UCI News

UC Irvine receives $3 million to create endowed chairs in cognitive sciences

The as-yet-unnamed chair holders will be recognized experts in the application of mathematics to the cognitive sciences. The endowed chairs honor the late R. Duncan Luce, a UC Irvine Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences with whom Jean-Claude Falmagne served on the faculty for more than 20 years.

July 1, 2013

Irvine, Calif., July 1, 2013 – A $3 million gift from Dina and Jean-Claude Falmagne will establish three new endowed chairs in the UC Irvine School of Social Sciences’ Department of Cognitive Sciences.

The as-yet-unnamed chair holders will be recognized experts in the application of mathematics to the cognitive sciences. The endowed chairs honor the late R. Duncan Luce, a UC Irvine Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences with whom Jean-Claude Falmagne served on the faculty for more than 20 years.

“This very generous investment in mathematical approaches to cognitive sciences will enable UC Irvine to advance its internationally recognized profile to a new level,” said Barbara Dosher, Distinguished Professor of cognitive sciences and social sciences dean. “Additionally, it will support creative research on the human brain and behavior.”

Cognitive scientists study the human mind and its functions. Their work explores memory and language disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and aphasia, and has applications in the information age, suggesting new approaches to online search systems and collaborative decision-making.

Research by UC Irvine cognitive scientists also enhances education practices, including the development of children’s literacy and math skills. Ranked 16th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for its graduate program in cognitive psychology, UC Irvine’s Department of Cognitive Sciences brings together scholars in mathematics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology and other fields to study the brain and behavior.

Falmagne is a UC Irvine cognitive sciences research professor and the founder of ALEKS Corp., which produces a Web-based, adaptive assessment and learning program called ALEKS – short for Assessment & Learning in Knowledge Spaces. The cognitive scientist turned mathematician began collaborating with Belgian mathematician Jean-Paul Doignon on the mathematical theory behind ALEKS in the early ’80s. A decade later, he initiated content development and software programming for prototype math and science courses with the support of a National Science Foundation grant.

“Falmagne was one of the premier scholars brought to Irvine in the ’90s to join UCI’s legendary multidisciplinary group in mathematical social and behavioral sciences,” Dosher said. “He has been a visionary leader in the development of educational technologies based on deep understanding of the principles of human learning and knowledge.”

Working with UC Irvine’s Office of Technology Alliances, Falmagne received licensing in the late ’90s to evolve his adaptive learning program into a multimillion-dollar software company. Based in Irvine, it now employs about 150 mathematicians, engineers and sales personnel – 40 of whom were hired last year – with space for 100 more.

In June, McGraw-Hill Education announced that it would acquire the privately held ALEKS Corp. McGraw-Hill has marketed and sold ALEKS for math in higher education for more than 10 years. As part of the agreement, ALEKS Corp. will maintain its Irvine offices.

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