February 2018

Like you, I was shocked and saddened by the tragic school shooting in Florida last week. It is my fervent hope that this is the last time I write about such a terrible event, but I fear it will not be, as our national conversation about private gun ownership continues without resolution. There are no words of comfort that can ease the pain for all those affected by what happened, but I am heartened by the strength, maturity and resolve displayed by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They are leading the way toward a better future for all students – and for all of us.

Black History Month concert

Stephen Tucker, UCI associate professor of music
Stephen Tucker, UCI associate professor of music, conducts the UCI Symphony Orchestra. Steve Zylius/UCI

February is Black History Month, and Stephen Tucker, associate professor of music and conductor of the UCI Symphony Orchestra, marked the occasion with a concert showcasing some of America’s most celebrated African American composers, highlighting their influence on the world of concert hall music. The concert, which included compositions by Adolphus Hailstork, four-time Grammy winner Billy Childs, George Walker and Duke Ellington, among others, was the concluding event of the three-day College Orchestra Directors Association Conference, hosted by UCI. To hear some of the music that inspires Professor Tucker, click here.

An homage to African-American composers

Faculty honors

Two exceptional members of our faculty, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Distinguished Professor of civil & environmental engineering, and Judith Olson, professor emerita of information & computer sciences, were this month awarded the high professional distinction of election to the National Academy of Engineering. On behalf of Anteaters everywhere, congratulations to these two remarkable scholars! The academy cited Distinguished Professor Foufoula-Georgiou for her contributions to hydrology and hydroclimatology with applications to engineered systems across scales and Professor Emerita Olson for her leadership, technical innovations and development of systems that support collaborative work at a distance. They have brought great credit to UCI, and we are very proud they serve on our faculty. The campus now has 15 elected members in the NAE, 23 in the National Academy of Sciences, four in the National Academy of Medicine, and 34 in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

The National Academy of Sciences is also honoring two of our faculty. Barbara Dosher, Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences and an elected member of the NAS, will share the Atkinson Prize in Psychological & Cognitive Sciences for her groundbreaking work on human memory, attention and learning. Etel Solingen, the Thomas T. & Elizabeth C. Tierney Chair in Global Peace & Conflict Studies, will receive the William & Katherine Estes Award for her trailblazing work on nuclear proliferation and reducing the risks of nuclear war. The women will be recognized at the NAS annual meeting in April. Congratulations to both! They have added much luster to UCI’s name.

Research grants

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $10 million to the University of California in support of the UC Humanities Research Institute. The grant constitutes initial funding for a $30 million permanent endowment for the UCHRI. Further information can be found here. Housed for 25 years on the UCI campus, the UCHRI promotes excellence in humanities research through interdisciplinary collaboration and teaching across all 10 UC campuses and in their communities. The investment by the Mellon Foundation is yet another recognition of our outstanding humanities faculty and their scholarship. We are grateful to David Theo Goldberg, UCI professor of comparative literature and anthropology and director of the UCHRI, for his distinguished leadership of the institute and for his efforts that showcased the UCHRI’s compelling excellence to the Mellon Foundation.

The W.M. Keck Foundation provides initial funding for what it expects to be breakthrough discoveries and new technologies that will provide innovative solutions to complex problems. Robert Spitale, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, and John Chaput, professor of pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry, have received a $1 million grant from the Keck Foundation to develop new technologies to study the dynamic properties of key RNA modifications. There are very few molecular biology tools for exploring RNA modifications, and none function with single-nucleotide resolution. Professors Spitale and Chaput hope to overcome this problem by establishing reagents that recognize modified RNA with single- or near-single-nucleotide resolution. This is the eighth award UCI has received from the Keck Foundation, testament to the groundbreaking work of our faculty across scientific disciplines.

Apple Distinguished School

The School of Medicine was again recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for its continuous innovation in learning & teaching and its educational environment. This is the fourth consecutive time the medical school has received this prestigious honor. In 2010, the school launched its iMedEd Initiative to incorporate innovative technologies redefining medical education and advancing clinical skills for the 21st century. The first Apple award was in 2012, after UCI’s medical school became one of the first in the nation to use the iPad as a catalyst for digital curriculum reform. It has since adopted many smartphone-based advances that are turning the modern doctor’s bag into the equivalent of a high-tech mobile clinic. The school also has graduated more than 500 digitally literate physicians who are transforming the medical field. To learn more about how technology is altering medical education, view below.

On the Forefront of Medical Innovations: Medical Education & Technology

UC National Center for Free Speech & Civic Engagement

The UC National Center for Free Speech & Civic Engagement has announced its inaugural class of fellows. These scholars, students and analysts from across the country will spend a year researching timely, vital First Amendment issues. Each will reside for a week at one of the 10 UC campuses to engage with students, faculty, administrators and community members. The fellowship program is the cornerstone of the center, which was established by UC President Janet Napolitano in October 2017 to bring together people of different backgrounds, experiences and views to apply the best legal, social science, journalistic and other research, along with real-world experience, to inform free speech and civic engagement policies on our campuses, in our state legislatures and in Washington, D.C.

National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement 

Minority Science Programs

UCI senior Michelle Kalu
UCI senior Michelle Kalu.

Hispanic Americans, African Americans and Native Americans make up more than 39 percent of the nation’s college-age population but earn only 11 percent of doctorates in the biological sciences. To address this disparity, UCI’s Outreach, Research Training & Minority Science Programs, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences, provide research guidance annually to over 60 undergraduates and 10 graduate students underrepresented in the biomedical fields. This year, 12 MSP students won awards for their original research at two national events: the Sigma Xi Student Research Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Phoenix, Arizona. The ultimate goal of the MSP is to act as a “pipeline” to Ph.D. programs for talented minority students.

Ph.D. ‘pipeline’ promotes diversity 


Lastly, let me take a moment to invite you to Anteater Family Weekend and our homecoming festivities on Saturday, March 3. This year’s celebration will include a party in Aldrich Park with a family fun zone, a beer and wine garden, art and exhibits, alumni-owned food trucks, and lots more. In addition, there will be a chance to catch up with fellow Anteater alums as we celebrate the classes of 1968, 1978, 1993, 2008 and 2013. After the festival, our men’s basketball team will take on the Aggies of UC Davis at the Bren Events Center. It’s a great event for every Anteater, and I hope you’ll join in the fun.