December 2019

Commencement is only a few weeks away, and the UCI campus is a flurry of excitement. Graduating seniors are already planning their next moves, students are finishing up their class projects and internships, and faculty members continue to dedicate their time to important research that is changing the world.

Kudos for UCI

Forbes magazine has named UCI among the best places to work in the entire nation. The magazine, through a market research firm, asked 50,000 workers at large (5,000+ employees) companies, nonprofit institutions, government agencies and U.S. divisions of multinationals to evaluate their employers on a range of criteria such as atmosphere, remuneration and working conditions. In particular, the question of how likely respondents would be to recommend their employer to a friend or family member on a scale of 0 to 10 was central to the research. UCI, Orange County’s second-largest employer with 16,400 faculty and staff working on campus and at the UCI Medical Center and affiliate clinics, came out very well indeed, ranking No. 40 overall and No. 4 among educational institutes. We continue to strive to build and sustain a working culture marked by inclusion, ownership, and stewardship of UCI’s mission, and these positive results show we are on the right track.

Forbes also named UCI the No. 1 best value among public research universities and third overall, behind only Brigham Young University and Princeton University. Value was determined by considering cost, academic quality, graduation rates, student debt and postgrad earnings. Our reputation for providing value, accessibility and affordability for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, has made UCI the most popular college destination for California’s college-bound high school seniors. More than 70,000 aspiring in-state freshmen applied to attend UCI this fall. Additionally, our campus was the top choice for first-generation students and those from low-income families and underrepresented groups – all of whom have not historically had access to a world-class college education.

Esports documentary

This afternoon, starting at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, ESPN2 will air the first three episodes of a four-part docu-series on our championship UCI esports program. You can view the trailer hereGood Game: UC Irvine follows the team as it seeks to repeat as League of Legend national champions, providing up-close and personal profiles of our UCI student-gamers. UCI researchers involved with gaming will also be featured – neurobiologist Craig Stark, who studies how playing video games improves memory, and informatics professor Constance Steinkuehler, who explores the convergence of playing video games with cognitive processes to enhance mindfulness and mental well-being. Tonight’s three episodes trace the team’s journey all season long to championship weekend; the finale of the series, which will air June 18 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN2, shows what happened at the championship. If you can’t bear the suspense, you can watch the team play its quarterfinals match on Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Riot Games’ Twitch channel. Following its initial airing, the docu-series will be available on demand via the ESPN app.

Faculty honors

H. Kumar Wickramasinghe, Distinguished Professor and Nicolaos G. & Sue Curtis Alexopoulos Presidential Chair in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, has been named a fellow by the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. With more than 100 patents to his name, Professor Wickramasinghe is a pioneer in nanotechnology research and innovation. A recipient of the 2014-15 Distinguished Faculty Award for Research from the UCI Academic Senate, he also is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; an IBM Fellow and a member of the IBM Academy of Technology; and a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, the Royal Microscopical Society and the National Academy of Inventors. Only the fourth member of our faculty ever to earn this extraordinary honor, he will be formally inducted into the Royal Society in a ceremony in London on July 12.

Clare Yu, professor of physics & astronomy, has been named a fellow by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. Fellows are nominated and elected to the academy by current members. Professor Yu joined the faculty at UCI in 1989 and has a broad range of research interests, including biophysics, condensed matter physics and quantum computing. She earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in physics at Princeton University, is a recipient of the Sloan Research Fellowship and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. She will be officially inducted into the AAAS in an October ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, Distinguished Professor Emerita of chemistry, has been awarded the Environment Prize by the Royal Society of Chemistry, the prestigious British learned society concerned with advancing chemistry as a science, developing its applications, and disseminating chemical knowledge. Professor Finlayson-Pitts was recognized “for outstanding contributions to the chemical sciences in the area of environment, sustainability and energy.” Her pioneering research revealing new processes in the formation of photochemical air pollution and establishing the molecular basis of reactions occurring at environmental interfaces. Founder and co-director of the interdisciplinary AirUCI Institute, she is the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific publications and two books on atmospheric chemistry. She is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, as well as of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Devin Manori Shanthikumar, associate professor of accounting, has been named one of the “Best 40 Under 40” professors by Poets & Quants, the widely-read website about business programs. The students and faculty who nominated her for this honor cited her exceptional communications skills, her mentorship, especially of minority and women students, and her impressive scholarship. Her current research focuses on individual investor behavior, the impacts that individuals have on the market, and the role of analysts in advising individuals.

Congratulations to these four impactful scholars! We are proud to count you among our faculty.

Leadership changes

Dr. Willie L. Banks Jr., a highly experienced leader in undergraduate campus life, has agreed to join UCI as our next vice chancellor for student affairs. He comes to UCI from Indiana State University, where he has served as the vice president for student affairs, as well as an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, since 2015. Prior to Indiana State University, Dr. Banks was at Cleveland State University, where he was interim assistant vice president for student affairs. He also served there as associate dean of students for student life and as interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Previously, he held a variety of student affairs positions at the University of Georgia, including associate dean and director of intercultural affairs. Dr. Banks holds a Bachelor of Arts in public relations, with a minor in business, from Mercer University. He also earned two degrees from the University of Georgia: a master’s in student personnel and a Ph.D. in student affairs administration. We all look forward to Dr. Banks’s joining us on July 15.

After a national search, we found the next dean of the School of Physical Sciences already here on campus. Professor James Bullock, chair of the physics & astronomy department and director of the UCI Center for Cosmology, will assume his new responsibilities on July 1. A member of our faculty since 2004, Professor Bullock’s research interests include cosmology, galaxy formation, dark matter and the Milky Way. He is currently chair of the users committee for NASA’s flagship James Webb Space Telescope, which is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Professor Bullock has been honored as a Chancellor’s Fellow and has received two UCI Celebration of Teaching Awards. In 2008, he was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Nursing awards

Anyone who has ever spent time in a medical facility knows the vital role nurses fulfill in caring for patients. UCI Health celebrated the role of nurses in sustaining our clinical excellence with the annual Nursing Exemplar Awards Ceremony, honoring 12 nurses and two friends of nursing for their dedication and professionalism. The nursing staff also celebrated receiving one of the profession’s highest honors, a fourth consecutive Magnet designation. A program of the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Magnet designation recognizes nursing excellence and provides patients with the ultimate benchmark to measure expectations of care. Those achieving Magnet status must maintain rigorous standards as part of the four-year designation. Congratulations to the nurses of UCI Health!

Support the Anti-Cancer Challenge

We have come a long way in the battle against cancer, but we still have a long way to go, and the physicians and scientists at the UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 48 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and Orange County’s only such center, want and need your help. You can support their work by participating in the Anti-Cancer Challenge Run/Walk on Saturday, June 8, in Aldrich Park on campus. This family event offers:

  • 100-mile, 60-mile, 35-mile and 14-mile bike rides
  • 5K and 10K run/walk for kids as well as adults
  • Live entertainment
  • Honor wall for cancer fighters
  • Giveaways of official Anti-Cancer Challenge T-shirts, bags and medals
  • Free lunch
  • Free parking at the parking structure for the UCI Student Center
  • Individual and team awards

Registration is required. Sign up today! Help make this a cancer-free world.