September 2015   

Message from the Dean

I extend my warmest wishes and welcome to our incoming and returning students as the new 2015-16 academic year commences. This year the Ayala School is proud to welcome 974 undergraduate students (828 freshmen and 146 transfers) as well as 29 Master's and 47 Doctoral students. We look forward to them joining the UCI community and becoming BioAnteaters. 


You’ll likely have heard about the great news that UCI has been ranked 9th among public universities nationwide by U.S. News and World Report in it 2016 Best Colleges report. This recognition affirms the value of our world-class institution and the cutting-edge work that is being accomplished by our faculty and students. Additionally, the New York Times named UCI the nations #1 university that does the most for low-income students.


Special thanks to the Ayala School's Office of Student Affairs for their continuing dedication and efforts behind the scenes to ensure that the transition to the new school year is as smooth as possible for all of our students. I sincerely hope this academic year will be productive, stimulating and successful for students, faculty and staff as well as for our alumni and community friends.

News and Highlights

UCI Cracks Top 10 Best Public Universities

U.S. News & World Report has ranked UCI ninth among public universities nationwide in its 2016 Best Colleges report, released today. The ranking is derived from 16 measures of academic excellence, weighted by relevance to high-quality education. Read more.

New York Times Ranks UCI #1
To measure top colleges’ efforts on economic diversity, The Upshot created the College Access Index. It’s based on the share of students who receive Pell grants (which typically go to families making less than $70,000); the graduation rate of those students; and the price that colleges charge both low- and middle-income students. UCI ranked #1. Read more.
We’re the Coolest
If it’s cool you want, look no further than the University of California, Irvine. For the second year in a row, the campus is No. 1 in Sierra magazine’s annual “Cool Schools” ranking of the nation’s greenest colleges. It’s the first time any university has repeated a No. 1 appearance and the sixth year UCI has placed among the top 10. Read more.

Dean Welcomes 2015-2016 Freshmen class
The 2015-2016 Freshmen class has arrived and the Ayala School Dean's office was on hand to welcome the new class of 974 undergraduate students at the Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark. Carolyn Willmann, director of Student Affairs, started off the morning by introducing the students to Dean Frank LaFerla, who shared his own story of being the first in his family to pursue a college education, and encouraging the new students to take advantage of the many opportunities afforded through the Ayala School. Read more.

Ayala School International Students Lunch with the Dean

The Ayala School is home to students from around the world. Many of them were on hand for a special meet and greet welcome lunch with Dean LaFerla. The dean extended a special welcome to the 85 international students and shared his tips on being a successful student. Read more.

Learning+Teaching in Tsukuba

Sometimes, lessons learned far away are the ones that really hit home. Six Ayala School Exercise Sciences majors, along with three Dance majors, and two professors from UCI, learned and taught in Japan for a week during July 2015, and came back home with a sense of the universality of physical motion as a means of building personal connections, as well as a subject of academic inquiry. Read more.

Research in the News

UCI Researchers Find Biomarker for Autism that May Aid Diagnostics
Professors. J. Jay Gargus, and Ian Parker, Neurobiology and Behavior, and colleagues at the UCI Center for Autism Research & Translation examined skin biopsies of patients with three very different genetic types of the disorder (fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis 1 and 2). They discovered that a cellular calcium signaling process involving the inositol trisphosphate receptor was very much altered. Read more.

Small RNA Molecule Makes a Big Impact
Professor Irene Pedersen, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and her laboratory have published a new paper in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. The team of researchers identified a small RNA molecule (miRNA) that regulates genomic stability and plasticity in cells. This finding has potential clinical relevance for cancer progression and stem cell therapies. Read more.

Stem Cells Could Help Mend a Broken Heart, but They’ve Got to Mature 

Ashley Fong [is a] Ph.D. student in molecular biology & biochemistry at University of California, Irvine … Stem cells may be useful in tissue engineering therapies …. To advance these possible therapies, we need ways to take these heart muscle cells one step further, to maturity. I’m studying how the heart’s natural environment affects that maturation process.  Read more.



Are you interested in helping students achieve academic and career success? Would you like to make a difference in a student's life? If you're interested, join the Ayala School Mentor Program by registering at by September 21st. For any questions about the Mentor Program, please contact Brian Han at

The Mentor Program arranges for students to connect with alumni and community professionals to advance personal and career development including work-related skills, techniques and knowledge.


Anna U. Tran
Ayala School Senior
Anna Tran is a fourth-year Biological Sciences major. This past April, Anna was awarded the Donald A. Strauss Scholarship to fund the start-up of a public service project of her choice. Anna, who hails from Garden Grove, CA, developed the Pay it Forward Program. Read More.


Brian Han
Associate Director of Development

Brian Han joined the Ayala School in March 2015 as the new Associate Director of Development. Since coming on board, Brian has led the Ayala School's alumni outreach. Brian also directs the Biological Sciences Mentor Program, enabling students to obtain career advice from leading professionals. He finds the most rewarding parts of his work is building new programs from the ground up and receiving support from the Dean and his leadership team to pursue new ideas.

Read more.


Festival of Discovery
  • October 3, 2015 For more information about attending, visit webpage.
Dean's Distinguished Lectures
50th Anniversary Academic Symposia


Shing Kwok, Class of 1989

Ayala School Alumnus, Shing Kwok, Ph.D., majored in Biological Sciences in 1989, equipping him for a successful career in both research and government. Dr. Kwok is currently a National Program Leader (NPL) for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Read more