnus and chief technology officer for the energy company, compares its efforts to the space race of decades past. Tri Alpha Energy’s fusion reactor aims to harness the power of stars by joining atoms together to create energy – a process similar to what goes on in our sun. Fusion power has the potential to be a virtually limitless and carbon-neutral energy source, an important resource for generations to come.

Star power 


On a final note, I invite you to take a look at the new winter issue of UCI Magazine. Dedicated to “Our Brilliant Future,” this is a very special issue that has been redesigned and enhanced to bring the UCI community interesting, thought-provoking stories about the future. I hope you enjoy it.