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As one of the nation’s premier public research universities and Orange County’s only academic health system, we stop at nothing to improve lives through groundbreaking research, academic achievement, thoughtful public service, exceptional patient care and cutting-edge treatments.

Learn about the impact we are making in our communities, our region and the world as we build a brighter tomorrow, for everyone.

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Stop at Nothing to Never Lose Sight of What Matters

Extending the boundaries of vision science, to the peak of medical recognition

Extending the boundaries of vision science, to the peak of medical recognition

UCI professor Krzysztof Palczewski has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Palczewski came to UCI from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to establish the Center for Translational Vision Research at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. Part of the UCI School of Medicine, the center is devoted to translating scientific discoveries into clinical treatments. As his election to NAM testifies, the leading edge of vision science lies squarely in Irvine.

Over his illustrious career, UCI professor of physiology & biophysics Krzysztof Palczewski has received six international awards, gained 29 patents and authored works cited over 46,000 times. Now there’s one more recognition to add to his extensive list, membership in the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). It’s a well-earned honor for a world-class vision scientist and recognition of his 30-year endeavor to uncover the causes of degenerative eye disease.

“I feel deeply honored…This distinction further encourages us to give our very best to developing therapeutics against blinding diseases,”
Dr. Krzysztof Palczewski, member, National Academy of Medicine

NAM was founded in 1970 under the congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences. Its mandate is to provide objective, science-based recommendations on critical issues affecting the US and the world. Dr. Palczewski is one of 100 global inductees, selected for their outstanding professional achievements and commitment to public service. His election makes UCI home to 42 collective members of the national academies.

Applying his expertise in chemistry and pharmacology, Dr. Palczewski and his team are forging a path toward new therapies for age-related macular and retinal degeneration. By uncovering the properties of light-receptor proteins, they’re facilitating treatment of eye disease at the molecular level. Their work is particularly relevant to California where the number of residents aged 65 and over is expected to double over next two decades.

“UCI is poised to lead cutting-edge research and deliver innovative treatments for the millions robbed of their sight,”
Baruch D. Kupperman, chair of ophthalmology.
Give to UCI: School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology
About the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

About the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

UC Irvine's Gavin Herbert Eye Institute and Department of Ophthalmology, our faculty of internationally recognized physicians, surgeons and scientists provide highly specialized training to future ophthalmologists, access to leading-edge clinical trials as well as sight-saving treatments and therapies for virtually any eye disorder.

Eye surgeons, stem cell researchers, geneticists, infectious disease specialists and engineers are working on technologies and treatments for macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, corneal disease and cataracts as well as a vaccine to prevent eye and genital herpes infections. These efforts have vaulted UC Irvine School of Medicine into the top echelons of U.S. institutions receiving National Institutes of Health grants for vision research.

It is part of the institute's academic mission to work collaboratively with the eye-care industry in Orange County, which has highest concentration of technology and pharmaceutical companies devoted to vision care. Our goal is to spark innovation and continue to revolutionize patient care.

The range and depth of clinical and scientific expertise among faculty members, many of whom regularly appear on the list of the nation's "Best Doctors," enable the institute to offer the most advanced training and treatment in the following areas:

  • Cataract, corneal surgery/external disease and refractive surgery
  • Comprehensive ophthalmology and ocular pathology
  • Corneal and retinal disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Laser treatment and research
  • Molecular immunology and virology
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Oculofacial plastics and orbital surgery
  • Ocular oncology
  • Pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus
  • Uveitis and ocular inflammation
  • Vitreoretinal surgery and retinal diseases

The institute's world-class team of ophthalmologists and researchers is dedicated to meeting the complex medical and surgical eye-care needs of residents in Orange County and the surrounding region.

Give to UCI: School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology
Leading-edge clinical trials and sight-saving treatments

Leading-edge clinical trials and sight-saving treatments

You can count on receiving the highest quality eye care at the UCI Health Gavin Herbert Eye Institute because our ophthalmologists are at the forefront of advances in treating vision problems.

  • Our team includes pioneers in the development and use of ophthalmic lasers and refractive surgery techniques. Their work has formed the foundations of LASIK surgery, the development of the blade-less IntraLase™ laser and the most advanced techniques for corneal transplants and intraocular lens implants.
  • Our team has made critical advances in treating age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over age 55. We are the only eye care center in Orange County restore vision to patients with end-stage macular degeneration with tiny telescope implants.
  • Our surgeons, stem cell researchers, geneticists, infectious disease specialists and engineers are working on technologies and treatments for diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, corneal disease and cataracts, as well as a vaccine to prevent eye and genital herpes infections.
  • We also are international leaders in glaucoma implant surgery, having developed many of the techniques and technologies used around the world today. Our team also includes specialists in neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology, oculofacial plastics and orbital surgery.
  • These efforts have vaulted the institute into the top echelons of U.S. institutions receiving National Institutes of Health grants for vision research.
Give to UCI: School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology

Give to UCI: School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology

Stop at nothing to tackle climate change

Why science needs the humanities to solve climate change

Why science needs the humanities to solve climate change

Steven D. Allison, Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine
Tyrus Miller, Dean, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine

Large wildfires in the arctic and intense heat waves in Europe are just the latest evidence that climate change is becoming the defining event of our time. Unlike other periods that came and went, such as the 1960s or the dot-com boom, an era of unchecked climate change will lead to complex and irreversible changes in Earth’s life support systems.

Many people view climate change as a scientific issue – a matter of physical, biological and technical systems. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent assessment report, for example, is a vast compendium of climate science, threats and potential solutions.

Yet modern climate change is also a human problem caused by the collective behaviors of people – mostly the wealthy – around the world. Japanese economist Yoichi Kaya summarizes this viewpoint in an elegant equation known as the Kaya Identity: Global greenhouse gas emissions are the product not just of energy use and technology, but also human population size and economic activity.

Of course, science is essential for understanding climate change, and technology is critical for solving the problem. But the IPCC report spends little more than 10 pages on climate ethics, social justice and human values. We worry that overemphasis on science may hamper the design of effective climate solutions.

In our view, solving the world’s climate problems will require tapping into brainpower beyond science. That’s why the two of us – an ecologist and a humanities dean – are teaming up to rethink climate solutions. Recently we developed a program to embed humanities graduate students in science teams, an idea that climate research centers are also exploring.

Scholars in the humanities interpret human history, literature and imagery to figure out how people make sense of their world. Humanists challenge others to consider what makes a good life, and pose uncomfortable questions – for example, “Good for whom?” and “At whose expense?”

Going beyond science, humanists can define cultural forces driving climate change, such as the fossil fuel dependence of industrialized societies.

In her book, “Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century,” literature scholar Stephanie LeMenager asserts that 20th-century culture – novels, poetry, films, photography and television – generated a mythology of “petro-utopia.” Images of gushing oil derricks implied that the American good life meant unfettered consumption of fossil fuels.

Popular culture, land use and economics reflected this ideal, particularly in California. Even as the Golden State strives to lead the nation in combating climate change, the legacy of petro-culture endures in suburban sprawl and jammed freeways.

Humanist scholars like LeMenager help to uncover the root causes of complex problems. Yes, rising carbon dioxide levels trap more heat in the atmosphere – but values matter too. Defining features of American identity, such as independence, freedom, mobility and self-reliance, have become entangled with petroleum consumption.

When thinking about climate solutions, people often picture technical fixes. The IPCC reports list many ideas for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation reduces greenhouse gas emissions through technologies like renewable energy. Adaptation, such as building sea walls, aims to manage climate change impacts. It also includes schemes to engineer Earth’s climate system – for example, releasing chemicals into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space.

In principle, scientists and engineers could deploy any of these fixes. But should they? To answer this question, society needs humanists and their “soft” technologies – intangible tools for solving problems based on nonscientific knowledge.

Cultural scholars and philosophers can inject ethical principles into policymaking. Relative to emissions reductions, expensive adaptation schemes are less likely to benefit indigenous populations, future generations and the poor – the groups that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Humanists can also help decision makers see how history and culture affect policy options. Plans to improve fuel economy will need to address the historical bond between petroleum and personal freedom. Alternatively, humanity could keep burning fossil fuels while trying to capture the emissions. Yet some societies might balk at the high costs of relatively unproven carbon capture technologies.

So far, scientific facts have not motivated Americans to support the huge societal transformations needed to stop climate change. Some reject the scientific consensus on global warming because it makes them feel bad or clashes with their personal experience of the weather.

Climate change matters more when it affects people’s homes, livelihoods and spiritual beliefs. Recent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline are an example. Opponents condemned the desecration of Native American burial sites and called out violations of historical land treaties dating back 150 years. To them, the pipeline was not just a source of greenhouse gases. It was a threat to their ideals and spirituality.

By tapping into what moves people, the emerging field of environmental humanities can help spur climate action. Scholars of history, philosophy, religious studies, literature and media are exploring many aspects of humans’ relationship with the Earth. An entire literary genre of climate fiction, or “Cli-Fi,” depicts often-apocalyptic visions of climate impacts on humanity. Social scientists have worked out how civilizations like the ancient Maya and medieval Icelanders dealt with climate shocks.

Together with scientists, environmental humanists are reforming scenarios used in climate modeling. Scenarios originated as an improvisational form of theater, and humanists are reclaiming them as a rehearsal space for the massive societal shifts required to avert dangerous climate change.

We think that stronger collaborations across the humanities and sciences are key for effective climate solutions. Still, there are hurdles to overcome. Humanists have been criticized for failing to apply their expertise to environmental problems outside academic circles. For their part, scientists need to respect humanists as scholars in the their own right, not just clever translators of hard science.

In our view, it’s time for scientists, engineers and humanists to break down these barriers and appreciate the human element of global climate change.

Give to UCI: Campus, The UCI Fund
Research Team Fights Back Against 11 Billion Pieces of Deadly Ocean Plastic

Research Team Fights Back Against 11 Billion Pieces of Deadly Ocean Plastic

Underwater exploration is more like dumpster diving with the staggering amount of debris scattered among colorful creatures and plants.

What do diapers, Barbie dolls, tires and tea bags have in common? They're among the 11 billion pieces of plastic waste littering coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific, a number anticipated to reach 17 billion by 2025.

Some debris can surprisingly wreak more havoc than those currently in the pollution spotlight. Take plastic straws: They've swept international news headlines, but discarded fishing lines and nets can be even more damaging after becoming entangled with coral.

It's all part of the in-depth research conducted by Joleah Lamb, a UCI assistant professor of ecology and biology. She was the first to link ocean disease to deadly bacteria, which hitchhike aboard plastic debris and attach to coral reefs.

The numbers are staggering: Corals in contact with plastic are 20 times more susceptible to disease. This is a critical threat to the environment and human health, as the introduction of plastic breeds bacteria in coral reefs linked to diseases like dysentery and cholera.

Lamb's underwater survey does more than just put numbers on a chart. It’s allowed UCI researchers to push boundaries and find novel solutions to combat the looming threat of this deadly duo. Follow Lamb’s tour of international waters and learn about progress made to save coral reefs from plastics and bacteria:

In Indonesia, Lamb's team found that seagrass has antimicrobial properties that can serve as a first line of defense. It not only traps debris, but also disinfects plastic waste. As a result, pharmaceutical companies are looking into seagrass as an antimicrobial agent.

Explosives and plastic bottles in Myanmar are threatening protected coral reefs. Lamb’s lab group set up underwater listening devices to track illegal dynamite fishing, recording an average of 80 blasts a day.

Stateside, they planted cages of mussels in 50 spots around Seattle's Puget Sound. The study will help determine if eelgrass — a species of seagrass — will protect mollusks from plastic litter pathogens.

Here in Southern California, an ongoing study of our coast and rivers will reveal how much microplastic ends up in wastewater.

"The main focus of the lab is to look at how global ocean health and human health are related,” Lamb says, “and to identify ways that marine ecosystems naturally reduce waterborne disease outbreaks.”

Give to UCI: Campus, The UCI Fund
Fighting Fires with Artificial Intelligence

Fighting Fires with Artificial Intelligence

Shane Coffield and a team of UCI Scientists have developed a way to predict the final size of wildfires using machine learning.

UCI is home to a new kind of firefighting squad. But rather than a hose or pickaxe, their tool of choice is an advanced algorithm. A team of university scientists have successfully applied the emerging field of machine learning to predict which wildfires pose the greatest threat to people, wildlife and property. Their work is especially vital for California where fires have caused massive destruction with greater frequency.

“Consider what makes something go viral on social media, what properties of a tweet or post make it blow up – and how you might predict that at the moment it’s posted.” Shane Coffield, UCI doctoral student

Identifying and weighing key data points at an event’s beginning to project its final outcome, is the idea behind the team’s application of artificial intelligence to fire prediction. Their algorithm analyzes factors on climate conditions and vegetation at a fire’s starting point to predict its final size, with a current success rate of 50 percent.

It’s possible for people to run such calculations manually. However, as the project’s lead author Shane Coffield states, their machine-learning system is “really much faster and more efficient, especially for considering multiple fires simultaneously.”

Better predictive data can be invaluable in helping increasingly overtaxed firefighting authorities allocate their scarce resources, especially in the case of multiple, concurrent fire outbreaks. “Only a few are going to get really big and account for most of the burned area. We’re focused on identifying specific ignitions that pose the greatest risk of getting out of control,” says Coffield.

The team used Alaska as a study area for its rash of concurrent fires. However, cluster outbreaks are also afflicting The Golden State with greater frequency, a tragic effect of the Earth’s changing climate. Seven of the state’s ten most-destructive fires have occurred in the past decade. “Camp Fire” in 2018 was California’s most-devastating wildfire by far, killing 86, burning over 150,000 acres and devastating countless wildlife species.

As fires, including cluster outbreaks, occur with increasing frequency, the innovation of the UCI team could be an important aid in promoting community safety. Here’s to their efforts, and to more-effective firefighting through math and science.

Give to UCI: Campus, The UCI Fund
Can socioeconomic factors play a role in how populations manage the effects of coastal flooding?

Can socioeconomic factors play a role in how populations manage the effects of coastal flooding?

When it comes addressing climate change perhaps of the biggest challenges is showing how this environmental concern impacts our daily lives right here in California. Thanks to the research efforts of the University of California Irvine and three other UC campuses, a more accurate picture of climate change, and in particular coastal flooding, will soon be available.

Launched with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Coastlines & People initiative, the UCI-led effort will employ advanced simulation systems to deepen the understanding of increasing flood risks within the state’s two most at risk areas- Greater Los Angeles and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

To frame how climate change is increasing the risk of coastal flooding, Brett Sanders, UCI Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, recently commented on what is quickly becoming a serious threat to the socioeconomic balance of our state. “Coastal flooding poses major challenges worldwide that are worsening with climate change and the continued expansion of coastal cities. Over just the past few years, the U.S. has suffered hundreds of billions of dollars in losses from flooding disasters linked to hurricanes and intense rainfall, and both the delta and L.A. metro regions are vulnerable to flooding disasters.”

In the early stages of the project, Sanders and other scientists at UCI’s Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation will combine fine-resolution computer simulations with exposure data to assess the likely range of effects coastal flooding will have on populations and infrastructure. Researchers from UCI, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC San Diego will then use that information to gauge how flooding impacts will be distributed across social strata, and what the implications would be for governance within and across impacted communities.

Give to UCI: Campus, The UCI Fund

Give to UCI: Campus, The UCI Fund

At UCI, we stop at nothing to deliver the extraordinary

With world-changing research and innovative approaches, we’re redefining what’s possible across science, healthcare, academics, and the arts. We’re propelling students toward their dreams and elevating entire communities. We’re solving humanity’s greatest challenges while exploring what makes us human.

In our ongoing commitment to give the world a Brilliant Future, the University of California, Irvine has launched the largest philanthropic and alumni engagement endeavor in the history of Orange County—a campaign to raise $2 billion.

With your generous support, together we’ll create a brighter tomorrow for our students, for our community, for the world.

Learn more about our campaign priorities and join us on this journey.


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