IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

UC Irvine Gets $50M for Three New Engineering Institutes

A gift from Henry and Susan Samueli will allow the University of California, Irvine's School of Engineering to form new multidisciplinary research institutes focused on public health, society and the environment.

(TNS) — With a $50-million gift from the couple that UC Irvine's engineering school was named for, three new multidisciplinary research institutes will be established under its roof to better foster collaboration across engineering and three other sectors: public health, society and the environment.

These institutes will run under the banner of Engineering+ and will be within the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, according to a news release issued by the university on Monday.

"Universities all across the world say that 'We care about being multidisciplinary,' but a lot of universities don't have the infrastructure in place to truly do it right. This gift allows us to do is really pull people together in a deeply meaningful way to go after big questions that matter both locally and globally," said Magnus Egerstedt, the Stacey Nicholas dean of engineering.

Egerstedt said Engineering+ at UCI will be "a model for universities worldwide on how this can be structured." He said he expects more federally sponsored research will be undertaken as a result of the establishment of the local institutes, and the combined efforts could bring real world solutions to issues like coastal erosion and the potential disruptive forces of artificial intelligence.

What this will look like in the department won't mean new buildings or infrastructure changes on campus, Egerstedt said. It is a reorganization of what already exists to facilitate multidisciplinary research.

"We are going to move people around to get researchers together, but I've started saying that we should not right now try to get better by getting bigger. We should get better by getting better," Egerstedt said.

Egerstedt said he spent a little more than 20 years at Georgia Tech, which was founded in 1885, before he moved to UC Irvine, which he joked was more of a "teenager" by comparison.

"It's only 60 years old, which mean it's not set in its ways. I was looking for a place ... where new structures could emerge. To me, it was absolutely clear. I interviewed on [the premise that] engineers need to team up with medical researchers, public policy, humanities, the arts, the hard sciences, because only there are we able to get to these solutions. In my mind, I always go back to health, environment and how do we structure our societies?" Egerstedt said.

Egerstedt said he talked with Henry Samueli about the establishment of Engineering+ as a way of how a modern university could "really do something big in a nonorthodox or nontraditional way " and how to structure a modern research university. In the news release, the university said the Engineering+Health Institute will house research for synthetic biology, for example, while the Engineering+Society Institute might focus on how automation can enhance human experience.

Part of the gift will also be put toward establishing an Office of Inreach, focused on the well-being and academic success of undergraduate students within the department — one of Egerstedt's key initiatives.

The endowment will also fund research and teaching, workshops, speaker series and events, administrative staff and infrastructure, research grants and faculty retention, graduate student fellowships and other needs that would fall under Engineering+.

"The enduring generosity of Henry and Susan Samueli has enabled University of California Irvine researchers to seek answers to the most challenging questions and make breakthroughs that impact all our lives," said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman in a statement announcing the gift Monday. "The investments the Samuelis have made in UCI over nearly a quarter century — bridging engineering, health, interdisciplinary research and student success — have paid substantial dividends in our institution, our community and the world."

©2023 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.