Irvine, Calif., April 7, 2016 – The National Science Foundation this week awarded nearly $1 million to the University of California, Irvine for scholarships and research into the best ways to support low-income students in physics. The five-year project will provide at least 60 scholarships to financially eligible and academically meritorious physics majors.

UCI is a leader in serving low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. A recent campus initiative successfully doubled the number of incoming physics majors. However, as at other universities across the country, many of these students change majors. Through scholarships and programs to strengthen academic and social support, the NSF-funded project aims to double the overall graduation rate for physics majors, significantly increase the graduation rate of low-income students in physics, and improve academic success in introductory physics and mathematics courses.

Laura Tucker, physics & astronomy lecturer and principal investigator, and Di Xu, assistant professor of education and co-principal investigator, will work with UCI graduate students to measure the success of each project component. “We are excited to create an even stronger support system for our students, learn how specific resources impact students’ success, and share these outcomes with other departments and institutions,” Tucker said.

“The partnerships between the Department of Physics & Astronomy, the Office of Teaching & Learning and the School of Education significantly increase the impact of this work. The grant is an opportunity to not only help increase the success of all students in the sciences, but improve students’ academic success throughout the campus,” said Michael Dennin, vice provost for teaching & learning and dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education.

In addition to Tucker, Xu and Dennin, UCI faculty on the project are physics & astronomy professors Manoj Kaplinghat, Mu-Chun Chen, Daniel Whiteson, Aaron Barth, David Buote and Phil Collins.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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