One Year Later

Maybe you’ve heard: UC San Diego is dramatically changing. Whether you graduated in 1968 or just last June, a trip back to campus or even just driving by on I-5 can reveal the future of campus coming to life.

This transformation is fueled by the Campaign for UC San Diego, a chance to be involved in transforming the student experience, enriching our campus community and driving innovation to build a better world. Just one year since its public launch, the impact of philanthropic support is already making waves across campus.

Mark Merrifield, Ph.D. ’89

Community Resource For Climate

Mark Merrifield, Ph.D. ’89, still remembers packing all of his worldly possessions into a VW convertible and rolling into Scripps Institution of Oceanography as a new graduate student in 1982.

“It feels a bit surreal to experience that all again after so many years—although sadly the VW did not make it,” he says.

After two decades of studying global and regional sea-level rise at the University of Hawaii, Merrifield has returned to his alma mater as the inaugural director of the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation. He’s also the first to hold a presidential endowed chair in this field.

Established in 2015 with a gift from Richard and Carol Hertzberg, the center brings together climate scientists as well as experts in economics, urban planning, political science, public health and other disciplines to document the impacts of climate change and develop practical solutions to help communities adapt to changes that are widely seen as inevitable.

“In California, we are expected to experience more heat waves, changes in rainfall, reduced snow pack in the Sierras and higher sea levels,” says Merrifield. “The associated impacts are already apparent with the threat of wildfires, coastal flooding and heat-related health issues, and the need for adaptation is growing.”

Merrifield’s vision for the center is to serve as a hub for climate change strategies, partnering with various communities on projects that test and demonstrate innovative means to adapt to a changing world.

Already, the center is expanding some of his existing fieldwork, including a project coordinating with the Department of Defense to observe sea-level rise near local military bases, and working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build a national seasonal forecast system with insight into how sea levels affect coastal flooding.

“It can be hard to synthesize all of the material on climate change and translate what it means at the local scale, says Merrifield. “We want to be a resource for the community where they can find expert assessments on the current understanding of climate change and what the impacts are likely to be going forward.”

Geisel Revitalized

Whether you know it as Central, Not-So-Central or Geisel, the UC San Diego Library is an unforgettable icon. Yet for all the time you spent inside studying, you might not recognize it next time you step through those doors.

Longtime campus supporter Audrey Geisel launched the Geisel Library Revitalization Initiative with a philanthropic investment intended to transform the interior of the building named for her and her late husband, the venerable “Dr. Seuss.” In order to meet the evolving needs of students in the digital age, the three-phase renovation focuses on updating the most heavily used areas of the building—floors 1, 2 and 8—to create modern, technology-rich spaces to advance learning and research.

The project kicked off with the opening of Audrey’s Café, a new coffee shop that has quickly become a popular spot to refuel between study sessions. Additional campaign support is now spurring on the second and third phases of the Library’s transformation, providing ample space for individual student study on the eighth floor, as well as the ability to serve as a one-of-a-kind venue for campus events.

The final and most extensive phase of the renovations is expected to begin in the 2019–20 school year, when the first and second floors are reconfigured to offer more collaborative study space, new technology to support research and learning, and a modern exhibition gallery to invite community involvement.

Field Of The Future: Data Science

Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Computational biology. Long before the term “data science” was coined, UC San Diego was a pioneer in the disciplines that ultimately led to this rapidly developing field.

Now a new institute will harness the power of big data to advance and transform research and train the next generation of data science leaders.

The Halicioğlu Data Science Institute, named in honor of computer science alumnus and benefactor Taner Halicioğlu ’96 will enable researchers seeking to make sense of massive amounts of data generated from their studies to apply data science tools to better understand and make predictions about the world around us. 

“Data science is transforming biology, physics, chemistry, medicine, math and many other fields in addition to computer science,” says Halicioğlu, whose gift to UC San Diego last year made the institute possible. “Take personalized medicine and genomics. Gathering, sequencing, analyzing and storing an individual’s genetic makeup will allow physicians to find causes and correlations that can determine how things are related and what they reveal. That’s the kind of fundamental transformation data science is bringing to almost every field.”

A core group of faculty and staff researchers, many of whom are connected to other schools and divisions on campus, will lead the institute’s efforts. In addition, professors from other disciplines are expected to affiliate with the center, making them eligible to compete for seed grants, collaborate with data science faculty and access the institute’s data-science expertise.

Academically, the institute is developing a five-year, BS/MS degree program for students interested in specific areas of data science, like health informatics, business analytics, biostatistics and digital archaeology. It will also be a key resource for San Diego’s high-tech and biotech industry, as well as local governments, by offering training programs and opportunities to collaborate on data-science applications for health care, transportation, energy, water and other sectors of the regional economy.