Irvine, Calif., June 5, 2023 — The creation of three new multidisciplinary research institutes in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering is being made possible by a $50 million gift from Susan and Henry Samueli to the University of California, Irvine.
Unified under the banner “Engineering+,” the Engineering+Health Institute, Engineering+Society Institute and Engineering+Environment Institute will allow researchers from diverse disciplines to conduct transformational research addressing the most important issues facing humanity today.
In addition, a portion of the gift will be used to create the Office of Inreach, dedicated to the well-being, academic success, sense of belonging and career opportunities for undergraduate students in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering.
“The enduring generosity of Henry and Susan Samueli has enabled University of California, Irvine researchers to seek answers to the most challenging questions and make breakthroughs that impact all our lives,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “The investments the Samuelis have made in UCI over nearly a quarter century – bridging engineering, health, interdisciplinary research and student success – have paid substantial dividends in our institution, our community and the world.”
Susan and Henry Samueli have made the largest gifts to UCI in the institution’s history. In 2017, they pledged $200 million to create the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences. A $30 million gift from the Samueli Foundation funded the construction of the Samueli Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building.
In 1999, The Henry Samueli School of Engineering received a $20 million naming gift that, in part, endowed 10 chairs and professorships and funded two scholarships and a graduate fellowship. This donation was critical to the trajectory of the engineering school, which has grown significantly in both scope and size since the turn of the millennium: Faculty increased from 105 members in 1999 to 162 in 2023; the undergraduate population jumped from about 1,600 to over 3,500; and the graduate student body more than tripled from about 300 to over 1,050. These changes highlight the transformational nature of the gift, as it enabled the evolution of the engineering program into an impactful academic research powerhouse.
“Susan and I continue to invest in the University of California, Irvine as an expression of our belief in it as a world-class research and educational institution – and in the invaluable role that public universities play in innovation,” said Henry Samueli, co-founder of the Samueli Foundation. “Engineers are hard-wired as problem solvers; we hope our new gift will allow them to focus their problem-solving skills on some of our world’s largest, most intractable issues.”
Magnus Egerstedt, Stacey Nicholas Dean of Engineering for The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, said that UCI’s partnership with the Samuelis is highly collaborative, which is how the three themes of Engineering+ emerged.
“The Samuelis care deeply about engineering education and health, so there is an elegant connection made between these two key interests through the Engineering+Health Institute,” Egerstedt said. “Strategically thinking, it also makes sense, because if you look at this part of the world – Orange County – the medical device and technology industry is very strong here. One can draw a direct line between what we do in our labs and the local industrial ecosystem that surrounds us.”
The Engineering+Health Institute will house research into information technologies that bring medical care to underserved communities, synthetic biology to enable customizable disease treatments, and the combination of data science and biomedical device development. Efforts in these areas have gotten a head start, according to Egerstedt, through UCI’s tradition of bringing together engineers, biologists, medical researchers and others in focused, interdisciplinary research efforts.
“The pathways already exist for us to do something major at the intersection of engineering and health,” he said.
Researchers in the Engineering+Society Institute will investigate how automation can enhance the human experience. Intelligent transportation, AI, robotic co-workers and nonhuman caregivers will become the norm in the future, Egerstedt said.
“I feel strongly that technology can serve as a beautiful force for good, but it’s up to us to make sure that our inventions don’t become invasive species,” he said. “Technology needs to work for us as a society, which means that engineers need to collaborate with experts in public policy, law and the humanities so that our work fits a broader societal context.”
In his own academic history, Egerstedt merged robotics with climate and environmental monitoring, which has spurred his excitement about the formation of the Engineering+Environment Institute. Research into remote sensing of climate impacts, such as wildfires and beach erosion; data science for water modeling and management; and large-scale sustainable energy solutions are a few of the areas to be pursued in the institute.
“Climate research is a historical strength of UCI; our researchers have won Nobel Prizes for answering climate-related questions,” Egerstedt said. “We have a strong presence in the relevant basic sciences on campus, and in the engineering school, we have leading experts in coastal engineering, hydrology and clean energy, for example. The Engineering+Environment Institute combines an extraordinarily important question with areas of strength on our campus.”
But ultimately, the student experience must be front and center, Egerstedt said, and he considers the Office of Inreach to be the most important new initiative to be funded by the endowment. Close to 50 percent of UCI students are first-generation, the first in their families to attend college, and many are from historically underrepresented Hispanic, Native American, and Asian and Pacific Islander populations. The Office of Inreach combines cohort-based programs for students with a home away from home, including spaces for studying, building, socializing and networking.
“We believe that Orange County can be a model place where well-being and opportunity for all is possible,” Samueli said. “That includes every student who enrolls at UCI. Establishing the Office of Inreach is a critical step toward ensuring that every student has what they need to thrive, succeed and, ultimately, graduate from UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering.”
In addition, the endowment created by this generous gift will fund research and teaching; workshops, speaker series and events; administrative staff and infrastructure; research grants and faculty retention; and graduate student fellowships, among other needs connected to the broader Engineering+ theme.
“This support from Susan and Henry Samueli helps us move a massive step closer to becoming a destination for the smartest, most diverse, most passionate and most driven set of students and faculty on the planet,” Egerstedt said. “Through Engineering+, we can articulate what’s different about us and why UCI is a place where you can not only get a great education and launch a great career, but also make the world a little better while you’re at it.”
About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Henry Samueli School of Engineering plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/the-henry-samueli-school-of-engineering.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 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 $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.