Office of the Chancellor

Monthly Message from Chancellor Howard Gillman

March 2022

It’s hard to believe that winter quarter is now over, but today is the last day of final exams. Students are taking their well-earned spring break from the rigors of their coursework. Staff and faculty are looking forward to the slower tempo of the break as well, a brief respite before the final push of the academic year. This has been a very busy quarter for all at UCI. Here are just a few highlights.

Gift for depression research

Pramod Khargonekar with Dr. Michael Stamos and Frank LaFerla

Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research, left, with Dr. Michael Stamos, dean of the School of Medicine, center, and Frank LaFerla, dean of the School of Biological Sciences, right. Steve Zylius / UCI

From its earliest days, UCI has been at the forefront of advancing our understanding of how the mind works and what can help it work better. Now UCI has the unique opportunity to transform our knowledge and treatment of depression, one of the most widespread and debilitating disorders of the mind. The late philanthropist Audrey Steele Burnand has bequeathed UCI $55 million, one of the largest gifts in our history, to establish the Noel Drury, M.D., Depression Research Center. The cross-disciplinary center will draw on faculty from across the academic landscape who will explore the disease from advancing our understanding of its causes to developing new and innovative treatments to moving those treatments into practice.

Institute for Precision Health

Institute for Precision Health co-director Tom Andriola with fellow co-director Leslie Thompson.

Bringing together our tremendous capabilities in health sciences, engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, clinical genomics and data science, UCI has created the Institute for Precision Health to deliver the most effective health and wellness strategy for each individual person. Precision medicine collects patient data – history, exams, demographics, molecular and diagnostic tests – and uses the power of computer algorithms, predictive modeling and AI to develop personalized treatment and lifelong health maintenance plans. It provides the potential to understand and treat disease far better than ever before by providing personally-tailored care to each patient, a step widely considered the next great advance in health care delivery.

Women’s History Month

School of Humanities collage of "10 Women You Should Know"

March is Women’s History Month, the annual celebration of women's contributions to history, culture and society, and to mark it faculty from the School of Humanities have selected “10 Women You Should Know,” a personal list of women who shaped their communities and transformed history. Some of them are well known, some likely new to you, but each devoted herself to making the world better and all of them are important to know about.

Alumni news

We are very proud of our alumni, who during their time on campus were inspired, empowered and enabled to use their skills and talents to make their mark in the world. Some of them are pursuing acting careers as theatres on Broadway and across the nation return to live performances. They credit the lessons learned at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts for honing their creative abilities.

And Maurice Sanchez, who can trace his career in law back to his first exposure to the possibility as a social ecology undergraduate in the 1970s, made history last month when he became the first Latino and first person of color to be appointed to the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. We have more than 200,000 alumni, and they all have equally compelling stories.

Center for Educational Partnerships

For 25 years, the Center for Educational Partnerships, working in conjunction with local area schools, has helped ensure that underrepresented students qualified for admission to four-year colleges and universities, that they had taken the right courses and achieved at a high level, that their talents and abilities were given the best preparation so that they would flourish at the college level. Now the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $5.2 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) partnership grant to CFEP to continue and expand its work in the Compton Unified School District and Compton College. It supplements an earlier GEAR UP grant of $5.4 million in 2018, and enables CFEP to continue its vital work of changing lives in Compton through 2028. CFEP is truly a national model for successful college preparation and support.

Faculty honors

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is reserved for the most accomplished people in their disciplines, leaders whose work has changed their specific fields. In February two UCI professors in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, Farzad Naeim, adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Julie Schoenung, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, received this exceptional distinction in recognition of their extraordinary scientific contributions to seismic design and materials engineering, respectively. UCI now has 16 elected members of the National Academy of Engineering. Congratulations, Professors Naeim and Schoenung!

Tirtha Banerjee, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, has earned a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric & Geospace Sciences and the Directorate For Geosciences. The CAREER designation is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. Professor Banerjee will receive $600,000 over five years to support his research into the role of turbulent fluid mechanics in wildland fire behavior inside the forest canopy environment. The physics of turbulent flows is important for a range of applications from engineering to meteorology, atmospheric science to biology, and energy applications to geophysical flows. Congratulations, Professor Banerjee, and best wishes for the success of your research.

Emily Baum, associate professor of history, has been named a 2022-2023 fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the world's foremost centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Fellows are selected through a highly competitive process for their bold ideas, innovative methods, and deep research questions that push the boundaries of human knowledge. She will use the time to work on her next book project, tentatively titled, Needled: How Acupuncture Became Alternative, which will combine her scholarly interests in medicine and modern China by exploring the growth in popularity of acupuncture as an accepted medical treatment in the Western world. Congratulations, Professor Baum!

Esports

With a successful computer game science major, a thriving gaming community, and a history of elite competition, UCI has been a natural place for esports to thrive. We were the first public university to create an official esports program, in 2016, and since then have been regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive in the world. Now UCI has become a founding member of Voice of Intercollegiate Esports, a nonprofit member organization charged with building an inclusive, sustainable, competitive collegiate esports ecosystem by bringing together key people from many of the top academic institutions to address the rapidly growing esports landscape. As a founding member, UCI will have access to best-practice resources, speakers’ series, networking events, enhanced student opportunities and original industry reports, including benchmarking data to further develop our existing esports program.

The war in Ukraine

Iryna Zenyuk, UCI associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and mechanical

Iryna Zenyuk, UCI associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering, as well as associate director of the campus’s National Fuel Cell Research Center, is a Ukrainian American renewable energy expert who has launched an initiative to aid Ukrainian scholars facing danger and displacement. Steve Zylius / UCI

As the head of a public institution, I normally do not comment on international affairs, reserving my contributions to instances that directly affect our mission or members of our community. But Russia’s brutal campaign against the free people of Ukraine deserves the strongest possible condemnation.  Our hearts go out to those being shot at, bombarded, starved, and denied the right to lead their lives in peace as they choose. In support of our academic colleagues in Ukraine, and following the model we used during the withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, we have made a substantial contribution to the UCI Scholars at Risk program to help these scholars and teachers flee from their beleaguered and beloved homeland to safer countries. The Provost’s Office and the Office of Research have already committed funds to this effort, and the organizers of the UCI Scholars at Risk program will be reaching out to the deans for their support. The UCI Scholars at Risk program has also launched a crowdsourcing campaign to help academics, lawyers, artists, and other civil society actors to flee Ukraine, with the goal of raising $100,000 by June 1. And finally, I am proud to share this story of what Iryna Zenyuk, associate professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering and mechanical & aerospace engineering, as well as associate director of the campus’s National Fuel Cell Research Center, is doing to help her Ukrainian colleagues. The power of one person to change the world is amazing.

Fiat Lux.

Chancellor Howard Gillman