Engineering the Future at UCI
While that civic/academic connection includes the arts and many other areas, it’s hard to argue that the technology, engineering and computing are the most impactful disciplines.
UCI’s Invention Transfer group fosters faculty/industry alliances, taking UCI technology to the public. More than 100 companies have been founded to commercialize innovations that grew out of research at UCI, many of them based in Irvine. There are 950 inventions in the UCI intellectual property portfolio, with more than 400 active U.S. patents, and 143 active license or option agreements.
Research and innovation at UCI will most likely accelerate once the new Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building, a $120 million project that broke ground last month, is completed in 2020.
The center is designed to foster collaborative research in engineering, physical sciences and computing, with a focus on addressing complex global issues that include biomedicine for human health, energy use and the environment.
Slated to be one of the largest interdisciplinary research buildings west of the Rocky Mountains, it will bring together faculty, students and staff from the university’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, School of Physical Sciences and Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences.
“The overarching vision with this exciting facility is to provide spaces that foster the convergent integration of knowledge, tools, techniques and, most importantly, modes of thinking from faculty, students and staff across these disciplines,” said Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor of research at UCI. “Co-locating faculty and students from three schools in the same building is a major next step as we build on our rich tradition of interdisciplinary research.”
The new addition to the campus was made possible by a $30 million gift from the Samueli Foundation, along with $50 million in state funds and $40 million in UCI funds.
According to UCI officials, potential projects could include developing chemical and material sensors to better diagnose and treat cancers; using big data, environmental engineering and organic chemistry to improve water supply or solar energy; testing driverless vehicles; and having cybersecurity coders and mathematicians collaborate on military or medical challenges.
UCI’s commitment to bringing more students into engineering, especially low-income candidates was strengthened when the university was granted $5 million from the National Science Foundation in July. The grant will provide scholarships to some 200 community college transfers to attend UCI and study advanced manufacturing.
“I am delighted that the National Science Foundation is recognizing UCI’s innovative efforts to support transfer engineering students,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman.“With this important grant, 190 talented young engineers will be able to achieve their dreams of a world-class education in advanced manufacturing.”
Each participating undergraduate will receive up to $10,000 annually over five years. In addition, researchers from UCI’s School of Education will try to identify the factors that lead low-income community college students to pursue engineering degrees.
UCI professor Lorenzo Valdevit, who will lead the program, says that the UC Irvine Pathways to Engineering Collaborative will benefit U.S. employers as well. “In today’s global economy, it’s crucial to expand and diversify America’s manufacturing workforce,” he said, “and this program will help accomplish that goal.”