Highlights of 2012: Political victory, individual triumphs propelled UC “onward”
The University of California shared in some remarkable triumphs in 2012. Faculty members from UCLA and UCSF won Nobel prizes; a creative writing professor at UC Riverside, the son of migrant farmworkers, became California’s poet laureate; dozens of UC-affiliated athletes participated in the Olympic games; UC people helped put a rover on Mars, while others worked to detect the elusive Higgs boson, the “holy grail” of physics.
Against the backdrop of numerous individual achievements, one of the year’s most notable events reflected the power of the collective: California voters, for the first time in 20 years, supported a tax increase for education. UC, as a result, was spared deep cuts in state funding and, for the first time since the Great Recession, looked toward a more stable financial future.
Demand for a UC education breaks records — again: UC reports that more than 160,000 students applied for undergraduate admission, an increase of 13.2 percent over the previous year and the eighth consecutive year of growth. Despite significant cuts in per-student funding from the state, UC offers a spot to all qualified California applicants.
UCTV Prime launches on YouTube: UCTV unveils its UCTV Prime channel, the first university-run production partnership with YouTube. The channel airs 15 minutes of original content each week, including documentary mini-series, interviews, commentaries and video shorts showcasing people and ideas from across the UC system. By year’s end, the UC San Diego-based channel had drawn nearly 1.2 million views.
Juan Felipe Herrera named California poet laureate: UC Riverside poetry professor Juan Felipe Herrera, known for chronicling the bittersweet lives, travails and contributions of Mexican Americans, is named California poet laureate. In early summer, he invites all Californians to participate in creating “The Most Incredible and Biggest and Most Amazing Poem on Unity in the World.”
UC Health contributes $3.3 billion in community benefits: For the first time in its history, UC Health measures its collective impact in caring for uninsured patients, educating tomorrow’s health leaders and advancing science to tackle medicine’s toughest challenges. The result: UC’s five medical centers contributed a staggering $3.3 billion in community benefits in 2011.
College pays off — big time: UC Berkeley researchers find that California earns big dividends from its investment in public higher education. For every $1 the state spends on public college and university students, California receives a net return of $4.50, according to researchers.
UC advocates take action: With the deadline for a state budget approaching, UC advocates send more than 60,000 emails to California lawmakers, calling on them to reinvest in public higher education and underscoring the importance of UC to students, their families and the state’s economy. Gov. Jerry Brown in June signs a budget that President Mark Yudof calls a “significant step” toward stable funding for public higher education, and notes that UC students, faculty, staff, alumni and regents played a critical role in articulating how the state benefits from investments in public higher education.
Pradeep K. Khosla becomes UC San Diego’s next chancellor: The UC Board of Regents names Pradeep K. Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s acclaimed College of Engineering, as UC San Diego’s eighth chancellor. At a campus welcoming reception, students, faculty and staff present Khosla with a “chancellor survival kit” that includes energy bars, an oversize parking pass and a surfboard emblazoned with the UC San Diego logo.
UC Santa Barbara to test Alzheimer’s disease prevention drug: UC Santa Barbara neuroscientist Ken Kosik, together with several other Alzheimer’s experts from the U.S. and Columbia, announces a five-year, $100 million study to test whether a new drug might help thwart the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in people who are genetically predestined for it. The scientists will draw study participants from a large family in Medellín, Colombia, many of whom have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
UC scientists warn that Earth is reaching a ‘tipping point’: A prestigious group of scientists from around the world — including researchers from UC Berkeley and UC Davis — warns that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planetwide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation. Their report, published in the journal Nature, receives national and international attention.
UC Santa Cruz delights the world’s Deadheads: Culminating three years of work, UC Santa Cruz opens its online Grateful Dead archive to the public. The collection features nearly 25,000 items — including works by some of the era’s most famous rock photographers and artists — and more than 50,000 scans of historical artifacts. The public is invited to upload their own photos and scans.
Scientists detect the elusive Higgs boson: UC Santa Barbara physicist Joe Incandela announces that scientists have detected the long-sought Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that may explain what gives protons, electrons, neutrons and all particles inside atoms their mass. Researchers from UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory joined the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s (CERN) quest to find the Higgs boson.
UC wins Olympic gold: A contingent of nearly 100 UC-affiliated student and alumni athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and staff attend the summer Olympic Games in London representing the United States and nations from around the world. UC Berkeley and UCLA send contingents that are larger than those of many nations. In all, UC athletes bring home 27 medals, including 17 gold medals.
UC goes to Mars: The world holds its collective breath for seven terrifying minutes as the 1-ton rover Curiosity makes a successful landing on Mars. UC Santa Cruz alum Steve Collins, Curiosity’s altitude control subsystem engineer, was among those in the Spaceflight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Other UC notables also took part in Curiosity’s success. UC Davis geologist Dawn Sumner is studying data sent back from the rover, while engineers and scientists at Los Alamos National Lab helped develop the ChemCam — a rock-zapping laser that is helping Sumner and others analyze Martian geology.
Whether you know it or not, UC plays a part in your day: The university hit the road with the Onward California mobile tour, traveling to county fairs, music festivals and other public events across the state to connect people with all the ways that UC touches their lives. More than 60,000 people come out to share their UC pride and talk about the importance of public higher education.
UC Merced sees enrollment continue to climb: UC’s youngest campus begins its eighth academic year with 5,760 undergraduate and graduate students, up nearly 11 percent from the previous year. Enrollment data shows that nearly a third of students are from the Central Valley, and an astounding 65.5 percent of students are among the first generation in their families to attend college. UC Merced administrators note that the incoming class is the largest and most competitive class in campus history.
UC faculty win Nobel prizes in medicine and economics: UCSF’s Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, wins the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work showing that adult skin cells can be induced to go back to their pluripotent state. That great news is followed two days later with the announcement that UCLA’s Lloyd Shapley has won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for his theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.
UC Riverside has a bittersweet week to remember: UC Riverside receives long-sought news that its planned medical school has received “preliminary accreditation.” Thrilled with the development, the campus announces that it will immediately begin recruiting students for its charter entering class in August 2013. Two days later, UC Riverside’s popular chancellor, Timothy White, accepts the top spot at the 23-campus California State University system and announces he will leave UC at year’s end.
Voters say yes to Proposition 30: For the first time in two decades, California voters supported a statewide tax increase for education. President Mark Yudof and UC’s 10 chancellors send a letter to the UC community, expressing their relief over the outcome. UC would have sustained a $250 million cut in state funds had it failed, adding to the budget woes from nearly $1 billion in state cuts since 2008. UC’s leaders thank the community for spreading the word about how much was at stake for the university, and note that students registered tens of thousands of new voters and lobbied broadly for the measure.
UC Irvine opens new front in fight against brain cancer: UC Irvine oncologist Dr. Daniela Bota begins testing whether a patient’s own immune system can be enlisted to fight tumor cells from glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest form of brain cancer. Treatment currently consists of surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation, methods that don’t fully eliminate the cancer. Bota is testing whether an experimental vaccine can train the immune response to attack the remaining tumor cells.
Nicholas Dirks is 10th chancellor of UC Berkeley: The UC Board of Regents appoints Nicholas Dirks, Columbia University’s executive vice president and dean of its faculty of arts and sciences, to succeed Robert Birgeneau as UC Berkeley’s next chancellor. At a public celebration outside the Doe Library, Dirks said he was thrilled “to take responsibility for one of the greatest universities in the world,” a place made even greater by its public mission.