Black History Month - Supporting VIP Scholars

#BlackHistoryMonth: Supporting VIP Scholars

Dominic Thomas, UCLA’s Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies | UCLA

Dominic Thomas wins international Gutenberg Research Chair honor

Dominic Thomas, UCLA’s Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies | UCLA

Dominic Thomas, UCLA’s Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies | UCLA


Jonathan Riggs | January 23, 2023

Last November, Dominic Thomas, Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies in the UCLA Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, won the Gutenberg Research Chair. As part of his prize, he will serve as lead investigator on a project, “Ecology and Propaganda.”

“This honor is a testament to the remarkable timeliness, power and scope of Dominic Thomas’ work,” said Alexandra Minna Stern, dean of the UCLA Division of Humanities. “We are proud to have him representing our division, university and field on a global scale as he innovates new approaches to critically studying pressing environmental and ecological questions.”

Awarded to exceptional internationally renowned researchers, Gutenberg Chairs serve to spark scientific studies in the Alsace region of France. They are funded by the Greater East Region of France and Eurometropolis of Strasbourg at the recommendation of the Gutenberg Circle, which includes all of the Circle’s active members: the Institut de France, Collège de France, Institut Universitaire de France and an international, multidisciplinary jury of researchers.

“The Chairs were inaugurated in 2007 and have been awarded primarily to scientists, including some 28 Nobel laureates,” said Thomas. “It is an honor to have been selected, but the fact that the selection committee has chosen to support a humanities project is therefore especially satisfying and, I believe, also indicative of the visionary qualities of the selection committee.”

With his interest in propaganda dating back to graduate school — not to mention it being the subject of both his first as well as his most recent books — Thomas will explore the paradox of how new technologies have simultaneously enhanced and undermined democratization. A transdisciplinary research project that investigates the legacies of colonialism on the environment, “Ecology and Propaganda” will be organized around five pillars (historical, intercultural, ethical, aesthetic and media/linguistic perspectives) and will correspond directly to priorities outlined by Sylvie Retailleau, the French minister for higher education.

“The transdisciplinary, transcultural scope of the project is indicative of a paradigm shift happening in the humanities,” said Todd Presner, chair of the department of European languages and transcultural studies. “UCLA is an engine of innovation for new, experimental humanities fields such as the environmental humanities.”

On the UCLA faculty since 2000, Thomas also created the UCLA Summer Paris Global Studies program, which he directed for 11 years, and will draw inspiration for his project from across UCLA’s global research leadership on ecology and the environment — and from an unwavering commitment to his field.

“The humanities have, arguably, perhaps never been so crucially important; they are relevant to all contemporary cultural, economic, political and social debates. In the face of assaults on democratic principles, the humanities help us improve intercultural understanding and encourage inclusivity,” said Thomas. “Ultimately, humanities provide the space in which to study the past, but also to delineate the contours of the future.”


This article originally appeared at the UCLA Division of Humanities website.

Sarah Haley

Sarah Haley receives Marguerite Casey Foundation Freedom Scholars Award

Sarah Haley

Sarah Haley | UCLA

UCLA Newsroom | January 24, 2023

Sarah Haley, an associate professor of gender studies and African American studies in the UCLA College, has received the Marguerite Casey Foundation Freedom Scholars Award.

Each Freedom Scholar receives a one-time $250,000 award, which has no restrictions. The awards are designed to provide greater freedom to scholars, supporting them to advance their work however they see fit. They were launched in 2020 to spotlight commitment to scholarship benefitting movements led by Black and Indigenous people, migrants, queer people, poor people and people of color.

Haley’s expertise focuses on Black feminism, U.S. women’s and gender history, African American history from 1865 to the present, carceral studies, and labor and working-class studies.


This article originally appeared at UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Image Source: Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

Sustainable LA Grand Challenge receives $543,000 commitment for student programming, equitable clean water research

Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program


Jonathan Van Dyke | February 03, 2023

The UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge has received a commitment of $542,986 from wellness company Liquid I.V. that will help fund innovative solutions to expand access to clean and abundant water for communities in need, and create the next-generation of climate and sustainability advocates.

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is an interdisciplinary university-wide initiative aimed at applying UCLA research, expertise and education to help transform Los Angeles into the world’s most sustainable megacity by 2050 — making it the most livable, equitable, resilient, clean and healthy megacity, and an example for the world.

Liquid I.V., a Los Angeles-based company that produces non-GMO electrolyte drink mixes, is committed to giving back to the community and has invested in three facets of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge:

• The Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, providing much needed support to ensure all students interested in sustainability — regardless of major or experience — have an opportunity to contribute to sustainability solutions. Water access topics will be tackled through classroom speakers, faculty-mentored research and collaborative group projects with the Los Angeles community.

• A Liquid I.V. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Graduate Fellow, who will work with a faculty member and an external partner within the Los Angeles region to focus on water security, access to clean water and other water justice issues.

• Two years of faculty research on a personal hydration product that could take polluted water from any source and produce a safe, drinkable output.

“We are very excited about this new partnership with Liquid I.V. and grateful for its visionary gift to the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge,” said Eric Hoek, faculty director of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge. “Liquid I.V.’s philanthropic support will not only have an immense impact on opportunities for students to receive unique educational experiences but will also have an immediate impact in the Los Angeles region and beyond through student and faculty research that is focused on sustainable and equitable water solutions.”

The investment is part of a $1.3 million commitment by Liquid I.V. that also includes MAP International and International Rescue Committee, as part of the goal of evolving its impact programming and expanding water access beyond a one-to-one product donation model to focus more holistically on expanding water security.

“Here at Liquid I.V., we’re committed to expanding equitable access to clean and abundant water,” said Jayce Newton ‘02, director of impact at Liquid I.V. “There are many ways to do this, and through our partnership with UCLA we are investing in the next generation of leaders in the water security space.”

The gift is truly transformational for the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, Hoek said, and is more important than ever with an increase in natural and humanitarian disasters throughout the globe leading to more water quality and access issues.

The partnership is not only meaningful to Liquid I.V. as a whole, but particularly to Newton, who is a UCLA graduate. “Our collective water future is very challenging, and we are in desperate need of thinkers and doers who are not bound by current trends or conventional wisdom,” he added. “As a Bruin myself, I know those vibrant contrarians can be found in Westwood, and our team jumped at the chance to invest in their visions.”

Image Source: Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program


This article was originally published on the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge website.

Sustainable LA Grand Challenge receives $543,000 commitment for clean water research

Water glass on a table

The funds will, in part, support faculty research on producing potable water from polluted sources. | Thomas Kinto/Unsplash

Jonathan Van Dyke | February 2, 2023

UCLA has received a commitment of $543,000 from Los Angeles-based Liquid I.V. to fund undergraduate research, a graduate fellowship and faculty research through UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is an interdisciplinary university-wide initiative aimed at applying UCLA research, expertise and education to help transform Los Angeles into the world’s most sustainable megacity by 2050.

The gift from Liquid I.V., a manufacturer of electrolyte drink mixes, will help support students in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, creating opportunities for students, regardless of their academic major, to contribute to research on sustainability; an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Graduate Fellow, who will work with a faculty member and an external partner to focus on water security, clean water access and other water justice issues; and two years of faculty research on a method for producing safe, drinkable water from polluted water.


This article originally appeared at UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Picture of a hand gently holding a baby’s fingers.

New UCLA center promotes reproductive science and sexual health

Picture of a hand gently holding a baby’s fingers.

Aditya Romansa/Unsplash


Holly Ober | January 30, 2023

A new center at UCLA will bring together students, scientists, educators and physicians across a wide range of disciplines to support research and education initiatives designed to improve human reproductive health, promote healthy families and to advance the well-being of society.

The UCLA Center for Reproductive Science Health and Education aims to fill a void in reproductive health knowledge while developing new technologies to improve reproductive health for all. The center’s inaugural director is Amander Clark, a UCLA professor, stem cell biologist and an expert in the field of reproductive sciences.

While reproductive health is often associated with issues of reproduction, infertility and contraception, it also includes healthy human development as well as the study and treatment of menopause and cancers related to reproductive organs. However, individuals and policymakers alike often make decisions around reproductive health that are not based on science.

“In the past several years, far too little of the dialogue and decision-making around sexual and reproductive health has been based in scientific research,” said Tracy Johnson, dean of the UCLA Division of Life Sciences. “Yet, science is the foundation by which health and policy professionals can make rational, informed decisions on topics that impact everyone. The time has arrived for an internationally recognized center for research, education and innovation in the reproductive sciences.”

Challenges in the field today include declining fertility rates, the lack of insurance coverage for infertility treatments and the need for better access to reproductive technologies for all.

• According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 2020 marked the sixth year in a row that fewer babies were born in the United States than any previous year. This is on top of a 60-year worldwide trend in declining fertility rates. In addition, there is a marked shift in the increased age of first-time parents.

• Nearly 8 million Americans of reproductive age face a diagnosis of infertility, but treatments in most U.S. states are not covered by insurance. For women over 40 who use in-vitro fertilization, the chances of having a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby are significantly reduced, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. For reasons that are not well understood, even for those under 40, sometimes IVF just doesn’t work.

• People need better and more accessible options for contraception. According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, almost 40% of women who use contraception stop in their first year because they are not satisfied with existing options.

• There’s also a need for increased access to other reproductive technologies and medical services, especially for LGBTQ and gender-diverse Americans.

Amander Clark

Amander Clark | Don Liebig

The center’s work will include research into the reproductive and endocrine systems, contraception, infertility and pregnancy — as well as the social science of reproduction and reproductive interventions.

“Once established, this will be a home for innovative science and educational programs aimed at changing the national conversation around human reproduction and infertility,” Clark said. “We will develop new therapies toward promoting healthy parents, pregnancies and families of all genders today and for future generations.”

The UCLA Center for Reproductive Science Health and Education will operate in partnership with the division of life sciences at UCLA, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Institute for Society and Genetics, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, where Clark is also a member.

The center will serve as a national and international home for training and career development of undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and clinical fellows — and create an educational pipeline to benefit the UCLA community and beyond.

Hosted by Dean of Life Sciences Tracy Johnson, the Center for Reproductive Science Health and Education’s first event, “Let’s Talk Science: Conversations About the Future of Reproductive Health,” will be held Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m. Register for the webinar.


This article originally appeared at UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Dominic Thomas

UCLA’s Dominic Thomas wins international Gutenberg Research Chair honor

Dominic Thomas

Dominic Thomas, UCLA’s Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies | UCLA


Jonathan Riggs | January 23, 2023

Last November, Dominic Thomas, Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies in the UCLA Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, won the Gutenberg Research Chair. As part of his prize, he will serve as lead investigator on a project, “Ecology and Propaganda.”

“This honor is a testament to the remarkable timeliness, power and scope of Dominic Thomas’ work,” said Alexandra Minna Stern, dean of the UCLA Division of Humanities. “We are proud to have him representing our division, university and field on a global scale as he innovates new approaches to critically studying pressing environmental and ecological questions.”

Awarded to exceptional internationally renowned researchers, Gutenberg Chairs serve to spark scientific studies in the Alsace region of France. They are funded by the Greater East Region of France and Eurometropolis of Strasbourg at the recommendation of the Gutenberg Circle, which includes all of the Circle’s active members: the Institut de France, Collège de France, Institut Universitaire de France and an international, multidisciplinary jury of researchers.

“The Chairs were inaugurated in 2007 and have been awarded primarily to scientists,” said Thomas. “It is an honor to have been selected, but the fact that the selection committee has chosen to support a humanities project is therefore especially satisfying and, I believe, also indicative of the visionary qualities of the selection committee.”

With his interest in propaganda dating back to graduate school — not to mention it being the subject of both his first as well as his most recent books — Thomas will explore the paradox of how new technologies have simultaneously enhanced and undermined democratization. A transdisciplinary research project that investigates the legacies of colonialism on the environment, “Ecology and Propaganda” will be organized around five pillars (historical, intercultural, ethical, aesthetic and media/linguistic perspectives) and will correspond directly to priorities outlined by Sylvie Retailleau, the French minister for higher education.

“The transdisciplinary, transcultural scope of the project is indicative of a paradigm shift happening in the humanities,” said Todd Presner, chair of the department of European languages and transcultural studies. “UCLA is an engine of innovation for new, experimental humanities fields such as the environmental humanities.”

On the UCLA faculty since 2000, Thomas also created the UCLA Summer Paris Global Studies program, which he directed for 11 years, and will draw inspiration for his project from across UCLA’s global research leadership on ecology and the environment — and from an unwavering commitment to his field.

“The humanities have, arguably, perhaps never been so crucially important; they are relevant to all contemporary cultural, economic, political and social debates. In the face of assaults on democratic principles, the humanities help us improve intercultural understanding and encourage inclusivity,” said Thomas. “Ultimately, humanities provide the space in which to study the past, but also to delineate the contours of the future.”


For more of Our Stories at the College, click here.

Kanon Mori, wearing a nametag, speaks into a microphone

Leading the Japan-America Innovators of Medicine

UCLA student Kanon Mori works to improve health care while bridging cultures and disciplines

Kanon Mori, wearing a nametag, speaks into a microphone

Fourth-year UCLA student Kanon Mori, an organizer of the Japan-America Innovators of Medicine, speaks during a presentation last November to medtech entrepreneurs, investors, physicians and pharmaceutical executives at Awaji Island in Japan.

Lucy Berbeo | January 12, 2023

Many students embark on their college journey with the goal of finding a true sense of purpose. Kanon Mori found hers during her first year at UCLA — and spent her time as an undergraduate bringing that purpose to fruition.

Born in Los Angeles to parents from Japan, Mori grew up bilingual and passionate about bridging Japanese and U.S. culture. Excelling in STEM and interested in medicine, she chose to major in computational and systems biology, an interdisciplinary program in the UCLA College that trains students to solve biological problems by combining the sciences, math and computing.

In classes on public health and health policy, Mori learned about inequities in the U.S. health care system and decided to help change things on a global scale. “I realized the potential technological innovations can have to shake up the entire industry,” says Mori, who is set to graduate this June. “And UCLA is the gateway into the U.S. from Japan’s perspective. With its world-class medical research and technological innovations, I knew I had to take advantage of being a student here to initiate a project.”

Mori teamed up with students from Stanford University and medical schools in Japan, including those at the University of Tokyo, Osaka University and Kyoto University. Together, with support from academic institutions, companies and individuals, they spearheaded Japan-America Innovators of Medicine, or JAIM — a student-driven, entrepreneurial effort to tackle the global health care challenge of dementia and to foster U.S.-Japan collaboration in advancing medicine.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is on the rise worldwide and especially in Japan, where more than a quarter of the population is 65 or older. JAIM leaders, including Mori and her counterparts at Stanford and Osaka, recruited nine students from Stanford and UCLA to participate in training bootcamps, then flew them to Japan to visit dementia care settings, observe the need firsthand and generate solutions. Returning to the U.S., the students spent the next four months working under JAIM supervision to develop prototype medical devices aimed at helping dementia patients and caregivers worldwide. By addressing the urgent need in Japan, JAIM aims to create solutions before the problem becomes severe in nations like the U.S.

REMBUDS, one of the prototype medical devices created by JAIM participants

REMBUDS, one of the prototype medical devices created by JAIM participants, were designed to electrically stimulate the transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve and reduce sleep-related injuries in Lewy Body dementia patients with REM sleep behavior disorder.


The rigorous program’s success, Mori says, owes much to the drive and dedication of everyone involved. “We all poured our passions into this project,” she says. “Each one of us brought our own respective strengths to the table, and we all had an unwavering confidence that what we were doing was valuable to the world.”

Since completing their prototypes in November, several participants have presented and garnered interest at national and international conferences. In February, Mori says, JAIM will attend the UCLA MedTech Partnering Conference hosted by the UCLA Technology Development Group in order to seek mentorship and resources to launch their prototypes into production.

Mori describes leading JAIM as “challenging to say the least” — she and her team spent a year developing the program, which she says felt like running a startup in addition to being a full-time student — but found it incredibly fulfilling.

“My life mission is to bridge Japan and the U.S. by connecting resources and people in the field of medicine,” she says. “And entrepreneurship is fascinating to me — through the many failures and the endless uphill battle, I feel most alive.”

The same spirit drives Mori’s winning efforts as part of UCLA’s triathlon team. “You can find us gasping for air while inching our way up the steep hills of Malibu with our road bikes on an early Saturday morning, or charging into the crashing waves of Santa Monica to practice open water swimming before heading back to campus for class,” she says. “It’s a group of fit, quirky and driven people who make the challenging sport of triathlon into an enjoyable one.”

Mori’s ultimate goal, she says, is to develop a product or service that will make health care more accessible, affordable and efficient through technological innovation in business. She envisions herself working as a product manager, international business development manager or possibly even the creator of her own startup. For now, as she finishes senior year, she’s enjoying the many opportunities UCLA has to offer.

“There really is no place like it,” she says. “It’s so exciting to be here, just imagining what can start up in such an environment. I’m grateful for every professor, expert and fellow student who has changed my life in a profound way.”


For more of Our Stories at the College, click here.

UCLA collaboration fosters mathematical brilliance of Latino and Black middle school students

Undergraduates work in L.A. schools to bolster math learning through innovative research electives

Middle school students presenting about STEM research in their South L.A. communities

Middle school students presented their research poster about whether there should be a vaccine mandate for teenagers. | Don Liebig/UCLA


Holly Ober | January 4, 2023

A program that brings together UCLA students, the Los Angeles Unified School District and professional engineers and technologists to enhance mathematics learning in select South Los Angeles middle schools has made its public debut.

Forget boring demonstrations of solving equations on a whiteboard or listening to long lectures about math. As part of the Applied Mathematics Mentorship Program, on Dec. 14 the middle school students presented the results of research projects that were connected to their communities. The projects included studying the impacts of heat islands and COVID-19 on their neighborhoods, and on aerospace efforts in South Los Angeles. The research investigations were created so students could apply the mathematics they learn in the classroom to investigate and analyze mathematical issues and opportunities in their neighborhoods.

“We’re trying to embed mirrors and windows into the student experience so they see mathematics as a field in which they belong,” said Heather Dallas, executive director of the Curtis Center for Mathematics and Teaching at UCLA.

Supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Applied Mathematics Mentorship Program is a collaborative effort of the Curtis Center, three LAUSD middle schools, SpaceX engineers, FieldKit environmental technologists and the UCLA Myco-fluidics Lab.

The program places UCLA undergraduates as mentors at Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy, William Jefferson Clinton Middle School, and Western Avenue T.E.C.H. Magnet School to support student research.

“It is important to show students mathematicians from their community doing mathematics for their community to inspire them to believe: I can do mathematics, I AM a mathematician,” Dallas said.

The program innovates mathematics learning by tapping into students’ innate desire to explore and understand the world around them. The effort highlights the relevance of mathematics and shows students how their community uses math to make a difference in the world.

The investigations are the brainchild of Dallas and Travis Holden, principal of Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy and a UCLA alumnus who earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. Holden originally reached out to the Curtis Center to provide training for his mathematics department to implement a new textbook during the height of the pandemic.

The collaboration developed further when Dallas and Holden discussed a suggestion by an outside observer to involve the UCLA’s mathematics department in tutoring his middle school students.

“I told Heather I was big on not doing something remedial because I know that doesn’t work and it doesn’t excite kids,” Holden said. “I wanted to build on strengths our students already had. There’s a lot of research that says if you maintain high cognitive challenges during learning you see higher levels of learning.”

If research experiences during his time at UCLA excited him about mathematics, research could inspire his middle school students, too, he reasoned.

Dallas understood immediately, and pursued funding for a two-pronged effort: collaborate with mathematicians and scientists to develop relevant applied mathematics research investigations aligned to the school’s mathematics textbook and provide professional development for teachers and UCLA undergraduate mentors to facilitate the investigations. The Gates Foundation funded the effort and a research study of its effectiveness, which precipitated expansion to nearby Clinton Middle School and Western Avenue T.E.C.H.

Seventh-grade students collected data using devices from Los Angeles startup company, FieldKit to analyze heat islands in their communities. Heat islands occur in urban areas that experience higher temperatures compared to surrounding areas with more vegetation because buildings and roads reflect heat.

Eighth graders researched the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on their community. In the Grade 9 investigation, student learned about aerospace endeavors in South Los Angeles, highlighting the experiences of local astronauts and SpaceX engineers of color.

“The 7th grade investigation places students in the driver seat to solve challenges in their own community.  Students learn how to look at a problem, explore solutions and most importantly use their voice to bring upon change,” said Johnny Rivera, principal of Western T.E.C.H.

Cassandra Robbins, vice principal of Clinton Middle School, said that she sees students giving up on mathematics before they even start because it seems irrelevant to their goals. She said that the math interventions they have tried have not moved the students forward much, but the Curtis Center was not offering just another intervention.

“The Curtis Center came up with this idea that, similar to a physics class, you tie theory together with laboratory experience. It’s an addition to, not a replacement for regular math class,” Robbins said.

To study heat islands, for example, the students must learn about how materials absorb or reflect light, take accurate temperature readings, and apply mathematics to calculate averages. To study COVID, the students track and compare the spread of the illness in their own and surrounding communities. They do experiments and then graph, analyze and discuss the resulting data. In addition to applying grade-level mathematics, the students learn valuable lessons about teamwork and mathematical practice.

“It’s really great coaching them — they see me as a coach. They’re fully engaged,” said Jose Medel, who teaches a seventh grade elective on heat islands at Clinton Middle School.

The event, held at the Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy, included a panel of STEM professionals of color, student research team poster presentations and a reception honoring their accomplishments.


This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit college.ucla.edu/news.

Miguel García-Garibay in the Royce Hall portico

Leading the College: A conversation with new senior dean Miguel García-Garibay

Miguel García-Garibay

Miguel García-Garibay, Dean of Physical Sciences and Senior Dean of the UCLA College


By Jonathan Riggs

A UCLA chemistry and biochemistry faculty member since 1992 and dean of physical sciences since 2016, Miguel García-Garibay celebrated another milestone last November when he was named senior dean of the UCLA College.

“Taking on this additional role at the No. 1 public university in the nation is one of the greatest honors any academic leader could aspire to,” said García-Garibay. “The vision of all my fellow College division deans and UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt includes sustained excellence and impact for the College. With their support, I am excited to accept the challenge.”

As he looks ahead to a new year and a new chapter in his remarkable Bruin career, García-Garibay spoke with us about his past achievements and future goals.

What are your top priorities as senior dean?

The primary mission of the College is to provide the best liberal arts education and research opportunities to our remarkably diverse, talented and accomplished undergraduates. There is no doubt that UCLA’s reputation comes from the exceptionally strong educational services offered by our creative faculty and our dedicated staff.

Now that our campus is committed to becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, one of our goals is to make UCLA even more accessible, not only to talented Hispanic students, but to talented students from all backgrounds across the state and nation. To accomplish that, the College will engage members of the community for the development and creation of endowed fellowships and resources that enhance the educational experience of our students, including bridge programs and summer research and community engagement opportunities for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

How will your longtime experience as a faculty member and dean serve you in this additional role?

Academic deans can help their departments attract creative, talented faculty who are among the very best in their fields and who bring diverse perspectives and life experiences to their scientific and educational work. One critical aspect of my job as dean of physical sciences has been to make sure that our faculty have the means and infrastructure needed to carry out their research, attract talented graduate students, and successfully deploy research and educational initiatives guided by community and societal needs. As the senior dean, I will have an opportunity to help strengthen the common goals of the College and to make sure that we are ready to support the goals of each division.

Since 1992, I have experienced an environment where faculty and students have the climate, intellectual resources and physical infrastructure to succeed. At a personal level, I have made many friends among the faculty and staff, and I have had many long-lasting interactions with former students and other College alumni. Over the last 10 years, I have had the privilege of serving in leadership roles that have given me a stronger appreciation of the impactful vision developed by our campus leaders, and how UCLA stands out among many other excellent institutions of higher education. I am proud to be a longtime faculty Bruin.

What’s your favorite advice to share with students, or anyone else?

UCLA is a remarkably resourceful institution that convenes some of the brightest minds and the most interesting people. It is up to every one of us to explore it and to make the most of it. We have experts in all areas of research and scholarship, and every hallway conversation can lead to transformative ideas and productive collaborations. We have the resources to plan and execute challenging experiments, to collect and analyze complex data or to create impactful art. We have the opportunity and obligation to help create a better society. On a personal note, I also feel that it is wise to have a healthy work-life balance and family support in order to attain greater personal fulfillment and satisfaction.

Is there a fun or little-known fact about you that we could share?

Right after college and before graduate school, I worked three years as a truck driver (and I loved it!). It took that long — lots of back-and-forth snail mail — for my wife (also a Ph.D. in chemistry and a college professor) and me to earn admission to a graduate chemistry program. (We went to the University of British Columbia.) We shared parenting responsibilities as graduate students and as postdocs, demonstrating there are ways for supporting family teams to have parallel careers in higher education.

What keeps you inspired and passionate about your work and field? 

I am still amazed that chemists are able to design and construct molecules by bonding together a few atoms at a time, that we have the tools to see how those atoms are connected and how they move, and that we can change their properties by switching one or more atoms at a time. In particular, I am passionate about exploring chemical reactions in crystalline solids and to see how they may play a role in the design of crystalline molecular machines. There is nothing quite as exciting and rewarding as practicing and teaching science.


For more of Our Stories at the College, click here.