UCI’s impact on Irvine...and the world
That’s how one of many hyperbolic headlines summarized a decades-long UCI research project.
Called the 90+ Study, it has tracked the self-reported habits of Laguna Woods residents since 1981. The ongoing study has revealed that nonagenarians who toasted their health with two drinks daily were 18 percent less likely to experience a premature death than those who abstained. Those who took exercises every day (between 15 and 45 minutes) had an 11 percent lower risk and drinking two cups of coffee gave a 10 percent lower risk.
“If in 1981 you were using alcohol, compared to people your same age who weren’t using alcohol, you lived longer,” Dr. Claudia Kawas, a UCI professor of neurology and neurobiology, said at an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in February. “I have no explanation for it,” Dr. Kawas said, “but I do firmly believe that modest drinking is associated with longevity.”
Even if many digital scribes mischaracterized the results, perhaps failing to appreciate distinctions between causation and correlation, the research itself is fascinating. Who doesn’t want to live to 90 while enjoying a glass of good wine and 15 minutes of exercise a day?
But what’s also is intriguing is how UCI’s scientists continue to do work that impacts our world in ways large and small, whether that research results in a flurry of media coverage or not. And as UCI’s faculty, students and staff strive to impact and improve the world, they make the city of Irvine a better place to live, learn and work in the process.
Need another example? How’s this: do you like going outside for more than five minutes without burning your skin? If it wasn’t for the groundbreaking—and ozone layer saving—research of Nobel Prize-winning UCI scientist F. Sherwood Rowland, that’s what we might soon be experiencing.
Hired to run UCI’s chemistry department, Rowland and a colleague discovered in 1973 that a chemical used in hair spray, aerosol deodorants and kitchen refrigerators was slowly destroying Earth’s ozone layer. Ozone is Earth’s natural sunscreen, absorbing most of the incoming UV radiation from the sun and protecting life from DNA-damaging and cancer-causing radiation. Thanks in large part to tireless advocacy by Rowland, the chemicals were banned in 1987.
When Rowland was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry 21 years later, the award committee said that he may have “saved the world from catastrophe.” The American Chemical Society, the nation’s largest professional society for chemists, said Rowland’s discovery was one of the 10 most-significant advances in chemistry of the 20th century.
Today, UCI is one of the leading research universities in the world. There’s no telling when the next world-changing technology or world-saving discovery will emerge from the Irvine campus, or what it will be. But we believe those breakthroughs will come.
The stated goal of UCI’s Gavin Herbert Eye Institute is simple: ending human blindness. The $39-million center opened 2013 as the first building on the UCI campus to be funded entirely with local corporate, foundation and individual gifts. It’s a symbol of Orange County being known as the Silicon Valley of vision, drawing scientists, foundations and technology companies here, all fighting to beat blindness.
If UCI helps cure blindness, it may be because of stem cell research. The school is an international leader in stem cell treatments for cancer, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, ALS, MS, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and spinal cord injury.
UCI is home to the Advanced Power and Energy Program working on the development and deployment of efficient, environmentally sensitive, sustainable power generation and energy conversion worldwide.
Environmental research at UCI addresses challenges of climate change that affect the globe, including issues of water scarcity that affect us in California.
The importance of having UCI in the city of Irvine cannot be overstated, nor can the relationship the university has to the economic growth and vitality of the region. Some 100 startups utilizing 1,000 inventions and 600 U.S. patents have been born and/or incubated at UCI, with many of the companies establishing their first offices in Irvine. Other companies not born out of UCI, such as Broadcom, have strong relationships with the university.
“Whether we pass on to the future the structure of a protein, stunning new works of art, the next version of the Internet, or a deeper understanding of the world’s religions, universities are where the best that has been thought, written, or discovered flourishes,” wrote Robert M. Berdahl, former president of the Association of American Universities. When UCI was invited to join the prestigious group in 1996, it was the youngest university ever to become a member.
For many Irvine residents, education is the prime factor that drew us to the city. Jobs, safety, good neighborhoods and a vibrant economy are other reasons, to be sure. But education, whether to study for an advanced UCI degree or to put kids in an IUSD kindergarten class, remains a beacon that guides families and individuals to Irvine from around the world.