March 2017

With warmer weather and extended daylight, spring often is a busy season for spirited free speech and activism on college campuses. At UCI, we are dedicated to upholding free speech principles for all members of our Anteater family and encourage students to engage with one another in a respectful, civil manner. We believe universities exist to provide the conditions for hard thought and difficult debate so that individuals can develop independent judgment. Former UC President Clark Kerr once said, “The university is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas.” One way we are equipping our students to embrace the values of free speech is through a new series called the Great Debates, which aims to foster proactive, informed and conscientious citizens through reasoned and organized discussion of contentious issues. In addition to witnessing live debates among experts, students are encouraged to attend workshops that provide opportunities to hone constructive argumentative skills that will benefit them on campus and beyond.

Irvine Ranch Water District partnership

Partnering with local businesses, leaders and community members is an important part of UCI’s continued success. Collaborations not only enrich our campus in noticeable ways but help UCI further its mission to enrich our region. As a public institution, we are proud to be a champion for sustainable practices, actively seeking new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our resources. This culture of sustainability has made UCI one of Sierra magazine’s top 10 green campuses in the U.S. for seven consecutive years.

Recently, UCI teamed up with the Irvine Ranch Water District to decrease the amount of drinking water used on campus for nonhuman consumption. IRWD will help UCI retrofit its central cooling plant to be more environmentally sound and conserve more than 50 million gallons of drinking water a year. To meet our cooling needs, UCI will employ recycled water, saving enough drinking water to supply 300 households annually. Our campus also uses recycled water for landscaping, keeping Aldrich Park beautiful and serene in a sustainable way.

Technological innovations

Payam Heydari (left) and grad student researcher Peyman Nazari
UCI professor of electrical engineering & computer science Payam Heydari (left) and grad student researcher Peyman Nazari. Steve Zylius / UCI

UCI faculty are often on the cutting edge, developing new technologies that have the potential to revolutionize a range of industries. Integrated circuit researchers at UCI have invented a silicon microchip known as a radiator that could play a big role in healthcare, security and wireless communication. Imagine visiting a doctor who uses a hand-held scanner to get detailed images of internal organs and tissue, sends the image data to a remote server and quickly receives information to permit diagnosis. With the radiator chip, that imagined future is not far off. Payam Heydari, professor of electrical engineering & computer science and lead investigator on the project, believes the invention will be particularly beneficial in biomedical applications, giving doctors a way to differentiate tumor masses from healthy tissue. The device emits wave signals that can penetrate solid surfaces and provide extremely sharp resolution, enabling more effective methods of biomedical and security scanning. The chip also can be used in wireless communication for the internet of things, such as smart appliances and driverless cars.

UCI engineers develop powerful millimeter-wave signal generator 

Astrobiology’s shining star

Aomawa Shields
Aomawa Shields, UCI Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy.  Ryan Lash/TED

UCI is fortunate to have some of the most talented, celebrated individuals in their field teach our students. By attracting these brilliant minds to campus, we have built our reputation as a leader of academic and research excellence in a wide variety of subjects – from arts and humanities to physical and biological sciences. One example of an up-and-coming force on the UCI faculty is Aomawa Shields, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy, who studies the great beyond, looking for planets with climates that could sustain life. She was one of 24 University of California faculty new hires this year to come from the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, which helps prepare outstanding Ph.D. students for fruitful academic careers and has been lauded as a national model for expanding faculty diversity. Professor Shields brings a forward-thinking perspective not just to her research, but to the future of STEM. With a unique background in theater and science, she leads a program that mentors middle school girls by incorporating creative arts into astronomy education. You can learn more about Professor Shields’ work by watching her TED talk here.

Astrobiology's rising star 

Graduate programs, students in the spotlight

A central goal of our strategic plan is to increase the number of students and degrees awarded in our graduate programs. When prospective students begin the search for where they want to pursue a master’s or Ph.D., they often turn to rankings to help make their decision. Recently, several of our graduate programs have once again been ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This year, we saw particular achievement in our literary criticism & theory and English programs, which were ranked No. 1 and No. 17, respectively. Additionally, our programs in history, sociology, psychology, political science, education, business, economics, engineering, law and medicine placed among the top 50 nationally. The rankings evaluate factors such as course offerings and size, faculty esteem, total cost and financial aid packages, as well as number of applicants and degrees granted. Congratulations to our students, faculty and staff involved in these tremendous programs!

Next month, UCI Public Impact Distinguished Fellows Veronica Newhart and Sumner Norman will join Frances Leslie, vice provost of the Graduate Division, in Sacramento for the University of California’s eighth annual Graduate Research Advocacy Day. The event provides an opportunity for graduate students across the UC system to meet with lawmakers to discuss the importance of research contributions to California’s economy and to promote the prioritization of funding for academic projects. Veronica, a Ph.D. candidate in language, literacy & technology at the School of Education, is currently working on a national project examining the use of telepresence robots equipped with webcams and monitors to aid students who are homebound due to medical conditions. Sumner, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical & aerospace engineering, also is investigating the potential of robotics. His work focuses on the use of brain-computer interface technology in robot-assisted therapy after trauma, such as a stroke or spinal cord injury, to improve a patient’s quality of life. We are thrilled that these two extraordinary Anteaters will have a chance to share their passions and make valuable connections that will further their research and drive innovation in the state.

Graduate Research Advocacy Day 

Drama program prestige

Recently, UCI’s drama department was named one of the “25 Amazing Acting Colleges You Should Know” by Backstage. The magazine noted our Honors in Acting program and undergraduate drama program that puts an emphasis on studying the field’s role in society. If you’d like to experience the fruits of the program yourself, explore the Claire Trevor School of the Arts calendar for upcoming performances, including “Clown Aliens,” written and directed by Eli Simon, Chancellor’s Professor of drama.

Honoring Michael & Brenda Drake

Brenda and Michael Drake
Brenda and Michael Drake. Kevin Fitzsimons/The Ohio State University

Our pioneering campus was built on the vision of our founders, bold men and women who dared to think differently and imagine the impossible. As UCI grew, so did its brilliance and impact. In 1984, Chancellor Jack Peltason established the UCI Medal to recognize the overwhelming dedication, generosity and leadership of individuals who furthered the success of our campus. This year, the UCI Medal will be presented to former Chancellor Michael V. Drake and his wife, Brenda, at the 47th annual Lauds & Laurels ceremony on Thursday, March 30.

Michael Drake was UCI chancellor for nine years, overseeing unprecedented growth on campus. During his administration, UCI nearly doubled the number of undergraduate applications, added more than 5 million square feet of new construction, and launched the first public law school in California in over 40 years. Brenda Drake has worked as a lawyer, foundation executive, community activist and university ambassador in both California and Ohio. During her husband’s tenure, she was actively engaged in events and initiatives on behalf of the university at the local, regional and national level. Michael and Brenda’s passion and commitment to diversity and academic distinction helped UCI become a leading public research university as well as an engine of upward mobility. We are delighted to recognize them with UCI’s highest honor.

Chancellor Emeritus Michael Drake and Brenda Drake to receive 2017 UCI Medal 

Giving Day

On a final note, I’d like to invite each of you to participate in a new tradition that aims to rally support around the remarkable work done on our campus and by Anteaters in the community. Next month, we will launch our first-ever Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising campaign that will bolster programs and research vitally important to UCI, including student scholarships, sustainability initiatives, public service projects and more.

UCI is the exceptional campus it is today because of our unique, generous alumni, partners and friends. On Wednesday, April 12, I hope you will consider making a contribution to UCI’s future and celebrate the unwavering Anteater spirit that has made us one of the top 10 public universities in the nation.