News From School of Physical Sciences

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Physical Matters Fall 2012

In this Issue

Dean's Message

Luminaries in the News
Dark Matter Exposed?
Methane Mystery Closer to Being Solved
A Good Mix
Dean Janda's Faculty Spotlight
Halos of Dark Matter 
Protein Folding Similar to Granular Jamming
Wotz Happening
Jay Famiglietti Testifies in Congress

Radiant Awards
Donald Blake
Qing Nie and Xing Dai
Liu Chen
Wilson Ho
AMS Fellows
Gregory Weiss
Andrew Borovik

New Stars
Hamid Hezari
Michael Cooper
Simona Murgia
Steven Davis
Saewung Kim
Julie Ferguson
Vy Dong
Amanda Brindley


Orbits and Announcements
PSUM - Mentoring Program
Breakfast Lecture Series
UCI Math Circle
CalTeach Program


Student Elements
Ph.D. Alumni Rate Physical Sciences
Boeing Company Scholarship
2012-14 ARCS Fellows

Supporting the School

PS the Numbers

Connect With Us

Dean's Message

Dear Friends:

The 2012-13 academic year is setting new records for the School of Physical Sciences! We have 1309 undergraduate students majoring in the Physical Sciences (a 12% increase over five years go); 526 graduate student enrollments (an 8% increase over five years go) and our School's faculty are projected to assign a staggering 17% of the quarter grades for the entire UC Irvine campus.

To compensate for the growing pains of the School, this fall we welcomed eight new faculty members with research interests ranging from chemical catalysis and atmospheric gas emissions to a search for dark matter and mathematical inverse problems.  Their contributions will be a great addition to our world-renowned  faculty team. The new team members will help the School to continue meeting student demands despite the ongoing state of financial difficulty.

Speaking of financial challenges, all of us here at UC Irvine are thankful to Californians who voted to pass Proposition 30 during the recent election. It was very gratifying to see fellow citizens unite for the well-being of public education. The rejection of Proposition 30 would have been catastrophic for the university, as UC Irvine alone would have lost an additional $45 million in state funding. Although we are very relieved that we don’t have to make any new cuts, it’s important to note that Proposition 30 does not provide us with any new funding. We still have a budgetary shortfall following millions of dollars of cuts since 2008.

Shifting to the more positive news, the UC Irvine campus has been abuzz with the announcement by Times Higher Education of London that UCI ranked fourth in the world and first in the U.S. among the world's "new" universities -- that is, universities founded within the past 50 years. We are particularly proud as this ranking is based on impact, with a significant weight on academic research and publications, areas in which our School of Physical Sciences is clearly a leader.

The Physical Sciences Undergraduate Mentoring (PSUM) program is experiencing a banner year, with enthusiastic engagement among a record number of students and alumni. The program kicked off its 8th year of coaching undergraduate students in career and academic decisions. PSUM was revamped this year with student screening, mentor/student matching, interpersonal skills workshops, and additional events.  The support and commitment of our mentors throughout the years has been fundamental in the success of this program.

Another signature event of our School is the Breakfast Lecture Series, which began last month with an exciting “mapping of the universe” presentation by Physics Professor David Kirkby. These breakfast lectures are free and open to the public. I invite you to join our upcoming lectures or view our recorded lectures

Finally, I'd like to thank Greg and Donna Jenkins and their family for their generous gift to support research and fellowships in the Department of Earth System Science. The Jenkins’ support of our School’s world-changing research is making a real difference in UCI’s globally renowned contributions to the world of science.   


Kenneth C. Janda

Professor and Dean, School of Physical Sciences

Luminaries in the News
Dark Matter Exposed? Gamma-Ray Find Excites Scientists
By Clara Moskowitz,
  Sky-High Methane Mystery Closer to Being Solved
By Janet Wilson, UC Irvine Today
Energetic light seen radiating from the center of the Milky Way may be the best evidence yet of dark matter, the invisible stuff thought to be hiding throughout the universe. A new study has found a strong signal of gamma-rays — light of a very short wavelength — coming from the middle of our galaxy, which may be the result of exploding dark matter. Scientists think dark matter, which seemingly makes up the majority of matter in the universe, is made of particles called WIMPs ("weakly interacting massive particles"). And WIMPs, when they get very close to other WIMPs, should annihilate each other, because these particles are thought to be their own antiparticles. (When particles of matter and their antimatter counterparts meet, they destroy each other.) Read more.   Increased capture of natural gas from oil fields probably accounts for up to 70 percent of the dramatic leveling off seen in atmospheric methane at the end of the 20th century, according to new UC Irvine research published  in the journal Nature. “We can now say with confidence that, based on our data, the trend is largely a result of changes in fossil fuel use,” said chemistry professor Donald Blake, senior author on the paper. Methane has 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, although CO2 is filling the atmosphere in far larger amounts. After decades of increases due to worldwide industrial and agricultural activity, the tapering off of methane from the 1980s through 2005 was remarkable. Scientists have long wrestled with the cause. Read more.
A Good Mix
By Janet Wilson, UC Irvine Today
  Dean Kenneth C. Janda Featured in Graduate Divsion's Faculty Spotlight
By Camerone Thorson,  Graduate Division Communications
Acclaimed young chemist Vy Dong ’98 has come full circle by returning to UC Irvine’s School of Physical Sciences this fall. Both her family and her alma mater are glad to have her back. Dong is a Vietnamese American molecular chemistry whiz whose parents fled to the United States after the fall of Saigon in 1975, eventually settling in Orange County. Multiple generations, including her beloved grandmother, still live nearby. For Dong, UCI is like a second family. Eighteen years ago, she was an enthusiastic freshman on campus, tentatively majoring in ecology. Her decision to take Distinguished Professor Larry Overman’s organic chemistry class as a sophomore changed her life. Enthralled by his lectures, which illustrated how research could be used to create new medicines and other materials, she switched majors to chemistry and, a few years later, graduated magna cum laude. Read more  

If you meet Dean Kenneth C. Janda in his office 

in Rowland Hall, one of the first things you'll notice is the close proximity of a container of chocolate alongside the molecular model of ice—more technically known as hexagonal water-ice—on the meeting table. The second thing you will notice is how he bursts with pride as he discusses the groundbreaking research that takes place daily in the UCI School of Physical Sciences. With a Ph.D. from Harvard University and over twenty years of experience as a professor and administrator at UCI, Dean Janda brings a wealth of knowledge to his role.  He has been a professor of chemistry at UCI since 1992 and most recently served as associate dean for the school. A lifelong chemist, his blue eyes twinkle with wit as he acknowledges that he is fortunate to "get to do chemistry for fun - and as a job." He is quick to note that he has had, "many opportunities to observe the impressive work that has created the foundation of our school." Read more

Halos of Dark Matter May Not be Completely Dark After All
By Charles Q. Choi, MSNBC
  UCI Chemists Find Protein Folding Similar to Granular Jamming
By Janet Wilson, UC Irvine Today
Stars ripped from their home galaxies as they collide with other galaxies can get slung into giant invisible cocoons of dark matter, researchers say, which might explain mysterious radiation pervading the sky. These findings suggest the halos of dark matter surrounding galaxies are not completely dark after all, but contain a small number of stars, investigators added. In recent decades, satellite telescopes have detected more infrared light emanating from the sky than known galaxies could account for. Scientists had suggested this strange glow might come from sources too dim for observatories to see directly — for instance, the earliest, most distant galaxies.  Read more   Microscopic proteins, the building blocks of cells, get stuck in exactly the same way that coffee beans do in a grocery store dispenser, according to new findings by UCI chemists recently published in the online version of Nature Communications. "Jamming of granular material is a common phenomenon in day-to-day life," said lead author Ioan Andricioaei, an associate professor of chemistry at UCI. "We found that proteins, when folded in the unique structure needed for them to function properly, show remarkable similarity to jammed granular material. They feature force distributions that, when scaled to account for the nine-orders-of-magnitude difference, exhibit a peak universal for grains visible to the human eye and protein atoms a hundred million times smaller." The results could be important in improving the future design of man-made plastics and other nanotechnology materials. 
Wotz Happening
By Anna Lynn Spitzer, Calit2
  UCI's Jay Famiglietti Testifies in Congress 
By Brian Clark, National Geographic News
Last May, an energy-saving web/mobile app developed by a Calit2-affiliated team of UC Irvine students won the $15,000 grand prize in the student category of a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. This month, the app – dubbed Wotz – made its debut at the White House during the inaugural government-sponsored Energy Datapalooza.
Representing the four-member UCI team, which was guided by professor David Kirkby, were students Jennifer Tsau and Daniel Margala. They joined 150 entrepreneurs, software developers, energy experts and policy makers at the Washington, D.C. event, which celebrated innovations created to advance a clean energy future. All of the products, services and apps on display at Energy Datapalooza were built using open source data. Read more.
  Jay Famiglietti testified before Congress on the importance of supporting research on drought and hydrology science. Famiglietti, a professor at the University of California, Irvine’s Department of Earth System Science and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is perhaps best known for his satellite-based research on over-pumping of aquifers. Famiglietti told Congress, "Drought is an insidious and patient killer of food and fuel crops, of livestock, of flora and fauna, and of humans, and it has emerged as a major threat to our nation’s food, health, economic, and water security." He added that these impacts may be a greater threat in the coming decades since temperatures are expected to go up. Read more

Read more PS News.



Radiant Awards
Professor Donald Blake Receives 2013 ACS Award   School of Physical Sciences Receives $1.6M in Graduate Student Funding   
UCI chemistry professor Donald Blake will receive the 2013 National Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology from the American Chemical Society. "This award reflects the collaborative efforts of the Rowland-Blake Group to advance the understanding of trace gases in the atmosphere," Blake said. "I built many of the original analytical tools, and now the group has advanced those tools to be more accurate and precise." Over the last three decades, Blake's air samples have shed light on the quantification of greenhouse gases, gases affecting stratospheric ozone levels, and those causing urban smog formation. The award will be presented next spring at the 2013 ACS meeting in New Orleans.    Two UCI Physical Sciences programs - chemical synthesis and mathematics - have received $1.6 million in fellowship funding from the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) effort. For each program, the grant will support six GAANN fellows per year for three years, with an additional fellow supported by the UCI Graduate Division. "Graduate students perform much of the groundbreaking research in the School of Physical Sciences, so the success in obtaining GAANN funding is a grand slam for our teaching and research," said Kenneth Janda, physical sciences dean. The chemical synthesis GAANN program is directed by chemistry professor David Van Vranken and combines organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and chemical biology research in training doctoral students to design, synthesize and characterize new molecules. Read more.
Professors Qing Nie, Xing Dai Receive NSF Award of $2M   Professor Liu Chen Wins 2012 James Clerk Maxwell Prize
Mathematics and biomedical engineering professor Qing Nie, and biological chemistry professor Xing Dai, have been awarded $2 million by the National Science Foundation to study epithelial tissue development and regulation using mathematical models and systems biology experimental methods. "This award reflects the strong interdisciplinary collaboration promoted by the Center for Mathematical and Computational Biology," said center director Qing Nie. "We look forward to furthering our research as well as continuing to create more opportunities and training for our students." The work will shed new light on skin research and have important implications for epithelial tissue engineering and cancer therapy.    The American Physical Society has awarded UCI Physics and Astronomy professor Liu Chen the $10,000 James Clerk Maxwell Prize in Plasma Physics for outstanding contributions to the field. "I am truly honored to be recognized," he said. "This award is especially meaningful to me as it caps my 40 years of professional life in the U.S." Chen has long been committed to theoretical research in plasma physics and its applications in space science and fusion energy. He joins a prestigious list of prize recipients and plans to continue his work at UCI and at Zhejiang University in China. 
Professor Wilson Ho Wins 2013 Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics   Mathematics Professors Elected AMS Fellows
Physics and Astronomy professor Wilson Ho is the recipient of the 2013
Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics
 from the American Physical
Society. Professor Wilson Ho is honored for his development and application of transformative experiments that have allowed the visualization of physical and chemical phenomena within molecules at the atomic scale. Ho also holds a joint appointment in Chemistry. “I am pleased to receive this recognition from my colleagues, validating that our work is being favorably received by others in the broader scientific community,” says Ho. This biennial $10,000 prize recognizes and encourages outstanding interdisciplinary research in chemistry and physics. The prize will be bestowed in Baltimore, Maryland, during the annual American Physical Society Meeting in March, 2013.
  Thirteen current and emeritus faculty members from the Department of Mathematics have been elected Fellows of the American Mathematical Society. This program recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication, and utilization of mathematics. The AMS is the world's largest and most influential society dedicated to mathematical research, scholarship, and education.  The new AMS Fellows Program recognizes some of the most accomplished mathematicians -- AMS members who have contributed to our understanding of deep and important mathematical questions, to applications throughout the scientific world, and to educational excellence. Amongst the fellows are: Michael Fried, Abel Klein, Peter Li, Zhiqin Lu, Charles Newman, Richard Palais, Karl Rubin, Donald Saari, Alice Silverberg, Ronald Stern, Chuu-Lian Terng, Edriss Titi, and Jack Xin. 
Professor Gregory Weiss named Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science   Professor Andrew Borovik named Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science
Professor Gregory Weiss has been named fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society. Dr. Weiss is a professor of chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry. He was honored for his contributions to the field of chemical biology, especially for expanding the technique of bacteriophage peptide and protein display into new interdisciplinary areas. A total of 13 researchers from UCI are being honored this year  for their efforts to advance science or its applications. New fellows will receive an official certificate in February at the organization’s annual meeting in Boston. The fellows were formally announced November 30 in the AAAS News and Notes section of the journal Science.   Professor Andrew Borovik has been named fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society. Dr. Borovik is a professor of chemistry. He was honored for his work on developing more efficient chemical processes through molecular design inspired by biological enzymes. A total of 13 researchers from UCI are being honored this year for their efforts to advance science or its applications. New fellows will receive an official certificate in February at the organization’s annual meeting in Boston. The fellows were formally announced November 30 in the AAAS News and Notes section of the journal Science.
New Stars

School of Physical Sciences Fall 2012 Faculty Lineup

The School of Physical Sciences is happy to welcome one professor, five assistant professors, and two lecturers with potential security of employment to its fall 2012 faculty lineup. With research interests ranging from chemical catalysis and atmospheric gas emissions to a search for dark matter and mathematical inverse problems, their contributions will be a great addition to the reputable faculty team!

Hamid Hezari joins the UCI Department of Mathematics as an assistant professor. Prior to coming to UCI, he served as a CLE Moore Instructor at MIT from 2009-2012. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Johns Hopkins University. Professor Hezari's research focuses on inverse spectral problems, geometric analysis and semiclassical asymptotics. In particular, Dr. Hezari focuses on Marc Kac’s famous problem: Can you hear the shape of a drum?  He has already obtained important and influential results. 

Joining the Department of Physics and Astronomy as an assistant professor is Michael Cooper. Dr. Cooper received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from UC Berkeley in 2007. Subsequently, he was a Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona, before moving to UC Irvine as a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow in 2010. Professor Cooper's research addresses questions related to galaxy formation and evolution, with particular interest in the role of environment in establishing the population of galaxies observed locally and at higher redshifts. 

Also joining the Department of Physics and Astronomy is assistant professor Simona Murgia. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Michigan State University in 2002, and she has been a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Her research experience is diverse and includes hadron colliders, neutrino oscillations, and space based gamma-ray experiments. Professor Murgia's research is focused on understanding the nature of dark matter. In particular, she is searching for a signal of dark matter annihilation or decay in the data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope, a space based gamma-ray experiment. 

Steven Davis joins the Department of Earth System Science (ESS) as an assistant professor. He received his Ph.D. in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University in 2008.  He conducted postdoctoral work at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Global Ecology from 2008-2010. In 2010, he was appointed to a position as a senior research associate. Professor Davis is also co-founder and chief scientist of Near Zero, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 to increase dialogue between energy experts and decision makers in government and business. His research focuses on the interactions between human systems, the carbon cycles and climate change. Davis' work includes the study of the drivers of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions using novel economic and geophysical approaches. 

Another assistant professor joining ESS is Saewung Kim, who received his Ph.D. in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007.  From 2011 to his appointment at UCI, he worked as a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  Previously, he was a postdoctoral fellow at NCAR for two years. Professor Kim's fundamental research focuses on the probing of oxidation processes of trace gases emitted from terrestrial ecosystems using chemical ionization mass spectrometry to measure the atmospheric gases. His research concerns the emissions and atmospheric chemistry of biogenic volatile organic carbon compounds and how they intersect with ecosystems.

Julie Ferguson joins ESS as a lecturer with potential security of employment (PSOE). She received her Ph.D. in earth sciences from the University of Oxford in 2009. During the last four years, Professor Ferguson served as a postdoctoral scholar in UCI's Department of ESS under the supervision of Professors Kathleen Johnson and Ellen Druffel, and Dr. John Southon. Her research interests are in using the isotopic and elemental composition of biological carbonates to reconstruct aspects of climate to investigate questions regarding paleoceanography and paleoclimate. Professor Ferguson is eager to incorporate new technologies to aid in student learning, and aims to improve scientific literacy, quantitative reasoning and critical thinking within the undergraduate population, while inspiring students with an interest in earth system science by connecting what they learn in class to their everyday lives.

Joining the Department of Chemistry is Professor Vy Dong. Professor Dong was raised in Orange County and received her B.S. degree in chemistry from UC Irvine in 1998, where she carried out undergraduate research in the laboratories of Larry Overman.  She began her Ph.D. studies with Professor David MacMillan at UC Berkeley in 1998 and moved with him in 2000 to the California Institute of Technology.  After receiving her Ph.D. degree in 2003 from Caltech, Professor Dong spent 2.5 years as a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley.  Her training was broad, encompassing organometallic chemistry, physical organic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, and complex molecule total synthesis.  Professor Dong was appointed as assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto in the fall of 2006.  She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2010, and comes to UC Irvine as professor. Professor Dong has made major contributions in the area of chemical catalysis.  She has developed useful catalysts and catalytic procedures for accomplishing a variety of chemical transformations.  Professor Dong is already recognized as an international leader in the area of catalytic reaction development.  She combines a broad knowledge of mechanistic organometallic chemistry, deep understanding of what new chemical transformations are likely to have the greatest impact, and impeccable execution in the laboratory.  She is a highly regarded and influential scientist in her field of research.

Another aluma joining the Department of Chemistry is Amanda Brindley, who received her Ph.D. from UC Irvine in June 2012. As a lecturer PSOE, Dr. Brindley proposes to improve the general chemistry curriculum by introducing demonstrations to the general chemistry lectures, and by collecting effective graphics illustrating general chemistry material and applications.  She plans to develop kits for performing effective demonstrations and to create an online repository for graphics and videos illustrating general chemistry content so that the materials can be effectively shared among instructors.  Dr. Brindley also plans to integrate the CalTeach teacher-training program with outreach in the Chemistry Department.  The proposed innovations of the general chemistry lecture program and integrating outreach with the CalTeach teacher-training program will have a significant impact in the department and in the undergraduate education on campus.

Orbits and Announcements

Physical Sciences Undergraduate Mentoring (PSUM) Kicks-Off 8th Year 

The 2012-2013 Physical Sciences Undergraduate Mentoring (PSUM) program kicked off its 8th year of coaching PS students in career and academic decisions. PSUM was revamped this year to include student screening, mentor/student matching, interpersonal skills workshops, and additional events. This year's company tours include Allergan Inc., The Boeing Company - Hi-Bay Satellite Facility, and the Orange County Sanitation District. All 70 students will be mentored by prominent scientists and entrepreneurs who prevail in their science fields. 

The Kick-Off Reception took place on November 14, 2012 at the UCI University Club. Students and mentors met for the first time and participated in introductions, icebreakers, and mentoring sessions. Mentors and mentees completed Mentoring Agreements in which they established goals, expectations, and meeting dates. See pictures of the PSUM Kick-Off and Student Orientation.

On November 30th, students had the opportunity to get an exclusive tour of Allergan Inc., one of the most acclaimed pharmaceutical companies in the world. During the tour, students learned about Allergan's products and of the different career opportunities available at the company. Students also had a chance to network with leading R&D scientists at Allergan. "As a Chemistry and Biological Sciences major, the Allergan tour was a very valuable experience for me," says senior Bhavika Patel, "It really deepened my understanding of the things I've learned in class because I got to see how they are used in industry. For example, the NMR spectroscopy method that I learned in my organic chemistry class now has a realistic application in my view relative to analyzing the structure of an experimental drug." View pictures of the Allergan tour.

PSUM connects current undergraduate students with science professionals. The goal is to expose students to career and networking opportunities. Mentors provide students valuable guidance in their academic and professional lives. For more information, check out PSUM's new website, or contact Tatiana Arizaga at

Physical Sciences Breakfast Lecture Series 

Physics Professor David Kirkby kicked off the 2012-2013 Physical Sciences Breakfast Lecture Series on November 13, 2012 with his presentation on Mapping the Universe: From Black Holes to Dark Energy. During his lecture, Professor Kirkby discussed the recent breakthroughs in cosmic mapping caused by a new generation of telescopes and digital cameras. The new maps reach out to the edges of the observable universe, and add the elusive depth measurements needed for a truly three-dimensional view. They also serve as rich scientific datasets offering new insights into our cosmic past and future. Dr. Kirkby is involved in two projects at the forefront of mapping the cosmos: the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). In BOSS, he uses the extremely bright “quasar” regions that surround supermassive black holes to map the extensive but otherwise-invisible clouds that fill the vast space between galaxies. In the proposed LSST project, he is developing methods to map dark matter, which cannot be detected directly but imprints subtle distortions on light passing through from more distant objects. In both projects, he seeks to use new maps to study the roles played by dark matter and dark energy in shaping our universe. 

The second lecture of the series will take place on January 29, 2013 with a presentation from new and acclaimed Chemistry Professor Vy Dong.  Dr. Dong will present A Few of my Favorite Rings: Catalysis Inspired by Cyclic Structures. Please RSVP for this lecture by January 22, 2013. 

UCI Math Circle 

The UCI Math Circle, developed and run by Mathematics Professor Alessandra Pantano with the help of some UCI math graduate students, brings together talented high school students to enhance their appreciation of mathematics and teach interesting aspects of math that are not covered in a typical school curriculum. These mathematical explorations are organized for all mathematically inclined students who wish to experience “doing” math. During these meetings, students are actively engaged in writing proofs to solve challenging, open-ended problems; they are encouraged to formulate conjectures and write sound, logical arguments to support them. Differently from most existing K-12 math enrichment programs offered in the Irvine area, the UCI Math Circle does not focus on improving speed and performance in math contests. Rather, it seeks to promote a more mature understanding of higher mathematics through open and collaborative experiences. UCI math graduate students also help run the Circle, gaining a unique teaching perspective that will enrich their professional portfolio.

These meetings are held once a month in the Natural Sciences II Building in room 1201 on the UCI campus, typically on a Saturday from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. All interested middle school and high school students are welcome to attend UCI Math Circle meetings. c.

Teaching the Math and Science Teachers of Tomorrow

CalTeach is an interdisciplinary program providing undergraduate students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in math or science AND a teaching credential within four years.  Dean Janda, along with Dean Vandell (Education) and Dean Bennett (Biological Sciences) leads this initiative, launched 5 years ago in an effort to address our nation’s critical need for more and better-prepared K-12 teachers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). 

In October, the Deans provided an overview of the program during a presentation to UCI's Chancellor's Club. The CalTeach curriculum blends math or science subject matter and research-based teaching pedagogies, with a focus on readying students for the challenges of teaching in the state’s most disadvantaged schools. Students obtain field-training beginning their first quarter in the program, and upon graduating, students in the program are fully prepared and certified to start their teaching careers.

The program had the first cohort of 8 CalTeach graduates last spring, and expects to have 20 graduates this year. The popularity of CalTeach continues to rise, as the program had over 700 applicants for fall 2012.

UCI has been committed to training STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) teachers from its early years -- through outreach and enrichment programs. In 2002, UCI created the FOCUS Program to upgrade the quality of science instruction in the districts of Compton, Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. In 2005, the state of California and (then) UC President, Robert Dynes, affirmed the importance of training science teachers and created the CalTeach program. The goal for the program was to train 1000 STEM teachers by 2016 (or 100 per UC campus) through the UC system. In 2007, UCI was one of 13 universities in the nation awarded $1.4 million by the National Math and Science Initiative to develop dual bachelor’s degree and single-subject teaching credential programs. UCI’s resultant CalTeach effort aims, eventually, to produce 60 credentialed math and science teachers annually.

Once a global leader in math and science education, the United States now ranks 25th in math and 21st in science out of 30 industrialized nations, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The state’s traditional model has prospective teachers enroll in a one-year credential program after completing their undergraduate education. CalTeach addresses the growing need for skilled math and science teachers by making it possible for undergraduates to earn a math or science bachelor degree and teaching credential in just four years, while studying with UCI’s world-leading scientists.

View the UCI CalTeach video.

Student Elements

Ph.D. Alumni Rate Physical Sciences

The latest survey data put out by Graduate Division reveals some interesting facts about how the School’s recent Ph.D. recipients view their experience at UCI and how they are valued in the marketplace. Graduate Division exit survey responses from students who received their degrees during the last four years indicate that 95% of students rate the quality of the mentoring and advising they receive from the faculty as either Good, Very Good, or Excellent.  The other three choices on the survey were Fair, Poor, and N/A, which presumably means “no response.” This level of satisfaction with student-faculty interactions is the highest on campus. In addition, 90% of the same Ph.D. cohort rates the level of financial assistance as Good or better, also the highest satisfaction rate on campus.

On the employment front, data from Graduate Division and the Alumni Association show that three years beyond their degree, 95% of the School’s 2008-2009 Ph.D. alumni are employed. 61% of the same group is employed in tenure track, post-doc, or private industry research. The employment of the remaining 34% is categorized as “Other,” which includes those working in national laboratories. As always, there is room for improvement. Just under 70% of the 2008-2009 Ph.D.'s reported having found a job at the time of the exit interview. Given the ultimate employment success at this group, the data suggests that Physical Sciences' students should be encouraged to begin their job searches a little earlier.

The Boeing Company Scholarship 2012-2013 Recipients

This year, The Boeing Company awarded two $2,500 scholarships to undergraduate Physical Sciences students interested in working in the aerospace or cyber security industry. The recipients of the scholarships were Patrick Do and Kevin Cheng. 

Patrick Do is a junior pursuing a double major in Physics and Computer Science and Engineering.  He strongly believes in education and plans to use his scholarship to fund his studies at UC Irvine.  Patrick envisions himself doing research in academia or industry dealing with high performance computing and simulation. He is hopeful that by combining these two disciplines, it will bring about new innovation and discoveries. "With private space travel developing, the aerospace industry is facing very exciting times," says Patrick. " I strongly believe that we will see commercial space travel in our lifetime. I want to give people the chance to go to space. And I believe it is the next frontier!"

Kevin Cheng is a senior pursuing a chemistry major. He applied for the Boeing Scholarship because he is interested in making materials for aerospace applications. Kevin works under Professor Zhibin Guan to create self-healing nanocomposites and he plans on continuing similar materials research with polymers and nanoparticles. He finds the research in the Guan lab to be very fulfilling because he can make materials he works with directly with his hands. Kevin's interest in aerospace industry came about in an inorganic chemistry class where they discussed a special material. "The material contained alkene functionality with Grubbs catalyst incorporated to achieve self-healing capabilities in spacecraft materials," he said. "Being able to create a material with such technological capabilities would be a great career. I hope to conceive remarkable ideas for materials to advance society through technology." Kevin plans on using the scholarship to fund graduate school applications, as he will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Physical Sciences ARCS 2012- 2014 Fellows

The national ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) Foundation, Inc., is an organization of women dedicated to providing scholarships to academically outstanding U.S. citizens studying to complete their degrees in science, medicine and engineering, thereby contributing to the worldwide advancement of science and technology. ARCS Scholar Awards are intended to recognize and reward UC Irvine's most academically superior doctoral students exhibiting outstanding promise as scientists, researchers and public leaders. 

This year's Physical Sciences ARCS Fellows are Matthew Dawson, Anne Kelly, Angel Velasco, and Mona Wood. 

Matthew Dawson is an Atmospheric Chemistry Ph.D student in the School of Physical Sciences. In his research, he seeks to understand the fundamental chemistry of how aerosol particles form and grow in the atmosphere. The mechanisms involved in new particle formation currently are not well understood and his research hopes to accurately predict particle formation and growth from gas-phase precursors. This is crucial in efforts to model their effects on human health, visibility and climate change. He believes that atmospheric aerosol chemistry is an exciting field with many open questions and can be approached from a variety of perspectives including theoretical modeling, field measurements and laboratory experiments.  Matthew's long-term goal is to continue to conduct research in this field and to broaden his research background to include some of these other approaches.

Anne Kelly is a Ph.D. student in Earth System Science. Her research seeks to understand how climate controls ecosystem growth, water use, and composition.  Climate change is beginning to impact ecosystems worldwide, and understanding the interactions between climate and ecosystem properties is critical to predicting future patterns of forest mortality, species migration, carbon cycling, and water cycling worldwide. She works with California governmental and non-profit organizations to translate her research results into a useful basis for policy decisions. Anne enjoys backpacking around the southwest and making botanical trail guides for Southern California hikes.


Angel Velasco is pursuing his Ph.D. in Chemical and Material Physics. He graduated from the UCI in 2007 with a B.S. in Physics with a Biomedical concentration. After graduation, he worked for two years as a polymer chemist and helped to develop composite systems currently being used in commercial airlines, military and marine applications. Angel is a 2010-2011 recipient of a Faculty Mentor Program fellowship and received an NSF Honorable Mention in 2011. Currently, he is involved with two research projects. The first involves studying the effects of boundary conditions on liquid/gaseous flow rates through individual nanometer sized pipes.  The second involves understanding helium’s competing liquid/vapor and superfluid phase transitions on different strength substrates. Future endeavors include moving into industry and entrepreneur ventures. His favorite past times include reading, running, surfing and building puzzles.  

Mona Wood joined the M.D./Ph.D. program in 2008 and is pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry with Professor Douglas Tobias.  Her current research uses computational biophysics and cell biology methods to study an ion channel that is involved in the immune system and cancer.  Insights gained about channel structure are applied towards development of drugs that modulate channel behavior. These drugs have the potential to be useful in treating allergies or cancer. Her long-term goal is to continue in this general line of investigation as a physician scientist involved in patient care and research.


Supporting the School

We invite you to support the School of Physical Sciences through contributions that directly support our students, our research, and our outreach programs. Please contact the School's Director of Development, Audrey Kelaher, for more information at (949) 824-8111, or

PS the Numbers

The number of undergraduate Mathematics majors has hit an all-time high: 420; 23% higher than 5 years ago.

The total number of undergraduates majoring in the Physical Sciences has hit an all-time high: 1309; 12% higher than 5 years ago.

The total number of Physical Sciences graduate students has hit an all-time high: 526; 8% higher than 5 years ago.

Physical Sciences faculty are projected to assign a staggering 17% of the fall quarter grades for the campus. Only the school of Social Sciences assigns more grades than Physical Sciences.

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UC Irvine | School of Physical Sciences | Office of Development | 180 Rowland Hall | Irvine | CA | 92697-4675
For questions or comments please contact Tatiana Arizaga at (949) 824-0218 or