Steven White, UCI professor of physics & astronomy, is a newly elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., May 1, 2018 – Eric Rignot, who studies the impact of climate change on our planet’s polar regions, and Steven White, an expert in quantum and computational physics, are the latest researchers from the University of California, Irvine to be elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Rignot and White are among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates announced today by the academy. Considered one of the highest honors in science, NAS membership is based on distinguished and continued achievements in original research. New fellows are elected to the organization by existing members.

“I am thrilled that these two exceptional individuals are being recognized for their tremendous contributions to our understanding of worldwide challenges,” said Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor. “UCI fosters a vigorous research culture that has resulted in 25 faculty members being elected into the National Academy of Sciences.”

Rignot, chair and Donald Bren Professor of Earth system science, is also a senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He travels to some of the most extreme locations on the planet to conduct research and is frequently sought out by media outlets for his insights into glacier and ice sheet changes brought on by global warming.

Eric Rignot, chair and Donald Bren Professor of Earth system science at UCI, is a new member of the National Academy of Sciences. Maria Stenzel / for UCI

“I am deeply honored to be recognized by the National Academy of Sciences,” Rignot said. “I wish to share this honor with the numerous colleagues and students who worked with me in the past decades at UCI and at JPL to study polar regions using exciting and new space technologies and make scientific advances possible.”

White, professor of physics & astronomy, is a pioneer in the field of computational physics. His work led to the successful modeling of quantum spin liquid, a breakthrough that was featured on the cover of Science magazine and could spur future developments in superconductivity and quantum computers.

“I am rewarded on a daily basis by being able to come to work and explore the fundamental nature of our universe, so being elected to the National Academy of Sciences is truly an honor,” White said. “I am proud to be included among so many excellent researchers from the United States and around the world by this prestigious organization. I have spent my entire career at UCI, so I owe a tremendous amount to my academic home for its support of my research over the years.”

The National Academy of Sciences has 2,382 active U.S. members. Of the 25 from UCI, 11 are in the School of Physical Sciences.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, 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 $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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