The UCI School of Physical Sciences vaulted to international prominence in 1995 when two professors, Frederick Reines and F. Sherwood Rowland, accepted Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry, marking the first time a public university received the prestigious award in two fields within the same year. Reines was recognized for discovering the neutrino, a new elementary particle of nature that was thought to be undetectable. Rowland’s prize was for the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) deplete the ozone layer, work that sparked a worldwide and triumphant effort to close the ozone hole. Taken together, these efforts are emblematic of the broad mission of this school: to uncover fundamental truths and to provide transformative discoveries that tangibly improve the world. Reines, who was also our founding dean, said he was motivated by the fact that “everybody said you couldn’t do it.” This undeterred, unbending spirit continues to flourish to this day.
The UCI School of Physical Sciences advances humanity through a deeper understanding of the physical science that governs the world. Our flagship projects not only directly address some of today’s most fundamental and existential problems, but also strive for their impactful applied solutions.
We are dedicated to developing scalable solutions for the problem of climate change. We are home to the the nation’s first Department of Earth System Science, established to quantify changes to our environment and discover ways we can adapt.
The most exciting frontiers of scientific understanding lie at opposite extremes of size: the microscopic realm of quantum mechanics and macroscopic realm of the galaxy and the universe itself.
Mathematics, physics, and chemistry provide invaluable 21st-century biomedical tools that allow us to comprehend biology at the most fundamental level and to treat disease with new technologies and a deeper physical understanding than ever before.
The UCI Department of Chemistry is ranked among the best in the nation. From synthesizing natural products and new nano-materials to discovering molecular mechanisms that regulate the decoding of genetic information, UCI chemists lead cutting-edge research to solve health and environmental problems facing our planet.
The UCI Department of Earth System Science (ESS) was the first in the nation established to quantify changes to our environment and discover ways we can adapt. Research in ESS focuses on how the atmosphere, land and oceans interact as a system and how the Earth will change over a human lifetime.
The UCI Department of Mathematics is home to prominent scholars engaged in teaching, fundamental research, and service to the local community with outreach efforts to foster success in STEM disciplines. The department is a leader in cutting-edge research in pure and applied mathematics.
The UCI Department of Physics & Astronomy has a tradition of excellence and is home to world-renowned physicists. Research in the department aims to decipher the makeup of the universe as a whole, to understand the behavior of quantum materials, and to build novel approaches to medical imaging.
Best college in the U.S. — MONEY Magazine
University in the nation doing the most for the American dream – The New York Times
Departments under UCI Physical Sciences — Chemistry, Earth System Science, Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy
Faculty members part of UCI Physical Sciences
Students in UCI Physical Sciences
UCI Physical Sciences was one of the founding schools and opened in the same year with 212 undergraduate students, 55 graduate students, and 22 faculty members across the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics & Astronomy.
ESS became the first department in the world dedicated to studying climate change.
Ralph Cicerone was Dean of Physical Sciences, Chancellor of UCI, and President of the National Academy of Sciences. Through his visionary leadership he brought together top scientists from various disciplines to study and evaluate climate change and, with that, established the Department of Earth System Science.
The largest and most advanced private fusion company in the world, TAE Technologies, was founded on ideas developed by UCI physicist Norman Rostoker.
Fred Reines received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the neutrino, a new elementary particle that was thought to be undetectable. He was the founding dean of UCI Physical Sciences.
F. Sherwood Rowland received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) deplete the ozone layer, work that sparked a worldwide and triumphant effort to close the ozone hole. He was the founding chair of the UCI Department of Chemistry.
Ed Thorp, founding professor, Department of Mathematics, is a pioneer of modern probability theory, author of Beat the Dealer, and hedge fund manager.
The Campaign for UCI
The School of Physical Sciences plays a vital role in Brilliant Future: the campaign for UCI. We seek a historic philanthropic commitment – a school naming gift. Funding of this magnitude will empower the school to elevate its strong academics and research to elite levels of excellence. A naming gift would ensure that we are able to grow our flagship projects, hire the most dynamic and modern faculty to support our students and research growth, provide premier research facilities, attract and support the best students, and deliver comprehensive innovation through intellectual property protection and commercialization. A naming gift would honor the intrepid spirit and interdisciplinary innovation at the heart of our school. Additionally, the impact of a naming gift for Physical Sciences at UCI will have the ability to completely transform our school. Our 50 years of precedence has established a prestigious level of scientific tradition while allowing great flexibility in shaping future outcomes for our school.
They chart the farthest corners of the cosmos, and they solve problems right here on Earth, making our faculty truly universal.
Our students bring dynamic ideas, and form the bedrock of our bustling culture of research and discovery.
Each of our four top-ranked departments has a tradition of excellence and a vibrancy all its own.