School of Physical Sciences

School of Physical Sciences

Home to two of UC Irvine’s Nobel Laureates, the School of Physical Sciences offers educational and research opportunities for tomorrow’s scientific work forces through the departments of Chemistry, Earth System Science, Mathematics, and Physics & Astronomy.

The school gained international prominence in 1995 when professors F. Sherwood Rowland (chemistry) and Frederick Reines (physics) each received the Nobel Prize, making UCI the first public university with faculty receiving Nobel prizes in two different fields in the same year. Research in the school also rates among the nation’s finest in atmospheric chemistry, organic chemistry, geoscience and elementary particle physics. Its researchers play leadership roles in large international particle physics projects, United Nations environmental surveys and in providing the scientific information that assists in the drafting of international treaties.

With nearly 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students, the school is one of the nation’s largest producers of bachelor’s degree-level graduates, ranking fifth nationally in chemistry and 11th in physics. Doctoral degrees also are granted from all four departments.

State-of-the-art multidisciplinary research takes place at the Institute for Surface and Interface Science, the Chemical and Material Physics Program, the Program in Protein Engineering, the Program in Polymer and Material Chemistry, the Center for Interdisciplinary Synthesis and the Center for Global Environmental Change Research. The school also features specialized research facilities for molecular modeling, X-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry, NMR research, pulsed power plasma fusion reactor research and advanced cryogenics. Physical science faculty regularly use internationally known facilities such as the Keck Telescope; Super-Kamiokande (Japan) and AMANDA (Antarctica) neutrino detectors; Fermilab, Los Alamos and Brookhaven National Laboratories; the Chandra Observatory; and the Jet Propulsion Lab.


  • Elected members of the National Academy of Sciences include: Larry E. Overman, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry; Peter M. Rentzepis, professor of chemistry and UC Presidential Chair; Donald Saari, professor of mathematics; Zachary Fisk, professor of physics; Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, professor of chemistry; and Susan Trumbore, professor of Earth system science.
  • Elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences include: Igor Dzyaloshinskii; Larry E. Overman; Donald Saari; Barbara Finlayson-Pitts; and Peter Wai-Kwong Li.
  • Organic chemistry ranks 11th in U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings.
  • The Institute for Scientific Information ranks Earth system science third, chemistry sixth, and physics & astronomy 10th among U.S. public universities for scientific influence in their fields. In 1998, the institute cited UCI as the university with the greatest impact on geoscience research. It also ranked UCI in its “Top 10 Influential Schools of Chemistry,” based on citation impact of papers published.
  • John V. Croul Hall, home of the top-ranked Department of Earth System Science, houses the W. M. Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility, the first of its kind in the United States dedicated exclusively to research on the environmental processes that contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming.