New UCI faculty gather at the Student Center after a welcome ceremony that emphasized the importance of research and academic creativity. Steve Zylius / UCI 

New UCI faculty represent the top scholars in their fields

On Oct. 11, Enrique Lavernia, provost and executive vice chancellor, welcomed new faculty members – one of the larger cohorts in recent history – to UCI for the 2017-18 year.

The influx of 57 academic minds marks a major milestone in achieving Chancellor Howard Gillman’s goal of hiring an additional 250 permanent faculty members by 2021 – a goal laid out in the UCI strategic plan released last year. The School of Social Sciences, with 13 newcomers, saw the biggest increase, followed by the School of Social Ecology, with eight, and the School of Humanities and Henry Samueli School of Engineering, with six each.

“Academic hiring is one of the most important decisions we make on the campus, and I am impressed with the creativity, academic rigor and research pursuits of the new faculty joining us this fall,” Lavernia said. “As outlined in our strategic plan, faculty growth has allowed UCI to expand our life-enhancing discoveries and make great strides in solving the world’s grand challenges.”

The diverse, high-impact hires were recruited from an elite pool of accomplished scholars from across the country and around the globe. They include:

  • Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kyriacos “Kerry” Athanasiou, who is an international authority on translating engineering innovations into commercially available medical instruments and devices.
  • Japanese violinist and composer Mari Kimura – an influential composer, performer, researcher, and leading figure in the field of interactive computer music – who is joining the Department of Music as a professor.
  • A professor of cognitive sciences and the Falmange Endowed Chair in Mathematical Psychology, Zygmunt Pizlo, who is a pioneer in the field of human and machine 3D vision studies.
  • Kim Fortun, a leader in the study of environmental risk and disaster, and Virginia Parks, an expert on urban racial and employment inequality, who have joined the departments of anthropology and urban planning & public policy, respectively, as professors and chairs.

Also joining UCI through the Mid-career Professional Hiring Initiative are:

  • Bambi Haggins, associate professor in film & media studies. Her research focuses on the role of black comics in 20th and 21st-century American culture, and she has worked as a writer for Showtime’s Why We Laugh: Funny Women.
  • Nancy Rodriguez, professor in criminology, law & society. A nationally recognized scholar in the areas of race, crime and juvenile justice, she has served as director of the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice.
  • Hector Tobar, associate professor in English and Chicano & Latino Studies. A Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter with the Los Angeles Times, Tobar received an MFA in creative writing from UCI and is the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller, Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle That Set Them Free.