Steve Zylius / UC Irvine During the fall 2013 Welcome Week, 3,875 participants helped UC Irvine set a Guinness world record for the largest water-blaster battle.

Highlights of 2013 at UCI

Year brings scientific advances, national accolades, international outreach, student achievement … and zombies

When Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. took the reins as founding chancellor at UC Irvine in 1965, he envisioned a modern, world-class university dedicated to addressing contemporary issues and preparing students to change the future.

His vision is being realized. For the second consecutive year, Times Higher Education ranked the campus as the finest American university under the age of 50. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Young, vibrant, innovative, collaborative – all are qualities of UC Irvine. Perhaps this is why future college students increasingly want to become Anteaters. Fall applications and student retention rates are at record highs.

In addition, UC Irvine is one of the nation’s most energy-efficient campuses. In two years, energy use per square foot will be half of what it was in 1994, and the administration aims for a zero-carbon footprint by 2025. Students, too, are dedicated to sustainability.

Providing access to higher education for all through massive online open courses is another area in which UC Irvine shines. University Extension is a national leader in developing MOOCs, best exemplified by its partnership with AMC and Instructure to offer a multidisciplinary MOOC based on topics raised in the hit television show “The Walking Dead.”

As always, it was quite a year at UC Irvine. Here are snapshots of 2013.

Students

Disneyland may have dibs on “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but UC Irvine can claim to be the happiest campus – or at least right up there. According to the U.S. Department of Education, UC Irvine ranks 11th in the nation among public universities for student happiness, based on freshman retention rates. … That might help explain why the number of freshman applications for fall 2013 hit an all-time high of 60,619. … Several Anteater students earned prestigious Fulbright scholarships this year; two will conduct public health research in Jordan. … A group of 50 students skipped the beach and Las Vegas for spring break to instead do volunteer work in California and Arizona. … And a weekly family law clinic run mostly by UC Irvine law students was recognized with a Pro Bono Service Award from the State Bar of California. … Speaking of the law, UC Irvine’s Mock Trial team has the best overall three-year record in the country, according to the American Mock Trial Association. The squad bested 600 others – including lineups from Harvard, Yale, UCLA and UC Berkeley – for the top spot. … In what’s becoming a Welcome Week tradition, students set another world record. This time 3,875 participants broke the Guinness mark for largest water-blaster fight. Last year, UC Irvine staged the world’s largest dodgeball game.

In the community

UC Irvine was the official host university of the inaugural XPO clean energy exposition, which took place in October alongside the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 at the Orange County Great Park. The XPO included the first-ever California Challenge energy-efficient race car time trials. Student-engineered vehicles from across the nation competed to go as far as they could in one hour on $1 worth of energy from any source. Worth noting: UC Irvine’s natural gas-powered Delta, aka Old Faithful, won the California Challenge. … The School of Biological Sciences celebrated the opening of the Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center in March. The site creates a “living laboratory” for sustainability research in the vast Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. … To celebrate the 90th birthday of UC Irvine’s former chancellor, Aug. 29 was officially proclaimed “Jack Peltason Day” in Irvine by Mayor Steven Choi. … Vice Chancellor of Research John Hemminger addressed the congressional Subcommittee on Energy in October and called for increased support of fundamental science research to address an emerging innovation deficit in the U.S. … Chancellor Michael Drake was recognized May 2 at “Awards 42,” an Orange County Human Relations Commission event celebrating community members who have advanced human relations. The panel cited Drake’s commitment to the idea that all perspectives and opinions should be heard in the academic environment. … UC Irvine autism experts addressed California’s Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related Disorders in November at the new location of the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Santa Ana. They emphasized the importance of supporting autism research and treatment, focusing on an entrepreneurial philanthropy model pioneered by the center. … Noted constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and distinguished professor of law, argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in December.

University news

UC Irvine earned accolades for its energy-efficiency and sustainability efforts: It was named among the nation’s “Coolest Schools” by Sierra magazine; earned five more LEED Platinum certifications for the Verano Place graduate student housing complex; and raked in both state and international awards for its Smart Labs Initiative. … The American Heart Association designated the university a platinum-level Fit-Friendly Worksite. … UC Irvine became the country’s first campus to use Toyota’s new Scion iQ electric vehicles, which have been added to the Zero Emission Vehicle-Network Enabled Transport fleet. … Sandra Tsing Loh is partnering with UC Irvine to bring her popular radio show “The Loh Down on Science” to international public radio audiences. … The Program in Nursing Science landed on the National Institutes of Health research funding list for the first time, rating 54th among U.S. nursing schools. … The New Swan Shakespeare Festival went on in August and September despite the sudden passing of Dudley Knight, a professor emeritus of drama and veteran actor who was to have played the title role in “King Lear.” In his honor, the troupe soldiered on and staged three open-air productions in its tiny jewel of a theater at the edge of Aldrich Park. … Hearty welcomes and huzzahs go to Howard Gillman, the new provost & executive vice chancellor; Bill Maurer, the new dean of the School of Social Sciences; and Georges Van Den Abbeele, the new dean of the School of Humanities.

Discoveries

The 2013 Nobel Prize in physics went to the two men who proposed the Higgs field theory, which explains how elementary particles acquire mass. UC Irvine scientists played a significant role in discovering a particle – called the Higgs boson – that confirms the theory. And they celebrated. … Atmospheric chemists helped identify levels of contaminants higher than in some of the world’s most polluted cities downwind of Canada’s largest oil, gas and tar sands processing zone, in a rural area where men suffer elevated rates of cancers linked to such chemicals. … Engineering researchers fabricated a new camouflage coating derived from squid protein. … Infectious disease and chemistry researchers found that breath analysis may prove to be an accurate, noninvasive way to quickly determine the severity of bacterial and other infections. … Aiming to inform the heated national debate about gun control with actual facts, two mathematicians designed parameters to measure how best to prevent one-on-one killings and mass shootings in the U.S. … Can microscopic hairs on bean leaves trap bedbugs? Chemists found out. … Computer scientists created an app called GenoDroid that could allow secure storage of individuals’ DNA data on a smartphone. … Psychologist Sarah Pressman found that emotions do affect health around the world and may, in fact, be more important to wellness in low-income countries. … Public health associate professor Andrew Noymer and colleagues learned that the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic was deadliest for people under the age of 65, while those 65 and older had greater immunity due to previous exposure to similar viruses. … After more than a decade of work, UC Irvine chemists developed a way to clearly identify clinically usable markers for prostate cancer in urine, meaning that the disease could be detected far sooner, with greater accuracy and at dramatically lower cost. … Biologist Michael Leon and a co-investigator revealed that children with autism showed significant improvement after six months of simple sensory exercises at home using everyday items such as scents, spoons and sponges. … Film & media studies professor Victoria Johnson contributed a chapter titled “Monday Night Football: Brand Identity” to the groundbreaking book How to Watch Television, a collection of articles and essays from scholars about the cultural significance of watching television in the U.S.

Health

In September, a gleaming new building for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute opened on campus, establishing a research, teaching and patient services hub in Orange County. … For the 13th consecutive year, UC Irvine Medical Center was named among “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report, the only Orange County hospital to make this esteemed list. … Breast cancer surgeons became the first in the country to use a new technology that makes surgery more precise and safe for patients. … The Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect partnered with the Bay Area’s nonprofit Institute on Aging to develop a mobile app called 368+ Elder & Dependent Adult Abuse Guide for CA Law Enforcement.

Athletics

Back-to-back champions! Led by new coach David Kniffin, the men’s volleyball team captured its second consecutive NCAA title, and its fourth in the last seven years. … The men’s soccer team won the Big West Tournament championship in November, earning a spot in the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. … The women’s water polo team nabbed its fourth Big West regular-season title, and a conference-high and program-record six players were named to the all-conference team. … Things are looking up for the men’s basketball team – they’re favored to win the Big West while fielding the tallest collegiate team in the country. Seven Anteaters stand 6-foot-8 or taller, helmed by 7-foot-6 freshman Mamadou Ndiaye, who quickly has become one of the most popular and beloved members of the UC Irvine family. … In club sports, members of the taekwondo team racked up national tournament titles this summer, and the men’s rowing team took first place in the varsity eight-man event at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association championship.

Honors & accolades

Two acclaimed campus professors each received one of the highest honors in their fields. Rubén G. Rumbaut, professor of sociology, was elected to the National Academy of Education in February, and Wilson Ho, the Donald Bren Professor of Physics & Astronomy and Chemistry, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in May. … Education professor Greg Duncan, a leading scholar in the field of early childhood education, was awarded the 2013 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for his groundbreaking work on the lasting effects of poverty on child development. … Aaron Esser-Kahn, Sunil Gandhi and Ali Mortazavi received highly selective 2013 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Awards, which support projects by early-career researchers that show potential to transform scientific fields and improve human health. … A plethora of honors were bestowed upon Henry Samueli School of Engineering faculty members:

  • Andrei Shkel was presented the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Public Service by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
  • The American Geophysical Union awarded Soroosh Sorooshian, Distinguished Professor of civil & environmental engineering, the 2013 Robert E. Horton Medal for his outstanding contributions to hydrology.
  • Derek Dunn-Rankin received the A.K. Oppenheim Prize – which honors brilliant additions to the theoretical or interpretative aspects of combustion dynamics – from the Institute for Dynamics of Explosions & Reactive Systems.
  • The Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers’ Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics & Frequency Control Society honored Chancellor’s Professor Chen Tsai with its 2013 lifetime achievement award.
  • And the president of India bestowed the 2013 Padma Bhushan on Distinguished Professor Satya Atluri. The country’s third-highest civilian award recognizes illustrious service of high order.

The School of Medicine’s iMedEd Initiative – UC Irvine’s innovative medical education program based on tablet computing – was designated an Apple Distinguished Program. It was the only American medical school to be named as such. … Charles D. Martin, chairman and CEO of Mont Pelerin Capital; Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Distinguished Professor of comparative literature; and UC Irvine Foundation trustees Cheryll and Richard Ruszat received the UCI Medal, the campus’s highest honor.The School of Education continued to climb in the U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings, placing 37th in the latest list, up 10 places from two years ago. … Arts graduate Edward Patrick Alva ’10 worked as an assistant editor on a documentary film, “The Invisible War,” that was nominated for an Academy Award. … A talk by psychologist Elizabeth Loftus became a sensation among TED watchers, garnering more than 300,000 views in the first week it was available online. Speaking at TEDGlobal 2013, Loftus showed how memory can be influenced, often in very subtle ways, and she highlighted the real-life repercussions of this. … UC Irvine ranked fourth in the University Global Health Impact report card, which evaluates top U.S. and Canadian research universities on their contributions to urgent worldwide health issues and treatment access. The campus ranked higher than Harvard, Emory and Duke in the categories of innovation, access and empowerment. … And history professor David Igler received a stellar review in the Times Literary Supplement for his book The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush, a history of European and American scientific exploration, trade and empire building via the world’s largest ocean.

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