Chancellor's Friday Letters

Touting Scientific Excellence

Touting Scientific Excellence

November 6, 2009


In the tradition of the University of California, academic excellence is defined in terms of research and creative scholarly activity, the teaching and learning environment, and engagement of community through outreach.

Academic excellence is the basis of UCR’s contribution to the future needs of the nation, state and local communities, and also the basis of deserving support from these communities.

Academic excellence entails aiming high and not being satisfied with a level of quality any less than that of the best programs anywhere, and it requires investment and risk taking in order to push the proverbial envelope to advance society.

This past Tuesday the science symposium held in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Ray Orbach was a wonderful example of how this approach pays dividends.

The symposium consisted of presentations by five distinguished faculty members speaking about prominent research centers, each brought about because of an investment in faculty and facilities. Each speaker discussed how the nexus of forward-leaning ideas, investment of resources, faculty expertise and passion, and engagement of creative and ambitious undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs created new knowledge and further opportunity.

Under founding director Norm Ellstrand and later director Mike Allen, the Center for Conservation Biology took an initial 5-year investment of $277 thousand and leveraged it into nearly $6.3 million in direct and indirect research expenditures over 6 years! The public good that has resulted from this research is profound: habitat conservation plans, the study of species response to global climate change, and new ways of designing transportation corridors.

Professor Robert Haddon was recruited to head up UCR’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Under Haddon’s leadership, the Center invested in six faculty positions and built a state-of-the art cleanroom, generated $60 million in research support, and developed new technologies in spintronics, supercomputing, and electronics that will affect the way that science and engineering are practiced, and will vastly improve our quality of life by bringing about revolutionary advances in electronics, computing, communications, engineering materials and medicine.

Professor Natasha Raikhel developed a core facility for the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology – a facility that would knock down traditional walls among researchers. Faculty grants rose from $10.5 million in 2001-03 to $49.2 million in 2005-07, after the core facility was in place. And as of this fall, the campus has a new Genomics Building – a beautiful edifice for cutting edge research, with innovative laboratory design.

UCR entomologists, among them Joe Morse and Tim Paine, turned a public outcry about a 1994 medfly invasion into the Center for Invasive Species Research, which has since allocated $10.4 million in funding to 103 research projects on exotic pests and diseases that threaten our agricultural, natural, and urban environments, saving the state billions of dollars in devastation caused by invasive species.

Professor Joe Norbeck started the Center for Environmental Research and Technology with one faculty member (himself) and no facilities other than dirt! Today the center is directed by Matt Barth and has 65 graduate and undergraduate students, 35 patents, specialized laboratories, collaborations in 20 countries, and more than $150 million in contracts, grants, and gifts. Its work has enormous implications worldwide: emissions and fuels, transportation systems, environmental modeling, and sustainable energy research. And just yesterday, we engaged in a ribbon-cutting ceremony establishing, in partnership with the City of Riverside, the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy.

At the time these upfront investments seemed like a stretch, yet their impact has been profound. It is like the TV commercial: cost of professor – $XX; developing new knowledge and technology while educating our students – priceless.

Best wishes,


Tim White


Our campus will be the center of the mathematics universe this weekend as the American Mathematical Society gathers for a meeting of more than 350 number-crunching scholars. Good luck to the math department in hosting the meeting, and especially to organizer Professor Michel L. Lapidus. http://mathdept.ucr.edu/calendar_new.html

The UC Office of the President launched an effort to raise the profile of scholarship fundraising, with the goal of raising $1 billion over four years across the UC system for students who have worked hard to qualify for university. http://youcan.universityofcalifornia.edu

Stop by UCR/CMP’s Oculorium Auditorium at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7 for “Howe Now,” a conversation between photographer Graham Howe and exhibition curator Colin Westerbeck.

Wondering what else is going on at UCR? It’s all listed at www.happenings.ucr.edu

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

Department Information

Office of the Chancellor
4108 Hinderaker Hall

Tel: (951) 827-5201
Fax: (951) 827-3866

E-mail: chancellor@ucr.edu