October 2021

Dear Anteater community:

What a difference a year makes!

We kicked off the academic year by celebrating a momentous day in our history, the return of our in-person convocation. This convocation was different from its predecessors in that it included not only this year’s incoming students, but last year’s as well, so we had about 5,000 students in attendance. It was also held outdoors, which we hadn’t done since the very early days of the university. But the excitement and the joy were the same as always, with the students so eagerly looking forward to the start of one of the greatest adventures of their lives. Now our 38,000 students are learning in classrooms, living in dorms and apartments, and enjoying the rich, full campus experience they deserve.


Alumnus wins Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize winner David MacMillan earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at UCI
David MacMillan is a recipient of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Photo by Princeton University, Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy
David W.C. MacMillan, who earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at UCI in 1996, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry earlier this month. Currently the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University, he was honored for his work in developing better catalysts for converting and building molecules. His methods are used around the world in developing and producing new medicines. He is UCI’s fifth Nobel laureate, joining Professors F. Sherwood Rowland, Frederick Reines and Irwin Rose, and postdoctoral scholar Mario Molina. UCI alumnus wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry 

Inaugural PharmD White Coat Ceremony

UCI’s PharmD Class of 2025
UCI’s PharmD Class of 2025

Forty-one talented students received their white coats on September 24, signifying their entry into UCI’s newest doctoral program, the Doctor of Pharmacy, better known as PharmD. With the successful launch of this professional program for practicing pharmacists, the School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences spans a continuum from discovery, development, and delivery of new drugs, devices, and diagnostics all the way to optimizing medication therapy in patients and patient populations.

UCI Welcomes First PharmD Class At White Coat Ceremony 

Founder of social ecology program at UCI dies

Arnold Binder, professor emeritus of criminology, law and society and founder of UCI’s social ecology program, died on October 2 at the age of 97. Professor Binder, who earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University, joined the faculty at UCI in 1966. As the first director of the Social Ecology program, he oversaw its growth. It started with a B.A. in 1970. A master’s degree was added in 1973 and a Ph.D. in 1975. In 1992, the UC Regents recognized Social Ecology as a school at UCI. Professor Binder was named the first chair of criminology, law and society. He also served as interim dean of the School of Social Ecology during the 1998-99 academic year. Professor Binder is widely known for his work on juvenile delinquency. He also researched hate crimes and the use of deadly force by police.

Huntington Beach oil spill

When oil from an offshore oil platform pipeline began washing ashore on Orange County beaches early this month, Joleah Lamb, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, whose internationally recognized work in marine biology has raised awareness of plastic pollution and overall ocean health, became a much-sought-after voice of authority for the news media. Featured in outlets as diverse as the Los Angeles Times and The Weather Channel, she explained how the damage, both to sea life and the ocean floor, could last for years. In addition to appearing before the public, she led her students in collecting samples of seawater and kelp at Newport Bay so that they can analyze and catalogue the types, sizes and compositions of contaminants they contain. This data will be useful in mitigating the short- and long-term effects of the spill.

Faculty awards

Pramod Khargonekar, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering and computer science and vice chancellor for research, has won the 2021 IEEE Control Systems Society’s Hendrik W. Bode Lecture Prize. The Bode Lecture Prize recognizes distinguished contributions to control systems science and engineering. In addition to technical merit, IEEE also recognizes the broader impacts of benefiting society and IEEE CSS’s diversity and inclusiveness goals. Distinguished Professor Khargonekar is highly regarded for his research in systems and control theory, as well as applications to renewable energy and smart grid, manufacturing and neural engineering. He was previously honored with the IEEE Control Systems Award in 2019 for his outstanding contributions to robust and optimal control theory. He played an essential role in creating a state-space-based theory for H-infinity optimal control, one of the major achievements in the field of control theory in the last 40 years.

Stacy Branham, assistant professor of informatics, was recognized as one of Popular Science magazine’s Brilliant 10 young researchers for 2021. The annual feature recognizes the most innovative and up-and-coming American scientists, engineers, academic researchers and inventors. Professor Branham was singled out for her work in adapting commonly-used technologies for people with disabilities.

Congratulations to Professors Khargonekar and Branham on these significant honors.

Grant to improve digital technologies for children

Candice Odgers (left), UCI professor of psychological science, and Gillian Hayes, UCI vice provost

Candice Odgers (left), UCI professor of psychological science, and Gillian Hayes, UCI vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate Division. Steve Zylius/UCI

Digital experiences are a common part of how children learn, play and socialize, but online spaces and tools are often not designed to offer the types of support and opportunities for learning that children need. To address this issue, a multidisciplinary team led by Candice Odgers, professor of psychological science, and Gillian Hayes, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate Division, has received an $11 million grant from the Jacobs Foundation. Connecting the EdTech Research EcoSystem, or CERES, will bring together global leaders in computer science, psychology, neuroscience, education and educational technology to help tailor digital technologies for children. “The CERES network is a rare opportunity to make life-changing impact, contribute to cutting-edge scientific research and train the next generation of interdisciplinary scholars in this space,” Vice Provost Hayes said.

Jacobs Foundation awards UCI $11 million to improve digital technologies for children 

Road trip

UCI professors are known for going to great lengths to do their research, but few can match Héctor Tobar, associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies. Professor Tobar recently drove 9,000 miles across the United States, visiting different Latino communities and exploring what makes up Latino identity. In this podcast, he discusses the vast range of cultures and backgrounds that comprise the Latino community in this country and how that community, despite commonalities among its separate elements, cannot be viewed as a monolith.

Oncology Nurse Champion

Christina Kirk, RN, MSN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner at UCI Health
Christina Kirk, RN, MSN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner at UCI Health
Christina Kirk, RN, MSN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner at UCI Health, has been recognized as an Oncology Nurse Champion by Oncology Nursing News in recognition of the outstanding supportive care she provides her patients. Ms. Kirk, who came to nursing about 20 years ago after a career as an oncology nurse’s aide, is known for her far-reaching efforts to establish a rapport with each individual patient in her charge. A strong supporter of academic medicine, she especially enjoys working with patients on clinical trials, which often offer the best therapeutic treatment available. Congratulations, Nurse Kirk, we’re delighted that you are part of the oncology team at UCI Health.

Brilliant Future


Our Brilliant Future philanthropic fundraising campaign recently passed the two-year mark. To mark the occasion, the campaign has released its annual report, detailing our remarkable success to date. More than 77,000 donors have made more than 152,000 individual gifts that total $1.156 billion, and more than 47,000 alumni have become re-engaged with their alma mater. The money raised is, among other things, funding 40 endowed chairs and more than 160 scholarships and fellowships, ensuring the campaign’s benefits will be impactful for decades to come. Campaign chair James Peterson compellingly explains why he gives to UCI in this video. The tremendous investments made thus far in UCI and UCI Health are truly transforming healthcare and wellness, accelerating world-changing research, supporting more students in their pursuit of the American dream, and allowing us to further our exploration of the human experience. Thank you for all you do to bring about a more brilliant future for all.

Center for Education Partnerships anniversary

Next month, we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of an extraordinary organization on campus, the Center for Educational Partnerships. Based in the School of Education and with a campuswide impact, the CFEP plays a central role in increasing educational opportunity for underserved communities across our region. To mark the occasion, the CFEP: 25 Years of Impact series honors the people, programs, and partnerships that have changed the lives of so many students and their families. The CEFP is an integral and vital part of UCI’s mission to offer a world-class education to our state’s best students, regardless of their circumstances or background. I could not be more proud of its distinguished work.

Center for Educational Partnerships: 25 Years of Impact