The Future of Research
Going the Distance A masked bike rider traverses Aldrich Park in September while observing safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Steve Zylius / UCI
Winter 2021 Vol. 6, No. 1
The Future of Research
A Home for Research Partnerships: New campus building reconfigures interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle some of the future’s most complex issues
Investigating Outbreaks: Well-timed Infectious Disease Science Initiative strives to make UCI a global leader in an urgent and ever-evolving field
D E P A R T M E N T S FLAS H B ACK
SPOT L IGHT
S PEC T RUM
On the Cover: UCI’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building, which began welcoming its first occupants in the fall, stretches upward into a limitless sky. Photo by Steve Zylius / UCI
32 30 UCI’s Infectious Diseases Chief Discusses COVID-19 Vaccines: Three questions with Dr. Donald Forthal
Stressing the Humanity in Medical Humanities: UCI center offers compassionate perspectives on health and disease
P E R S PE CT I V E
R E FLECTIONS
A NT OURAGE
PA RT ING ZOT !
About This Issue: In this edition of UCI Magazine, “The Future of Research,” we highlight the university’s hallmark of interdisciplinary research – from its early roots in the campus’s physical design (see page 5) to the recent opening of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building (see page 16), constructed to forge closer partnerships among scientists working to solve global grand challenges, such as climate change and clean energy. And while the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, we introduce UCI’s new Infectious Disease Science Initiative (see page 24), designed to bring together scholars from across campus who are investigating the dynamics of contagions from COVID-19 to tuberculosis. Finally, we feature UCI’s medical humanities program (see page 32), which aims to instill compassion in the study of health and medicine for the greater benefit of all humankind.
Letter From the Chancellor Traditionally, universities – especially the older, more venerable ones – were built around a square or quadrangle, with disciplines grouped by commonality: history, English and other humanities in one corner, looking diagonally across the open center of the quad at the distant (in so many ways) physics, geology and other physical sciences, while on the other diagonal, biology, botany and zoology faced the engineering and mathematics programs. The social sciences, fine arts and other academic disciplines filled the spaces between the major groupings. Not so at UCI. Our visionary founders recognized that the kind of problems confronting the world had grown larger and more complex than the old quadrangle model could handle and that the kind of progress the world needed and was demanding depended on the ability of discrete disciplines to collaborate. So UCI was built around a circle, not a square, to facilitate and encourage faculty to work across disciplinary boundaries and, in effect, to create new disciplines such as Earth system science and, as discussed in the pages that follow, medical humanities. And now, as you will read in our cover story, UCI is once again leading the way with the opening of our state-of-the-art Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building. Here, researchers and students from the School of Physical Sciences, The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, as well as other UCI schools, are already working directly alongside one another as they tackle big-scale research on a broad range of global challenges. The vital research collaborations that this magnificent new facility is designed to foster and accelerate will hasten the discovery of new knowledge and facilitate the translation of that knowledge into practical solutions that will make life better regionally, nationally and globally. The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building’s potential for interdisciplinary and transformational innovation is a true advancement in fulfilling our core missions of research, education and service. I am grateful to all those who have worked so hard to bring the vision of ISEB to reality – especially Henry and Susan Samueli and the Samueli Foundation, who provided the lead funding – and I look forward to all that will be accomplished within its walls.
UCI Magazine Vol. 6, No. 1 Produced by the University of California, Irvine Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs Chancellor Howard Gillman Associate Chancellor, Strategic Communications & Public Affairs Ria Carlson Associate Vice Chancellor, Public Affairs Sherry Main Managing Editor Marina Dundjerski Design Vince Rini Design Visuals Steve Chang and Steve Zylius Copy Editor Kymberly Doucette Editorial Advisory Committee Brian Bell, Jennie Brewton, Mandi Gonzales, Stacey King (athletics), Will Nagel, Brian O’Dea (health), Janna Parris (advancement), Mara Schteinschraber and Lisa Zwick (alumni) Contributing Writers Cathy Lawhon, Rosemary McClure, Kristin Baird Rattini, Roy Rivenburg, Shari Roan and Jim Washburn Contact Have a comment or suggestion? Address correspondence to: UCI Magazine UCI Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs 120 Theory, Ste. 100 Irvine, CA 92697-5615 949-824-6922 • firstname.lastname@example.org communications.uci.edu/magazine UCI Magazine is a publication for faculty, staff, alumni, students, parents, community members and UCI supporters. Issues are published in winter, spring and fall. To change your address or receive the electronic version of UCI Magazine, email a request to email@example.com.
Fiat Lux, Howard Gillman UCI Chancellor
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F L A S H B A C K
Westward view of the campus in October 1966
er William Pereira s Jr., master plann iou Daniel G. Aldrich t) view an ambit lor lef cel om an (fr Ch I as UC om S. Th In 1966, President Charles y an mp Co 0. ine and Irv ed for 199 mpus as envision model of the ca
Similar ae rial view
50 years la ter, in 2016
UCI Librarie s’
Special Co llections & Archives
istanced from Orange County’s metropolitan core, a profound quiet must have enveloped the trio who in the early 1960s walked the rolling fields that would be home to UCI. Peering years into the future, University of California President Clark Kerr, UCI Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. and architect William Pereira discussed their vision for the campus. Inspiration came quickly – and was deceptively simple. During one of their early talks, Kerr drew a circle on a napkin to illustrate an idea: The campus would be built around concentric rings with six sectors; a central park would become the campus’s metaphorical heart. The circle would comprise five academic disciplines – biological sciences, humanities and fine arts, engineering and information & computer sciences, physical sciences and social sciences – and one administrative plaza that would also serve as a gathering place. Specialized programs, research facilities and graduate education buildings would extend outward from the six sectors along radial spines, like the spokes of a wagon wheel. The ring design proved to be the university’s defining physical characteristic, creating an intrinsic canvas for interdisciplinary research across the decades.
P R I S M
Caring for a Record Number of Patients A mobile field hospital built in the parking lot of UCI Medical Center, in Orange, helps handle the winter COVID-19 surge by accommodating up to 40 additional patients with less critical conditions than those in the hospital, which has more than 400 beds. The field-tent structure was erected in about a week and admitted its first patients Dec. 29. “What we’re really positioning this facility for is to take care of the lowest-acuity patients that really only need one or, at most, two nights in the facility,” UCI Health’s Dr. Sebastian Schubl told Spectrum News 1. “They can have their treatment done out here and go back home.”
Helping – One Headband at a Time
Samantha Romero (left) and Stephanie Anne Romero
Last spring, when UCI public health sciences major Stephanie Anne Romero, now a senior, saw how medical health professionals were having ear discomfort from loops on masks, she and her cousin, Samantha Romero (a nursing student in San Rafael), decided to help. In April 2020, they created The HeadBand Project: Strength in Buttons. The nonprofit organization is entirely run by a coalition of undergraduates and recent graduates from UCI, Dominican University, Loyola University Chicago and San Jose State University. The collective effort provides healthcare personnel and other essential workers with free headbands designed to alleviate ear discomfort from wearing masks for extended periods of time. They’re made with buttons on both sides so that any elastic can loop around them rather than an individual’s ears. So far, The HeadBand Project and its volunteer team have supplied more than 2,000 of the accessories to at least 15 hospitals and local clinics, including medical facilities at UCI, UCLA, Stanford and Kaiser Permanente. Said Stephanie Anne Romero: “What began as a small team of myself and my sewing machine turned into one of the most meaningful experiences of my life as I connected with inspiring clinicians and volunteers across the U.S. to help our healthcare heroes.”
Hope in a Vial The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived at UCI Medical Center on Dec. 16, and within hours, initial doses were being injected into the arms of healthcare workers, including UCI Health respiratory therapist Erik Mara (at right, far left). It was a moment that UCI Health staff had spent round-the-clock days prepping – and waiting – for. “It’s been tested, and I trust the process,” said Dr. Cyrus Dastur, director of neurocritical care and among the first to receive the vaccine. “I feel very comfortable getting one of the first shots available. Hopefully, we can begin to get past the pandemic next year and get back to a normal life.”
“The crazy part was, like, the whole time I was out, I didn’t really know about the vaccine that was coming here. But coming back to work, it was kind of like prayers answered – a blessing in disguise. Wow, you know, I just got COVID; it’s been out of my system. I built immunity to it. Now I’m going to get the vaccine. I feel like it’s calling.” Erik Mara, UCI Health respiratory therapist returning to work after having recovered from COVID-19, on receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine CBS Los Angeles Dec. 16, 2020
Life Under Quarantine UCI students are self-publishing a book about their lives during the COVID-19 crisis. Patience and Pandemic is a collection of photography, essays and poetry solicited during the summer of 2020 as a way for Anteaters to express themselves during the stay-at-home order. The organizers originally came together in late 2019 as part of the Patient Project, a UCI compassion-in-action initiative centered around the concept of alleviating anxiety in hospital waiting rooms. “It’s challenging to be in a waiting room, a place where people often find themselves anxious and alienated,” said project founder Karishma Muthukumar, UCI’s 2019-20 Dalai Lama Scholar. “But then COVID-19 happened, and the whole world became a waiting room. So we decided to focus on the experience of being in quarantine.” An editorial board made up of seven UCI students pared the 165 entries down to about 50. The resulting book reveals the voices and vulnerabilities of both undergraduate and graduate students, including those from the medical and law schools.
Beacons in Mental Health When the UCI School of Social Ecology announced the launch of its first doctoral program in clinical psychology in August 2020, hundreds submitted applications for the inaugural fall 2021 class of about six scholars. The overwhelming response clearly reveals something about mental health in America, according to the program’s incoming director, Jason Schiffman. “We believe there is a dearth of clinical scientists in psychology, especially in California,” Schiffman says. “Our program will confront that by training students who can become leaders. They will be well-versed in the research that helps us understand how to best address the human condition.” The program will emphasize the application of evidencebased approaches to mental health. Students will learn research methodology, says Schiffman, who comes to UCI from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His research focuses on the early diagnosis and care of young people at risk for psychosis, and he served as co-director of the Maryland Early Intervention Program’s Strive for Wellness Clinic. “Clinical psychologists rely on evidence and an approach to helping others that’s founded in science,” Schiffman says. “We think that’s the most effective approach.”
The need for leaders in clinical psychology is reflected in the glaring woes afflicting our society, he says, from a pandemic to economic despair to racial and ethnic strife to political divides. “All of these things are real and contributing to a mental health crisis in our country,” Schiffman says. “I hope our program will be a ray of hope as we face these challenges.”
Angst in America In June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed Americans’ mental state. It found considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost 41 percent of respondents affected. Symptoms reported among U.S. adults:
..................................................... 31% 26% 13% 11%
anxiety/depression trauma/stress-related disorder started or increased substance use seriously considered suicide
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Returning to Nursing’s Roots to Counter Burnout
Florence Nightingale comes to mind when Molly Nunez thinks about the Integrative Nursing Education Series, a joint program between UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing and the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute that began in September.
“Integrative nursing returns nursing to its roots as a profession,” says Nunez, director of clinical operations at the institute. “Florence Nightingale believed that patients were whole beings – body, mind and spirit – whose health and wellness were dependent upon the caregiver’s ability to create a healing environment.” The highly popular Integrative Nursing Education Series – five modules taught via Zoom – is available at no cost to any UCI personnel. Topics include aromatherapy, acupressure, clinical massage, guided imagery, breath work, and how to apply the principles of integrative nursing. Participants learn techniques to care for their patients, family members and themselves. Significantly, in the COVID-19 era, caregiver burnout is a serious issue that integrative techniques can address, Nunez says. “The mind-body-spirit connection plays a large role in our ability to heal ourselves and be resilient,” she says. “Patients are better served by nurses who invest in their own well-being.” Integrative nursing allows nursing to be practiced in “the way it was meant to be practiced,” Nunez adds. “Nurses today need to be very technically advanced and skilled. But at the same time, it’s important for nurses to maintain their roots and remember how to gently care for the patient as a whole person.”
The new chapter of healthcare begins here At UCI Health, we don’t just practice medicine, we create it. Now we are writing the next chapter for healthcare in Orange County. With UCI Medical Center Irvine-Newport, UCI Health will bring our patients unparalleled expertise, leading-edge treatments and the finest evidence-based care that only an academic medical system can offer. The 800,000-square-foot medical campus will be anchored by a state-of-the-art hospital, which will offer 24-hour emergency care and personalized cancer treatments, including hundreds of clinical trials by our NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. Our world-renowned experts will also deliver exceptional care in other specialties, such as digestive diseases, neurosciences and orthopaedics, all powered by the University of California. We stop at nothing to build a healthier tomorrow. Learn more at ucihealth.org/irvine-newport
NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
S P O T L I G H T
The Face of Another, by Caleb Engstrom
Tails of Tales, by Chris Warr
Cixis, by Gabby Miller
Codex, Kodaks, Codecs, by Morgan Cuppet-Michelsen
On View – at Last When the pandemic shuttered UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts last spring, it abruptly left artists from the Class of 2020 with no home for their final thesis exhibitions. Thanks to a bit of ingenuity from the Department of Art and the university art galleries, a total of 11 postgraduate students returned to mount their exhibitions in the gallery spaces and presented them to the public through virtual tours. Here is a peek at eight selections; to view the entire show, go to m.uci.edu/MFA. 10
Photos: Sam Richardson and Paul Salveson
Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I shake the dirt from my sandals as I run, by Ethan Philip McGinnis
Adult Costume, by Ellen Schafer
A Moment of Rest, a Place for Queeraoke, an Imagined Hope..., by Christine Hudson
this place that bears my past doesn’t even know my name, by Jean Shon
S P E C T R U M
Mu Us Sandyland
Conservation Conundrum At the Mu Us Sandyland ecological restoration site in northern China, checkerboards of straw have been arranged in the shadows of sand dunes. Grasses and other types of plants are being introduced to help return desert to green space. But in a recent study using NASA satellite data, Chinese government data and simulations, UCI Earth system scientists discovered that reclamation efforts have led to a significant depletion of terrestrial water stores. “Large-scale ecological restoration is an increasingly popular human practice to combat land degradation and climate change,” says co-author Isabella Velicogna, UCI professor of Earth system science. “We found that such programs in northern China are depleting total land water resources at an alarming rate, which was a surprise.” Lead author Meng Zhao, a Ph.D. student in Velicogna’s lab, says the group chose to analyze the Mu Us Sandyland because China has had success in renewing vegetation and reversing desertification there and the location has limited exposure to other forms of groundwater depletion. Will this water storage depletion continue in the future? “Quite likely, if the stakeholders opt to maintain or elevate the level of restoration effort,” says co-author Geruo A, a project scientist in Velicogna’s lab. “However, reducing revegetation and relying more on natural regeneration is favorable, given the current climate, and will likely slow down or even reverse the trend of water depletion.”
P E R S P E C T I V E
Ian O. Williamson Dean, The Paul Merage School of Business
Fostering the Business of Innovation Like many things in life, says Ian O. Williamson, new dean of UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business, it was a random conversation that sparked his research interest in how people and companies make employment decisions. Nearing the end of his junior year in college, he realized he should be looking for a job. He asked a friend’s advice and learned that his classmate was pursuing a position at a company solely because it “sounded cool.” The “oddball answer” piqued Williamson’s curiosity – and some dismay – and kicked off a career examining how recruitment, hiring and retention policies in business impact organizations and surrounding communities. A passionate educator, he has garnered accolades for his instructional approaches and has been published in prominent academic journals. Williamson holds a Ph.D.
in organizational behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has served on faculties in Switzerland, Australia and Indonesia, as well as in the U.S. The new dean sees UCI as fertile ground for his work, for increasing income equality and educational opportunities in underserved regions, and for building global recognition for the campus and Orange County. Late last year, he packed up his family and his office at the Wellington School of Business and Government at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, where he was pro-vice-chancellor and dean. Before leaving, Williamson connected with UCI Magazine contributor Cathy Lawhon via Zoom to share a bit about himself and his ambitions for The Paul Merage School of Business.
Can we start at the beginning? Where did you grow up? I’m a proud South Side Chicagoan. That will always be home to me. My parents are there, and I lived there until I left to go to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I’m the oldest of six boys, so you can imagine that household. Something was always broken. My mother was a public school teacher, and my father worked for AT&T and then went into the insurance business. And what about your current family? My wife, Brandi, and I have been married for 24 years. We have twin daughters and a son.
time, we’d be training students that these companies would likely hire. UCI is well-positioned because we have world-leading companies literally in our backyard to play with. You couldn’t ask for a better sandbox than that.
“UCI is an institution hungry for change and innovation. I like to have roles where the ambition is ‘Tomorrow’s going to look different than today.’”
What made you decide to make this move to UCI? It’s a pretty exciting time to be here for a lot of reasons. From a cultural perspective, you have an extraordinarily diverse community. From a professional perspective, it’s a hotbed of some of the most interesting companies and economic engines in the world – and for a business professor, that is really quite exciting. At a personal level, I have family that moved to Southern California, so it will be nice to be close to them. Also, UCI is an institution hungry for change and innovation. I like to have roles where the ambition is “Tomorrow’s going to look different than today.” UCI has long been a fertile lab for interdisciplinary research. Where do you think you might take it in the future? I want to be a big advocate for interdisciplinary research. That doesn’t in any way take away from the necessary deep understanding provided by business research, but more and more, the most impactful research is done with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds. You take paradigms of thought in one domain and combine them with paradigms of thought in another to create some really neat approaches to address complex social issues. UCI, with its deep capability in science and health expertise and a world-class business school, is in an ideal position to guide and support the creation of new and novel organizations. Do you have new ideas that you’re bringing to UCI? I think the co-development and co-designing of our activities and curriculum with industry is the future of business education. On one hand, universities provide the cutting-edge research that guides companies, but on the other hand, companies are experimenting with that research much faster than universities. So I’m keen to develop meaningful partnerships around our research with industry. We would co-fund it, and at the same
Much of your research has looked at how business promotes the economic well-being of the community. How do you propose to do that through the Merage School? I’m interested in putting three things in place: One is how we can increase access to a world-class education and ensure inclusiveness. That’s something UCI has a lot of pride in, and I want to put more and more emphasis on that. The Merage School has tagged itself as providing education for digital leadership, and that’s great, but digital technology can create either digital inclusion or digital exclusion. We have to be sure we’re enhancing the inclusion aspects of economic and social well-being. And second, the local issues we face are complex, so as I said before, we can leverage our expertise in health and science together with skill sets in the commercialization of ideas and managing workforces and policies to find some really great outcomes. And lastly, how do we use university networks and insights to support business and put the activities going on in Orange County on the world radar so we generate excitement about global investment, not just of money but of time and talent? What most excites you about your move to UCI? We’re dealing with some really big issues: COVID-19, equality of treatment in society, legitimacy of our institutions, the standing of the U.S. in the world, environmental sustainability. Any one of those issues could define a generation, and we’re facing all of them. In these moments, you want an educational institution to provide a safe space for conversations about solutions. Some of those solutions will come from our research, but many will come from bringing people together to find the path forward. Now more than ever, the investment communities have made in universities to create those spaces needs to generate a return. I look forward to participating in that.
A HOME FOR RESEARCH PARTNERSHIPS New campus building reconfigures interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle some of the future’s most complex issues
By Rosemary McClure
Photos by Steve Zylius
he great challenges of the 21st century – such as curing devastating diseases and solving the world’s looming climate catastrophes – will not be overcome by solitary thinkers. Cataclysmic problems, experts say, will be solved by the collaboration of teams that include engineers, biologists, mathematicians, climate scientists and others from diverse fields of study. Interdisciplinary research is the future, and UCI – long at the cutting edge of this synergistic approach – has just taken a huge step forward with the completion of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building. The six-story edifice, which offers researchers more than 140,000 square feet of new laboratory and office space, was funded by the Samueli Foundation, combined with resources from the University of California Office of the President and UCI. Most occupants are from the School of Physical Sciences, The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, although faculty and students from other UCI schools will make use of the building too. “Global problems such as climate change require a global approach,” explains physical sciences dean James Bullock. “While physical science is essential for understanding climate change and inventing realistic clean-energy solutions, translating these aspects to the world cannot be done without engineering and computer science. All three schools bring world-class expertise to this issue. Bringing them together is going to yield something special.”
for engineering faculty to not only move into a state-ofthe-art facility, but also work in interdisciplinary teams and, potentially, with local industry partners.” Moreover, Green says, the project’s completion comes at a good time: “The Samueli School has been in a period of rapid growth for a number of years. We’ve grown from 100 regular-rank – tenure-track and tenured – faculty in 2010 to 155 this year, bringing a number of world-renowned experts to the school. But our current lab space has not increased to meet this faculty expansion. The additional laboratory capacity of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building will provide much-needed relief and give us the room we need to grow even further. As a result, I expect to see research with local and global impact coming out of ISEB.”
Designed to Be Green Pramod Khargonekar, UCI vice chancellor for research, speaks during ISEB’s groundbreaking ceremony on July 25, 2018.
Space Structured for Interaction The building, constructed on the south side of the campus, had its groundbreaking in July 2018. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there were no project delays, and occupants were able to begin moving into the facility in December. Inside, they found innovation. “The old way to organize a building is by discipline,” Bullock says. “Chemists sit here, mechanical engineers over there; the statisticians are across the plaza. This building takes a different view. Rather than organizing by department, we’re organizing by research focus. Energy, climate and health are not the domain of a single department or school. These issues are of global importance. “Why not group together folks with the same broad goals – give them space to interact and let them apply diverse tools and approaches to the biggest problems of our age?” Indeed, some of the world’s most innovative ideas have originated from researchers of different backgrounds working together, says Michael Green, interim dean of engineering: “The concept is to bring in faculty and students who share common interests in solving various types of grand challenges but who may not be in the same discipline.” He calls the new building “a tremendous opportunity
Key players are already envisioning the groundbreaking work that will take place within its walls. “This building represents the future,” says Brian Pratt, UCI’s assistant vice chancellor for design & construction services and campus architect. “We can’t wait for it to be populated with vital research collaborations that will move sciences forward and, no doubt, achieve many breakthroughs to come.” Every aspect of the ISEB design focuses on improving research functionality, fostering social interaction and enriching the overall campus experience, he says. The gleaming new building, an L-shaped glass-andconcrete structure, fits harmoniously into its neighborhood, with access points from the main pedestrian spine that runs through the physical sciences and engineering and computer sciences quad. There’s a welcoming arrival plaza, low-level landscaping and an open ground floor with a café that will offer Mediterranean food. Inside, one of the first things one notices is that it’s filled with natural light. The lobby is surrounded by laboratories, a classroom and meeting spaces with glass walls that enable visitors to observe the research and academic activities underway. At six stories, ISEB is one of the tallest structures on campus – and one of the largest interdisciplinary science and engineering buildings west of the Rockies – with panoramic views from many levels. A fourth-floor outdoor courtyard brings daylight deep into the interior. In addition, it provides for public gathering that’s sure to become popular once the pandemic is over.
“Why not group together folks with the same broad goals – give them space to interact and let them apply diverse tools and approaches to the biggest problems of our age?”
LEED Platinum certification. UCI is a LEED champ, with 20 Platinum and 10 Gold buildings – among the most for new construction at any U.S. college campus.
Expanding a History of Innovation There are wet and dry laboratories, lab support spaces, research offices, and formal and informal interaction nooks. The labs have been designed to be flexible, so they can adapt to changes over the lifetime of the edifice. Collaborative areas can be found throughout the building, giving faculty and students choices: They can talk quietly or convene in larger groups. The outdoor courtyard is a two-story hub that links floors and also promotes chance encounters. “The lobby and colloquium room will be lively with events, speakers and research poster presentations,” Pratt says. “The fourth-floor outdoor
terrace has a sliding wall that opens to conference rooms – another space that will encourage events and interactions among researchers.” While the exterior of the building blends well with other nearby structures, it has distinct façades and is made up of a combination of materials that respond to specific environmental conditions, thus optimizing daylight, internal temperatures and energy efficiency. The project used UCI’s Smart Labs design system, resulting in a structure that’s expected to outperform the California Energy Code by more than 50 percent. Not surprisingly, ISEB is on track for
A key hope is that ISEB will help transform the discovery of knowledge into the application of that knowledge. “It’s a very exciting development in the evolution of UCI as a major research university,” says Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research. “To me, research is more than space, more than dollars. It’s really about what we choose to work on and how colleagues from different disciplines can work together to solve critical problems, with the ultimate goal of advancing your society. We will focus on major problems in the fields of energy, water, climate, environment and health.”
As examples of the sort of pressing issues that ISEB research teams will tackle, he cites California’s wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. “I believe faculty, students and staff in this building can make great discoveries and advance our ability to deal with these types of critical societal problems that are so important for ourselves – and to the future of our children and grandchildren,” Khargonekar says. “That’s what excites me about this building. It will help us open new frontiers and give us the capacity to make change.” ISEB has been more than four years in the making. The university received UC Board of Regents approval to begin work on the building in November 2016. At the time, Khargonekar – with input from academic leadership – summarized the ISEB project as “a convergent focus on grand challenges in health and environment.” He went on to say, “There are two primary reasons for this new building. The first is to accommodate the explosive student growth.… The second reason is the rise of a new paradigm in interdisciplinary research: convergence.… New and transformative knowledge can be created by creatively combining and deeply integrating knowledge bases, tools of discovery, techniques of analysis and synthesis, and modes of thinking.”
With a nod to the campus’s past, Khargonekar continued: “In UCI’s relatively short history, its scholars have made groundbreaking contributions in many areas of research – contributions that have questioned conventional wisdom, changed how we look at the world and how we act in the world. This convergence paradigm offers a wonderful opportunity for UCI to build on its glorious youth and address key societal grand challenges.”
Convergence Already Underway New residents can’t wait to test the theories about convergence. Indeed, according to Bullock, some didn’t wait until the official move-in period to begin their collaborations. “Spurred by this opportunity, researchers from physical sciences have been interacting regularly with folks from ICS and engineering in anticipation of the move,” he says. “Several proposals are in the works. I’m very optimistic about the future of this space.” Bullock is also enthusiastic about ISEB’s Climate, Energy and Water Solutions hub, which will explore strategies to better manage greenhouse gas emissions
Jenny Yang, associate professor of chemistry (above, left), is looking forward to moving her 14-person lab – which includes postdoctoral scholar Nadia Leonard (above, right) – into ISEB, where, she says, the physical environment and partnership with engineers will help turn her environmental research into real solutions.
Albert R. La Spada, director of UCI’s Institute for Neurotherapeutics, and members of his 14-person research team – including graduate student Jacob Deyell (right) – were among ISEB’s earliest occupants in the fall. The group focuses on neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. “I believe that in order for biological and biomedical research to move forward more rapidly, we need to integrate physical science, engineering, and computational and applied mathematics approaches into our experimentation, and I cannot think of a better way,” La Spada says. “This really is the future for our field.”
and the global transition to renewable energy. “CLEWS faculty consist of chemists, Earth scientists and engineers united in their aim to advance solutions-oriented science to address climate change,” he says. Moving in has been highly anticipated by faculty members, who are eager to colonize the building and get to know their new neighbors. “Just the concept of having a place where we can all work together and
discuss collaborations is wonderful,” says Jenny Yang, an associate professor of chemistry who’s relocating her 14-person lab to ISEB. “A lot of what we do is focused on decarbonization and other ecological solutions to climate change. It will be very useful for us to work with engineers.” One of the first ISEB residents was also brand-new to the campus. Dr. Albert R. La Spada,
director of UCI’s Institute for Neurotherapeutics, recently joined UCI’s medical and teaching staffs. His 14-person research team focuses on neurodegenerative diseases such as spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and spinocerebellar ataxia type 7. “I’m very excited about having my lab located in ISEB,” says La Spada, Winter 2021
“In UCI’s relatively short history, its scholars have made groundbreaking contributions in many areas of research – contributions that have questioned conventional wisdom, changed how we look at the world and how we act in the world. This convergence paradigm offers a wonderful opportunity for UCI to build on its glorious youth and address key societal grand challenges.”
Solutions that Scale that tackles sustainability. Van der Hoek is particularly interested in the role informatics can play. “Being in the new building will allow me to closely work with others on the initiative – help shape it – and deepen the interdisciplinary connections necessary to address the thorny questions of sustainability,” he says. The eagerly awaited ISEB opening has tenants thinking on a grand scale. Its planners like that. Says Khargonekar: “When you bring people together, new ideas come out and new approaches to old problems come out. We want to capture all of that energy and creativity.”
Xiangmin Xu, professor of anatomy & neurobiology and director of UCI’s Center for Neural Circuit Mapping, is moving into ISEB with a team of 18 that focuses on research to help unravel the mechanisms underlying several common disorders, such as lazy eye and Alzheimer’s disease. Says Xu: “Our goal is to reveal the molecular changes that occur during the course of Alzheimer’s, impacting learning and memory, and identify a route toward early detection and new drug therapies for the disease.”
who came to UCI from Duke University. “I believe that in order for biological and biomedical research to move forward more rapidly, we need to integrate physical science, engineering, and computational and applied mathematics approaches into our experimentation, and I cannot think of a better way. This really is the future for our field.” Also joining the migration to the building is André van der Hoek, chair of the Department of Informatics. While the main thrust of his work lies in software design, he’s now embarking on a campus initiative called
Chang C. Liu, associate professor of biomedical engineering, chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry, will soon direct the new Center for Synthetic Biology in ISEB. “It will bring together many researchers who engineer biology in order to solve grand challenges,” Liu says. Among recent successes is a streamlined generation of antibodies, including ones that target coronaviruses, using the lab’s supercharged evolution systems. Above, biomedical engineering graduate student researcher Ming Ho works in Liu’s lab.
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Investigating Outbreaks: Beyond the Laboratory Well-timed Infectious Disease Science Initiative strives to make UCI a global leader in an urgent and ever-evolving field By Kristin Baird Rattini
hen Sanghyuk Shin launched UCI’s Infectious Disease Science Initiative in July 2019, the assistant professor of nursing had no idea that a devastating pandemic would erupt a mere eight months later. He simply recognized an opportunity to bring together under one umbrella the experts across numerous schools and centers on campus whose research touches on the dynamics of infectious diseases and drug resistance. “I was excited because there were so many faculty working on infectious disease dynamics,” Shin says about his arrival at UCI in 2017. “But there was no system or structure for how these faculty members could work together to generate new ideas, develop collaborations, and share their research with each other and the public.” In establishing IDSI, he looked forward to teaming with its members to fuel new insights into such scourges as tuberculosis (his own specialty), pathogenic E. coli, malaria and HIV. But then the novel coronavirus entered the scene, and the fledgling initiative found itself in the right place at the right time to rally its resources in support of not only UCI colleagues but the Orange County community in the fight against COVID-19.
A Broader Perspective It’s no surprise that the health sciences are amply represented in IDSI’s leadership and faculty advisory board: Researchers in medicine, nursing, public health, epidemiology and – of course – infectious diseases have all signed on. But what’s unique about the initiative is its broader perspective on the subject. Experts in law, sociology, anthropology, ecology, engineering, statistics and information science have joined IDSI as well. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made all too clear that the drivers of infectious diseases include things like housing, social inequities and anti-science social media,” says Shin, who serves as IDSI director. “Traditional laboratory research is highly important, but there’s a need to bring in other disciplines to really understand infectious diseases.” In addition, the vast amounts of data now available from electronic medical records and new technologies such as genomics can be mined to provide insights about what factors lead and sustain outbreaks and what can be done to predict and prevent the emergence, or reemergence, of infectious diseases. Fortunately, UCI just happens to be a powerhouse in the fields of information science, math and statistics. “We want to leverage and synergize all of these disciplines to advance our knowledge of infectious diseases,” Shin says.
UCI is fertile ground for such an initiative; the university has a long history of fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration. “At UCI, there has been a real prioritization of making sure that we don’t have silos. That makes a tremendous difference,” says Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of law and director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy. She’s examining such issues as how to balance public health concerns and constitutional law concerns with quarantine and shelter-in-place orders. That research informs her role on IDSI’s faculty advisory board. “How we’ve been able to get together on this initiative has been enriching,” Goodwin says. “Would I have been doing some of my work independently? Yes. But are there ways in which we’re engaging now because of this initiative and the pandemic? Absolutely.”
Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of law and director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy
Information Central From the beginning, IDSI has positioned itself as a go-to resource for information and advice on emerging infectious diseases. The fortuitous timing of its launch enabled it to quickly mobilize faculty and community health experts for one of the first public seminars on COVID-19 in Orange County, in February. Since then, IDSI’s website and Twitter account have been invaluable portals where the public and health officials can find the latest coronavirus research and statistics. “We try to translate the information to make it easier to understand for people who don’t have a scientific background,” says Jackie Valera, a master’s student in nursing who helps update IDSI’s internet feeds. The initiative’s Twitter account shares pandemic stories hot off the presses from not only mainstream news outlets but academic journals.
The website has assembled links to county, state, national and international COVID-19 efforts. And both forums prominently showcase studies by IDSI members that highlight the diversity of their approaches to the disease. For example, Carter Butts, professor of sociology, drew on his expertise in the flow of information and diseases through social networks to evaluate how uneven population distribution can significantly impact the severity and timing of coronavirus infections within a city or county. “The differences among communities within a large urban area can be quite profound,” he says. Those differences are starkly depicted in the OC COVID-19 Situation Report and COVID-19 Trends by UC Irvine websites, two vital tools developed by a
multidisciplinary team of UCI researchers and Orange County health officials led by Vladimir Minin, professor of statistics and associate director of IDSI. The first predicts possible coronavirus epidemic trajectories, including positive tests and deaths for Orange County. The second chronicles COVID-19 trends since the spring in California counties and individual Orange County cities, depicting in easy-toread graphs how the various municipalities differ in their experiences. The National Institutes of Health has since joined in the modeling effort. The graphs are offered free of charge, and the source code is available at a click so that other institutions and communities can replicate them for their own use. “These tools are Exhibit A and Exhibit B for collaborative efforts,” Minin says.
Ilhem Messaoudi Powers, professor of molecular biology & biochemistry
Michael Zulu, UCI postdoctoral scholar in molecular biology & biochemistry
Photos by Steve Zylius / UCI
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made all too clear that the drivers of infectious diseases include things like housing, social inequities and anti-science social media. Traditional laboratory research is highly important, but there’s a need to bring in other disciplines to really understand infectious diseases.”
Forging New Partnerships Another of IDSI’s top priorities is forming new interdisciplinary collaborations. In fall 2019, it hosted a “speed dating” event at which nearly 50 UCI researchers chatted each other up in search of mutual areas of interest. As word of the initiative has spread on campus, its directors have served as middlemen, fielding requests for referrals and making key introductions. Distinguished Professor Adey Nyamathi, founding dean of the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, has been working with the homeless population on L.A.’s Skid Row for 35 years. When the pandemic hit, she wondered how many homeless individuals had contracted the virus and how it was affecting their substance use. She had the resources to investigate the latter but not the former. Shin referred her to Ilhem Messaoudi Powers, professor of molecular biology & biochemistry, who agreed to conduct COVID-19 antibody testing for
Nyamathi. “She is quite impressive in the work she does,” Nyamathi says of Messaoudi. “It will be exciting to forge ahead with her in this study of a population that we don’t have any information on and who are at the highest risk.” The excitement is mutual, because Nyamathi’s research dovetails with other IDSI-connected COVID-19 studies of UCI students and UCI Health providers that Messaoudi is involved in. Nyamathi’s “results will be integrated with these other projects and provide us a rich body of data that will allow us to compare the prevalence of antibodies in groups with different risk and exposure rates,” Messaoudi says. “It will give us a bigger picture.”
Distinguished Professor Adey Nyamathi, founding dean of the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing
IDSI also jump-starts new interdisciplinary studies by awarding seed grants to young researchers. Its first round of them, in April, serves as a reminder that while COVID-19 is currently taking center stage, other infectious diseases still require attention and ingenuity. Solomon Kibret Birhanie, a visiting professor in UCI’s Program in Public Health, received a seed grant for his work on how dams and reservoir water management in Africa impact mosquito ecology and malaria transmission. He sought assistance from Kuo-lin Hsu, a UCI professor of civil & environmental engineering and
an expert on hydrology and remote sensing. Birhanie was astonished by the depth of environmental data that could be obtained from Landsat databases. “We know that almost every public health issue is influenced by environmental factors,” he says. “Who better understands environmental factors than hydrologists or civil engineers?” “The more we understand about the occurrence of disease transmission and what affects it, the more we will be able to develop innovative tools to stop it,” he adds. Birhanie’s work in Africa is emblematic of IDSI’s overarching
goal: to position UCI as not just a valuable local resource but a worldwide leader in research and education in infectious disease dynamics. “All of humanity is tied together in one big network,” Butts says. “We need to be prepared and think globally about health problems we might face and the solutions for them – because helping cure infectious diseases elsewhere is also a way to protect ourselves here. That connected view is organic to IDSI and important for our society. I’m glad that UCI is supporting it and that we have people in this initiative who are leading that charge.”
Photos by Steve Zylius / UCI
Micaila Curtis, junior research specialist in molecular biology & biochemistry
UCI’s Infectious Diseases Chief Discusses COVID-19 Vaccines Three Questions With Dr. Donald Forthal Steve Zylius / UCI
The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by British physician and scientist Edward Jenner, after he had intuited that dairy workers’ resistance to smallpox resulted from their exposure to the much milder cowpox. (Jenner derived his term “vaccine” from vacca, the Latin word for cow.) It took scientists nearly another century to begin to understand that vaccines work in the human body by stimulating the formation of antibodies. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a worldwide effort led to the effective eradication of smallpox, which had plagued humankind for more than 3,000 years. While vaccines have made remarkable strides in recent decades, nothing compares with the accelerated development and testing of the two COVID-19 vaccines given emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last year. On Dec. 16, 2020, just over a year after the global pandemic had quietly started in Wuhan, China, UCI Health received 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and began administering them to its healthcare workers, according to Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention guidelines. The following week, 2,800 vials of the Moderna vaccine were also made available. Both vaccines require a second dose three or four weeks after the first. The goal is to ultimately inoculate some 15,000 UCI Health employees. “The priority is based on healthcare workers’ level and length of exposure to high-risk patients,” explains Dr. Donald Forthal, chief of the UCI School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases. (He has received both doses.) Forthal earned an M.D. at UCI in 1979 and worked at the CDC, the World Health Organization and elsewhere before returning to UCI in 1989 to teach and conduct research. Along with heading the infectious diseases division, he is a professor of medicine in UCI’s School of Medicine. He has a joint appointment in the Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry and is a member of both the Center for Virus Research and the Institute for Immunology. UCI Magazine contributing writer Jim Washburn spoke with Forthal in January about the science behind the vaccines – and their prospects.
What can you tell us about these new vaccines and how they perform in the body? Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not typical compared with those that have been licensed in the past. In fact, these are the first mRNA [messenger ribonucleic acid] vaccines to be approved, in this case via an EUA [emergency use authorization by the FDA]. Previous mRNA vaccines have been used in studies, but they’ve never before been licensed. Every time our bodies see foreign proteins – whether in the form of a bacteria, virus, parasite or something else – we are built so that we can make antibody responses against those proteins. Humans can generate a vast repertoire of antibodies that can bind to just about any protein that isn’t a normal human protein. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are using mRNA that encodes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is the target for neutralizing antibodies – that is, antibodies that will block the virus from infecting cells of the human host. What happens is you inject the mRNA, it gets taken up by cells, and in those cells, the spike protein of SARSCoV-2 is made. That protein is recognized by B cells, which will produce antibodies that can recognize and inhibit the real virus if it appears in the body.
What would you tell a person who is hesitant to get a coronavirus vaccine? What we know so far about the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is that they have undergone testing now in a fairly large group of people who were followed for at least two months, per the FDA’s guidelines for safety data. That’s rather reassuring, because most severe side effects will probably occur within six weeks of a vaccination. I think people can be confident that there aren’t going to be any severe, unexpected problems. There are side effects to every vaccine, and sometimes it takes millions of injections, not tens of thousands, to discern the full spectrum. But as it looks now, serious side effects are not going to be at all common. The anti-vaxxers, I think, do pose a real problem. The WHO has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health. It’s something we just have to deal with, through educating people and pointing out the benefits versus the risks. To address one myth: There is no danger of incorporation of the vaccines’ mRNA into the genes of a vaccinated individual, primarily because the mRNA is degraded and is not converted into DNA. In other words, it does not change an individual’s DNA.
“There is no danger of incorporation of the vaccines’ mRNA into the genes of a vaccinated individual, primarily because the mRNA is degraded and is not converted into DNA. In other words, it does not change an individual’s DNA.”
What will we see in 2021? Will life get at all back to normal? This is a very infectious virus and it appears to have become more infectious over time. Because people often don’t display symptoms or don’t get very sick, they don’t isolate themselves, and that has allowed the virus to explode into human society. When we saw the rapid spread of the infection in Wuhan and then throughout Asia, it seemed inevitable that it would spread here, given all the travel between Asia and the U.S. At UCI, we started preparing for it because we could see the potential for medical facilities to be overwhelmed. There’s no question about the virus’s ability to sustain itself and spread, but in respect to vaccine development, the virus has proved to not be all that formidable. Within months of the initial reports of this infection, several vaccines had been developed, and there will be more. Some of them, like the AstraZeneca vaccine, have had setbacks and may not be as effective as the two that currently have approval. But the bar seems to be set pretty low for generating the kind of immune response needed to prevent SARS-CoV-2, so I think there will be additional effective vaccines. The virus is nowhere near as formidable, for example, as HIV, where after decades we still are not real close to getting a vaccine. With SARS-CoV-2, I can only depend on what people at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health are saying, but they’re looking at a much wider distribution of the vaccines by spring. I’m hopeful that there will be substantial decreases in the number of cases by then, but the rollout has been slow, and lots of people are still not masking or keeping their distance. So spring may be optimistic with respect to getting back to normal. It really depends on how quickly the vaccines can be distributed, how many people agree to get them and, ultimately, how effective and durable the immune response to the vaccine is. There remains some question of exactly when we’ll turn the corner on this, but I don’t doubt that we will.
History professor Adria Imada teaches the Medical Humanities 1 course (Health, Wellness and Conception of the Body) to undergraduates in 2018 in the Anteater Learning Pavilion.
Stressing the Humanity in Medical Humanities UCI center offers compassionate perspectives on health and disease By Jim Washburn
uffer well” may not be as inviting a salutation as “Live long and prosper,” but it was ideal for the title of a seminar series launched by the UCI Center for Medical Humanities in the fall of 2019. “The idea around ‘Suffer Well’ was to have speakers explore ways that suffering can become a portal to a more fulsome understanding of the human experience,” says center director James Kyung-Jin Lee. “To the extent that we can, we should alleviate suffering, but suffering can bring you a unique connectivity with other human beings. Albert Schweitzer, who himself suffered chronic illness even as he cared for other people, spoke of that as
Photos by Steve Zylius
‘a brotherhood of those who bear the mark of pain.’” Unfortunately, the series was truncated because of the pandemic. But, Lee notes, the surfeit of suffering caused by COVID-19 has brought a sense of immediacy to other topics the Center for Medical Humanities covers in its curriculum and research: How does a doctor find a positive, honest way to talk with a terminally ill patient about death? What can be learned from the journals of patients who have trod that one-way path? Do the racism and sexism of earlier medical practices echo through the pandemic response today? Such dark tones are only part of the palette that the
medical humanities bring to the study of illness, wellbeing and the states in between. Programs in medical humanities are not uncommon, but they generally exist within medical schools and are limited in scope. UCI’s center, officially inaugurated in 2018 – after gestating as an initiative for a few years – bridges the School of Humanities, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts and the School of Medicine via a unique, interdisciplinary approach to health that encompasses research, curriculum development and community engagement. It has also offered undergraduate minor and graduate emphasis programs since 2016 and 2018, respectively.
UCI Center for Medical Humanities director James Kyung-Jin Lee
“Insofar as medicine is interested in the care of human bodies,” Lee explains, “the humanities and the arts also ask questions about bodies and embodiment but ask them in different ways that can shed new light on what stories our bodies tell.” Lee is an associate professor in UCI’s Department of Asian American Studies. He’s also an Episcopal priest, which as much as anything spurred his passion for medical humanities. His pathway to priesthood included more than 400 hours of chaplaincy internship at a downtown Los Angeles hospital. He recalls walking the halls of the oncology and surgery wards, talking with the patients, families and
hospital workers. “I’m trained as a literary critic, but I was thoroughly ill-equipped to attend to the stories I witnessed there,” Lee says. “There was a whole other set of observational and analytical tools that I needed to develop in order to really be present for those very difficult stories that I had the privilege of hearing.” Lee became director of UCI’s Center for Medical Humanities in 2019. He succeeded founding director and history professor Douglas Haynes, who along with family medicine professor Johanna Shapiro and the deans of the involved schools (Georges Van Den Abbeele and Tyrus Miller, humanities; Michael J. Stamos, medicine; and Stephen Barker, arts) were the prime movers in bringing the center into being. While Haynes is now UCI’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity & inclusion, his continuing work as a historian has included tracing the evolution and codification of the medical profession in the British Empire and the U.S. He says the center’s inception was a confluence of many things. Development of the proposal for it started around the time the Affordable Care Act was implemented, which elevated attention to healthcare in general and prompted people with research interests in health, healing and well-being to begin asking new questions. “We didn’t know how large a community was forming here – or how intersecting their interests were – until we started having brainstorming sessions about the center,” Haynes says. “It’s consequential when you get faculty – who are very habituated to their own schools and professional disciplines – to feel sufficiently open to the value of interdisciplinarity that they’re willing to step into this uncomfortable space that had never been done before.” The conditions for the center were there, he adds, but it made all the difference when Chancellor Howard Gillman, who was UCI provost at the time, launched an interschool excellence initiative. “He created a very significant incentive to explore the possibilities, and that’s what moved us forward,” Haynes says. The campus event announcing the center in 2018 included dramatic reenactments of scenes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Since then, courses and research have varied widely, from how issues of health and medicine have been depicted on the theatrical stage from ancient Greece to the present day to how the nuclear age shaped impressions of health and medical care. Sometimes the courses hold up an unflattering mirror to the history of medicine, in which the practices leading to medical developments were often no more advanced
Founding director and history professor Douglas Haynes
than the prejudices of their times. For example, Lee says, “the foundations of obstetrics and gynecology in the 19th century emerged principally through the work of physician James Marion Sims, who performed experiments on enslaved women, obviously with no notion of consent. You have to wonder if history like that, Tuskegee and other events factors into the generalized skepticism toward vaccinations in Black communities today.” History professor Adria Imada, who teaches both undergraduate and graduate medical humanities courses, sometimes draws from her book An Archive of Skin, An Archive of Kin: Disability and Life-Making During Medical Incarceration, about the forced sequestration of persons with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) in Hawaii. She also uses media and film in her classes, some taken from the arts, such as paintings, and others that might be framed as art, such as news footage from 1990 of people
leaving their wheelchairs to crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol to demonstrate their lack of access. “That may not have been on a theatrical stage,” Imada says, “but it was definitely a political stage, and it had profound outcomes in the fight for disability rights.” “It’s important to think expansively and beyond disciplinary boundaries
health is experienced in the present, how it was experienced in the past and how to change potential outcomes for the future.” Many of the medical humanities students are looking toward careers in medicine. Dean Wong ’19 pursued the medical humanities minor while majoring in psychology & social behavior. He says the course descriptions in the medical humanities syllabus were what made him choose UCI over other universities. Wong now works at the UCI School of Medicine as a medical student coordinator, is one of the organizers of a Flying Samaritans medical clinic in Mexico and hopes to eventually earn a medical degree. He says his classes in medical humanities prepared him more than he had imagined. Says Wong: “Some of the memoirs that we read were very raw and made me realize that this is life for many people – their struggles as patients dealing with the inequities of the healthcare system. It really made me want to become a voice for those people.”
“Insofar as medicine is interested in the care of human bodies, the humanities and the arts also ask questions about bodies and embodiment but ask them in different ways that can shed new light on what stories our bodies tell.” about medicine and disability,” she continues, “so that health isn’t simply the purview of clinical medicine but that everyone has an investment in understanding how
Back in the Bren Sophomore guard Isaiah Lee drives to the basket in a 104-54 victory over La Sierra at the Bren Events Center on Dec. 2. Basketball returned to action with strict guidelines on testing, masking and social distancing.
R E F L E C T I O N S
Steve Zylius / UCI
Lessons From the Longest Year ..............................................................................................................
By Bernadette Boden-Albala
his is not my first epidemic. Indeed, it was in the early days of HIV/AIDS, in a series of life-changing circumstances, that I was inspired to leave a planned career as bench scientist in cell physiology and embrace the study of public health. Partially motivated by tensions between the government and
communities seeking answers to and urgent treatments for a devastating disease, and partially motivated by my growing interest in the social interplay of behavior and virus, public health became my “cause,” and I have never looked back. There is no doubt that life as we know it has changed drastically in the last year. For most of us, COVID-19 will be one of the most impactful events of our life. After this sobering year, we will never again take healthcare providers and first responders for granted. We will forever honor those who have suffered and died. But I also promise that there will come a day when we’ll look back
and talk about the year we all gained weight, endured toilet paper shortages, held virtual cocktail parties and made every recipe in the cookbook. We will even smile as we remember some of the more bizarre Zoom backgrounds and laugh as we recall the Zoom interruptions by children, animals and partners during the most critical of meetings.
“There is no doubt that life as we know it has changed drastically in the last year. For most of us, COVID-19 will be one of the most impactful events of our life.” For me, COVID will also be remembered as part of what seems like the longest year, which started with my move to UCI to lead the transition of public health from program to school. This transported me from my hometown of New York City, where I had lived for over 50 years, to Southern California. After a brief introduction to the warm California sun, the fierce Santa Ana winds and the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, COVID hit, and public health at UCI began its response to an emerging pandemic at the university, in partnership with the community and the Orange County Health Care Agency. In March, we “flattened the curve” in California and avoided a surge in early days with limited treatment options. Sadly, we watched as racial, ethnic and economic disparities emerged in morbidity and mortality. And despite the ebb and flow of this virus, not a day has gone by since last January when we have not been confronted by a new COVID challenge. During an ebb in COVID cases in O.C., and with the greatest of care, my husband and I drove across the country to move out of our New York residence and into our University Hills home. It was exhilarating to be released from 14-hour Zoom days and the repetitive activities of a life basically sheltering in place. I relished the freedom of driving 12-hour days and having a picnic on the side of the road. I had forgotten the vast space and startling beauty this nation has to offer. And for those few days in my car, life felt normal and I had escaped the COVID grind. In September, during a UCI Alumni Association interview, I was asked whether this was the first time that public health – and a virus – had been politicized. I responded that the field has a long history of being at odds with groups (individuals, governments, businesses). At its very core, public health is focused on the wellbeing of communities, and that means there are times when individual rights may be second to the public good. But COVID-19 has challenged the discipline in ways not seen before. This pandemic has often been accompanied by continued pressure to move health policy from a needed “mandate” to a softer “recommendation.” Around the country, public health directors have been asked to compromise and negotiate
around the science of the virus to accommodate competing needs. I am reminded that my role as a leader in the field at UCI is to work with faculty and students so that we can better collect the evidence and defend the science of public health overall. Together with communities, we can translate this science into meaningful behavioral changes that save lives. We have our work set out for us! When asked, my 5-year-old granddaughter can provide a list of the good and bad things about COVID. The bad are obvious, but in her innocence, she talks about how COVID has allowed her to be with her family all the time. I echo her sentiments; never have I more greatly appreciated my family and friends around the country and the globe. I have learned to value my time with them, whether it’s by phone, via FaceTime or – after a quarantine and a negative COVID test – in person. Moving to the West Coast and onto a campus knowing no one, I continue to be surprised by the warmth and kindness of this community. Despite rising COVID cases, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, people have found ways to connect: the flowers left at the door as a welcome, the box of cinnamon buns baked by my neighbor’s daughter Violet just because it was “a cinnamon bun day,” the parade of teachers in cars thanking students. In our shared experiences, we find little things meaningful, and we pass them along. I end this reflection on the “longest year” on a hopeful note. I write this as the first vaccine for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is approved and trucks loaded with it are traversing the country. The knowledge that we gained from the last SARS epidemic provided the foundation for the rapid development of this vaccine. The public health challenges faced with HIV/AIDS around behavioral change helped frame a harm reduction strategy we use now with COVID. At UCI’s Program in Public Health, we have begun tackling the issue of vaccine hesitancy as a way to better inform strategies to halt further COVID viral transmission. The lessons we are learning from this experience will help to better protect us now and in future epidemics. Boden-Albala is director and founding dean of UCI’s Program in Public Health. Winter 2021
Coronavirus Surveillance A medically trained UCI volunteer collects a blood sample in October from an actOC study participant at one of 11 drive-thru antibody testing sites in Orange County. UCI and the OC Health Care Agency led the state’s first effort to widely screen a representative sample of residents for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. They found that COVID-19 was seven times more prevalent in the county than previously thought, with Latino and low-income residents having the highest rates of antibodies: 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Carlos Puma for UCI Health
A N T O U R A G E
Steve Zylius / UCI
Interplanetary Obstetrician Physician alumnus researches (future) life on Mars while teaching medicine at UCI .............................................................................................................. By Roy Rivenburg
In the song “Rocket Man,” Elton John famously warned, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.” Maybe so, but we should still plan for Red Planet pregnancies, says Dr. Jon Steller, a NASA physician and assistant clinical professor of maternal fetal medicine at UCI. The combination of human nature and imperfect birth control methods makes diaper-clad Martian babies inevitable once earthlings start colonizing the solar system, he predicts. However, nobody knows if the extraterrestrial tots and their moms will be healthy. Although setting foot on Mars is still a few decades away, scientists are woefully behind when it comes to researching the effects of cosmic radiation and microgravity on reproduction, says Steller, who stumbled
into space medicine by way of volleyball, a trek to Ukraine and a children’s birthday party. Originally from Fresno, Steller was recruited in 2004 to play volleyball at UCI, where he became an NCAA All-American and helped the team capture two national championships. Majoring in both neurobiology and classics, he was named Outstanding Student-Athlete at UCI’s Lauds & Laurels ceremony in his senior year. But with a name like Jon Glenn Steller, a career involving outer space wound up being more fitting than one in sports. In 2007, he was offered the chance to either join an archeological dig in Rome or go on a three-week humanitarian mission in Ukraine. He chose the latter, visiting orphanages and setting up a summer camp for homeless children.
The experience cemented his interest in becoming a doctor and helping others. The summer after graduating in 2009, he married his high school sweetheart and enrolled in UCI’s School of Medicine. Later, during his residency in obstetrics & gynecology at the university, Steller took his two young daughters to a space camp birthday party. It would change his career path. “I was having a mini quarter-life crisis,” he recalls. The host of the party worked for Boeing, overseeing the robotic arm that enables capsules to dock with the International Space Station, and her friends were with Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They were all talking about their space research, and I became extremely jealous,” Steller says. That night, he scoured the internet for ways to apply his OB-GYN specialty to the cosmos. After digging up a few decades-old papers on pregnant rats in orbit and astronaut gynecology, he emailed the scientists involved, a former NASA flight surgeon and a college professor. “Both seemed happy that somebody young was interested in the field,” he says. Steller soon began collaborating with them on projects, won a grant for new research and – in 2020 – landed a NASA physician job, working on a team that aims to reduce the medical risks on long spaceflights. Among the conditions he tries to stave off for female astronauts are ovarian cysts, bone density loss and abnormal uterine bleeding. Separate from his NASA work, he launched a lab at UCI to explore how radiation and weightlessness affect animal fertility and offspring. So far, the experiments are earthbound, but Steller hopes to eventually direct
trials in orbit. The ultimate goal, of course, is preparing for Mars. One of the chief concerns is cosmic radiation. On Earth, the atmosphere acts as a protective shield. But in space, the exposure level skyrockets, bombarding astronauts with a year’s worth of terra firma radiation every day. Low gravity also takes a toll. Scientists have studied what those factors do to people’s eyesight and brain function, Steller says, “but we don’t know what happens to reproduction and development.” Unfortunately, funding to investigate such topics shriveled after the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, he says. But if humans are serious about colonizing the moon or voyaging to Mars in the next 30 to 50 years, he adds, a lot more research is needed.
week from aspiring doctors and residents, he says. Outside of work, Steller writes and edits fantasy novels, plays indoor and sand volleyball, and serves as vice president of the Red Hibiscus Foundation, which provides healthcare to underserved people around the world. That last sideline is the most recent manifestation of his desire to help those in need. Tattooed on his right arm are Greek numbers representing a Bible passage from Philippians that exhorts, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” As an undergrad, Steller helped build houses and provide healthcare in Mexico. During medical school, he led the Flying Samaritans chapter at UCI, which ran a clinic in the
“I was having a mini quarter-life crisis. They were all talking about their space research, and I became extremely jealous.” In the meantime, Steller has his hands full with Orange County pregnancies. About 60 percent of his time at UCI is devoted to seeing patients. Another chunk is spent teaching “the art of doctoring,” including social responsibility, to future physicians at UCI’s School of Medicine. In 2017, Steller won OB-GYN mentor and instructor of the year honors at UCI. A few years earlier, to expand his educational reach, he launched a web resource, FLAME, featuring a collection of five-minute lectures and presentations on a panoply of medical topics, from abdominal pain to smoke inhalation. The site gets hundreds of hits each
neighboring nation. Even when cartel violence spurred the University of California to suspend travel south of the border, he went on his own. “I have a social responsibility to step outside my comfortable Southern California life, whether it’s 10,000 miles or 10 minutes from home, because I have the capacity to make a difference,” he told UCI News at the time. But lately, family and work duties have curtailed his volunteer activities. “There are only so many hours in the week,” Steller notes – unless he makes it to Mars, which has an extra 37 minutes in each day and 10 more months per year.
Kitty Felde ’76, theater A celebrated public radio journalist, she also has experience playing the role of half a horse in a Toyota commercial and writing a mystery book for children. In addition, Kitty Felde covered O.J. Simpson’s murder trial for National Public Radio, appeared in a Skippy peanut butter ad with Annette Funicello and hosted a daily talk show on KPCC, later becoming the station’s Washington, D.C., correspondent. When that gig ended in 2015, Felde resumed acting (including a role as the governor of Arizona in “House of Cards”), opened an Etsy shop to showcase her sewing talent and launched “Book Club for Kids,” a podcast featuring author interviews, celebrity readings and students discussing their favorite novels. In 2019, she wrote Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza, a middle-grade book with a 10-year-old Latina heroine who solves the mystery of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill. Raised in Compton, Felde has also created stage plays about everything from Teddy Roosevelt’s rambunctious youngest son to Bosnian war crimes.
..................................................... Andrew Altschul, M.F.A. ’97, English (writing) When he wasn’t feasting on traditional anticuchos (marinated cow hearts) in Peru or playing Beastie Boys records at an alternative rock station in Woodstock, New York, Andrew Altschul was trying to write novels. The effort paid off in 2008 with the publication of Lady Lazarus. His newest book, The Gringa, revolves around Peru’s war against the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group. Altschul, who directs the creative writing program at Colorado State University, also pens essays and fiction for such outlets as Esquire, HuffPost.com and The Wall Street Journal. Other accomplishments include attending 55 Grateful Dead concerts before guitarist Jerry Garcia died (“I still listen to them all the time, to my wife’s chagrin”) and – as a student at UCI – briefly playing in a punk rock band with writer Aimee Bender and poet Jeff Lytle.
William Ngo ’04, sociology Fun fact: Only one side of William Ngo’s face can grow whiskers. He discovered the quirk after being asked to sprout a beard for a movie role. So far, it hasn’t derailed his acting career, which he stumbled into after studying advertising in graduate school. A friend invited Ngo to join her as a movie extra and “I came to realize that acting was what I love,” he recalls. His first speaking role was for a marketing video. From there, he landed a bit part in “Captain America: Civil War.” His scene ended up on the cutting-room floor, but another fleeting appearance – in “Boy Erased” – enabled him to walk the red carpet at the film’s Hollywood premiere. More recently, Ngo appeared in the Netflix movie “Spivak” and in a public service announcement for Waymakers, an Orange County nonprofit. He also became an Emmy Award voter.
..................................................... Jocelyn Argueta ’14, biochemistry & molecular biology Cloaked in a pink lab coat and goggles, Jocelyn Argueta’s alter ego – Jargie the Science Girl – is a female version of Mr. Wizard. Armed with wacky props and a stuffed penguin named Benjamin, she performs interactive science demonstrations for kids at schools, community centers and such venues as the Smithsonian Institution’s Discovery Theater. Argueta co-developed the show while working for an allergy diagnostics company by day and moonlighting in a “Charlotte’s Web” theater production for children at night. Launched in 2017, Jargie the Science Girl is designed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In December 2019, Argueta spent a month at the South Pole studying neutrinos as part of a National Science Foundationfunded program that sends educators to arctic research labs. Drawing on that experience, she created a 10-part YouTube series called “Tiny Ice: Bits From Antarctica” while the coronavirus sidelined her Jargie performances. Offstage, Argueta enjoys learning aerial silks and watching plays for inspiration.
Nicole Tamura ’16, Earth system science Counting songbirds, trapping bees and trudging through 10-foot-tall black mustard fields are all part of Nicole Tamura’s job description. As program coordinator for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, she helps monitor and restore protected wildlands under the nonprofit agency’s care. She also keeps tabs on ants, raptor nests, plants and such invasive pests as the goldspotted oak borer beetle. Before joining the conservancy in 2016, Tamura tracked butterflies, bald eagles and bufflehead ducks as an intern at Lassen Volcanic National Park. The El Segundo native traces her interest in working with nature to childhood camping and fishing trips to the Eastern Sierra. UCI’s Center for Environmental Biology brought that wish to life, she says. Tamura hopes to deepen her knowledge by attending grad school and eventually become a research ecologist.
Toni Lynch ’15, civil engineering She went from dancing with the Boston Ballet to drilling a 420-foot-long sewer tunnel under the 5 Freeway. Hailing from Bakersfield, Toni Lynch came to UCI in pointe shoes and left wearing a hard hat. The metamorphosis began when she met some engineers in an advanced calculus class, got burned out on dance and slowly gravitated to civil engineering. Focusing on water resources, Lynch scored an internship at the Irvine Ranch Water District, which hired her after graduation as an associate engineer. At IRWD, she helps design and supervise various construction projects. She also helmed the I-5 tunnel venture, an expansion of the Orange County Great Park sewer system that entailed monitoring freeway sensors to make sure the pavement didn’t buckle – and guiding the burrowing machinery to no more than 0.36 of an inch from its target on the other side of the highway. Last spring, she earned a master’s in environmental engineering at Cal State Fullerton.
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Alberto Vargas ’19, political science and international studies Training dancing horses for Mexican rodeos was Alberto Vargas’ original career plan. He’d been doing it since childhood with his dad and figured on staying the course. Even after enrolling at UCI, Vargas initially studied business, envisioning himself as an entrepreneur like his parents (his mom owns a juice and shake shop). But the 2016 presidential election changed that path. The anti-immigrant rhetoric steered Vargas toward politics and protecting fellow Latinos. The North Hollywood native switched majors, co-founded a support group for male Latino students and interned for Rep. Lou Correa. After graduation, Vargas worked as a program coordinator for the nation’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens. In December, he joined the staff of Assembly Majority Whip Jesse Gabriel as a field rep. From there, he hopes to attend law school and eventually run for Congress – on his way to becoming America’s first Latino president.
In Memoriam Frank Cancian, professor emeritus of anthropology Documentary photographer and UCI professor of anthropology Frank Cancian died Nov. 24 at the age of 86. He earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Wesleyan University in 1957, but his passion was photography. Cancian spent a year in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship taking photos and documenting life in rural Lacedonia. When he returned to the U.S., his skills behind the camera earned him his own exhibition and a position as a reporter and photographer with The Providence Journal in Rhode Island. Cancian went to graduate school at Harvard University, putting his photography aside and shifting his focus to research. He spent 30 years of his academic career studying the Mayan people of Chiapas, Mexico. Cancian enjoyed professorships as an anthropologist at Stanford University (1964-66), Cornell University (1966-69) and then Stanford again (196976) before joining UCI’s faculty in 1976. For 23 years, he taught students and conducted his anthropological research, totaling more than three years of fieldwork in Mexico. He chaired the Department of Anthropology from 1991 to 1994. Cancian retired from official faculty duties in 1999. He published Orange County Housecleaners, a photo ethnography featuring the pictures and stories of seven women who made their livings cleaning houses close to the UCI campus, and he started a blog called Main Street UCI. Cancian also mentored undergraduates interested in ethnographic anthropological research – efforts that earned him an Outstanding Emeritus Award from the UCI Emeriti Association in 2012.
..................................................... Ruth Kluger, professor emerita of German Noted literary scholar and Holocaust memoirist Ruth Kluger died at her home in Irvine on Oct. 5 from complications of bladder cancer. She was 88. A prominent UCI scholar of German literature and culture, Kluger was widely celebrated for her 1992 autobiography, weiter leben: Eine Jugend, which explores in her distinctive voice and with occasional bitter irony her experiences during – and later reflections on – the Holocaust. A powerful account of survival, it has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Kluger herself did the English translation, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, an updated and revised version for American readers that appeared in 2001. She was born in Vienna in 1931 and was only 6 years old in March 1938, when the Nazis marched in to annex Austria. Her father fled the city in 1940, and Kluger and her mother were deported in September 1942 to Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia. After 19 months,
they were transported to Poland’s Auschwitz, where they contrived to be selected for a work detail that saved their lives. On a forced march from the work camp, with the end of the war imminent, they ran away and mingled with the refugee German population. Both emigrated to the United States in 1947. Kluger studied first at Hunter College and ultimately earned a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. After several academic appointments, she came to UCI in 1976. After a professorship at Princeton University from 1980 to 1986, she returned to UCI, where she remained until her retirement in 1994.
William J. Lillyman, professor emeritus of German A former dean of humanities and executive vice chancellor, William J. Lillyman died on Nov. 6. He was 83. Born in Australia, Lillyman earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Sydney and a Ph.D. at Stanford University. A member of the Anteater community for close to 50 years, he was recruited to UCI as chair of the Department of German in 1972 after stints at Stanford and UC Santa Cruz. Lillyman served as dean of the School of Humanities from 1973 to 1981, vice chancellor for academic affairs from 1981 to 1982, and executive vice chancellor from 1982 to 1988, after which he returned to the faculty. He was brought back by Chancellor Ralph Cicerone for another term as executive vice chancellor and provost from 1998 to 2000. Among his major accomplishments, Lillyman established the East Asian studies program (now a department) and the atmospheric chemistry laboratory (under future Nobel laureate F. Sherwood Rowland); oversaw the growth of the student body by 60 percent; developed the concept of the UC Humanities Research Center and fought for it to be located at UCI; and furthered the university’s burgeoning reputation for inclusive excellence by recommending the appointment of its first Black vice chancellor, first female dean and first Chicano dean. An internationally recognized authority on Goethe, Lillyman was also known for his popular courses and lectures on fairy tales. In 2000, he was awarded the UCI Medal, the campus’s highest honor.
Salvatore R. Maddi, professor emeritus of psychological science Salvatore R. Maddi, an authority on hardiness, died of cancer Nov. 29. He was 87. Maddi’s pioneering research changed the perception of stress from an evil to be avoided to an intrinsic part of life that can be beneficial when treated as a challenge. He identified key attitudes of those who handle stress well – control, commitment and challenge. Maddi coined the term “hardiness” to describe these personal strengths, and he argued that people can develop these skills over time. His training methods have been applied to groups including students, firefighters, police officers, military personnel and corporate executives. The Hardiness Institute, which he founded, evolved from a landmark study by Maddi and his team of researchers at the University of Chicago; it involved 400 employees at Illinois Bell Telephone Co. before, during and after its divestiture. Maddi, the child of immigrants, was born in 1933. Raised in New York, he earned a B.A. and an M.A. in psychology at Brooklyn College in the mid-1950s and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Harvard University in 1959. Maddi taught and conducted research at the University of Chicago from 1959 to 1986, when he joined the faculty at UCI as director of what was then the Program in Social Ecology; it became a school in 1992. He retired in 2015.
decomposition of CFCs would act as an ongoing catalyst for the destruction of ozone. The pair, along with Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen, were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work, and the citation accompanying the award – UCI’s first Nobel Prize – stated that they “may well have saved the world.” Rowland and Molina published their findings in 1974 and also made a concerted effort to announce them outside the scientific community, informing policymakers and the news media. As a result, laws were established to protect the ozone layer by regulating the use of CFCs. Molina held research and teaching posts at UCI, Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 2004, when he joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego and the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Proud of his heritage, he opened the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment in Mexico City in 2005, serving as its first director, and belonged to the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. Among his many honors, Molina was a member of the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under President Obama and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. “Through his pioneering scholarship, Dr. Molina played a large role in UCI’s development as a world leader in earth sciences and atmospheric chemistry,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “The world has lost a brilliant scientist, but his legacy is still strongly present in our community.”
..................................................... Mario J. Molina, Nobel laureate Mario J. Molina, whose research helped sound the alarm on the damaging effects of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, on the ozone layer and who shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995, died Oct. 7 of a heart attack in Mexico City. He was 77. Molina, a native of Mexico, earned a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 1972, then joined mentor F. Sherwood Rowland’s laboratory in UCI’s chemistry department as a postdoctoral scholar, studying what happened to CFCs – apparently harmless gases that were widely used in refrigerants, aerosol sprays and the making of plastic foam – when they rose into the upper atmosphere and decomposed. Together, Rowland and Molina developed the CFC ozone depletion theory, predicting that chlorine atoms produced by the
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Meals on Wheels A “Zot Bot” loaded with edibles travels on a contactless journey to a student who ordered the munchies via an app. In October, these independent mobile robots, driven by machine learning and licensed from Starship Technologies, began delivering food and beverages from select campus restaurants and coffee shops to about 7,000 students partially sequestered in UCI housing units because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Steve Zylius / UCI
A LASTING BRILLIANT FUTURE. CREATED BY ANTEATERS LIKE YOU. Longtime avionics engineer Bob Altman ’79 spent years stepping out of his comfort zone to pioneer new ideas and projects. Now, he and his wife Michelle have committed to a $250,000 estate gift to support experiential learning opportunities for UCI students for years to come. See how you can create a brilliant future at uci.edu/brilliant.
“We may not be giving millions of dollars, but our contributions so far and our planned gift will still allow us to influence the educational arc of students.” – Bob Altman ’79