University of California – San Diego

The field of bioengineering was pioneered at UCSD. Y.C. Fung, is the father of biomechanics, and was awarded the President’s National Medal of Science for his pioneering work in this field.

UCSD structural engineers designed and built a steel jacket system to strengthen bridge columns and other structures for earthquake safety. They also developed a technique to determine which bridges needed to be retrofitted — saving the state of California more than $500 million. This technology is now being studied as a way to protect buildings against terrorist bombs.

UCSD medical scientists identified the first neurobiological, early-warning signs of autism, a finding that offers the potential for earlier diagnosis, intervention and improved treatment. The showed that small head circumference at birth, followed by a sudden and excessive increase in head circumference during the first year of life, is linked with the development of autism.

UCSD econometricians pioneered statistical techniques that are now used widely by the Federal Reserve and other financial institutions. The work of Clive Granger and Robert Engle fundamentally changed the way economists analyze financial and macroeconomic data. Granger and Engle received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2003 for this discovery.

UCSD chemists have developed a silicon polymer that is capable of detecting trace amounts of chemicals commonly used in terrorist bombs. They also developed a cheap and portable nerve gas detector and dust-sized chips of silicon that can rapidly detect a variety of chemical and biological agents.

UCSD linguistics faculty pioneered the “natural approach” to second-language acquisition, a method of language learning that is now used at colleges across the country.

UCSD physicists produced a new class of composite materials believed to reverse the behavior of many fundamental electromagnetic properties. This new material may pave the way for the construction of a “perfect lens”, capable of focusing light and other forms of radiation to limits not achievable by normal lenses.

A national clinical trial led by UCSD neuroscientist Clifford Shults showed that high dosages of a naturally occurring compound, coenzyme Q10 greatly slowed the progressive deterioration that occurs in Parkinson’s disease. The greatest benefit was seen in everyday activities such as feeding, dressing, bathing and walking.

UCSD anthropologist Guillermo Algaze uncovered evidence that the world’s first master-planned community existed in Southeastern Turkey nearly 5,000 years ago. This finding shed new light on the origins as well as the social, political, and economic dynamics of the world’s earliest cities.

The first study to demonstrate that C-reactive protein (CRP) has a role in the development of atherosclerosis and other diseases was conducted by UCSD physician scientists Joseph Witztum and Mi-Kyung Chang.

Environmental economist Richard Carson has pioneered two methods — contingent valuation and passive-use values — now widely used to assess economic damages from oil spills, floods, and other environmental disasters.

UCSD’s Center for Research for Computing and the Arts was the country’s first research center dedicated to exploring new media. Founded by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Roger Reynolds, CRCA has facilitated such innovations as Aaron, a groundbreaking, autonomous (art making) machine; the Computer Audio Research Laboratory (CARL); and Pd — programming for audio and graphical processing.

Physician scientist C. Lowell Parsons developed the drug, Elmiron, a revolutionary medical therapy for treating interstitial cystitis, plus the most widely used test to diagnose this bladder disease.

In reaction to Minimalist and Conceptual art movements, visual artist Amy Goldin inspired a new generation of artists in the 1970s to create artwork that celebrated joy, color and life. This new, radical movement, fostered at UCSD, related to ’60s notions of breaking away from the sanctity of high art. Similarly, visual artist Kim MacConnel continues to be one of the leaders of the Pattern and Decoration Movement.

Medical scientist Ajit Varki discovered the first biochemical and genetic difference between humans and the great apes. This marker for “humanness” is a sialic acid, an enzyme on the surface of cells, which is the result of a mutation that occurred in humans. Varki and others also found that this gene mutation occurred more than 2 million years ago, just prior to human brain expansion but after our ancestors stood upright.

UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography

SIO defined the field of modern oceanography and its discoveries have revolutionized the understanding of plate tectonics, ocean waves and currents, climate change, marine ecology, and El Niño and La Niña events.

Continuous monitoring of atmospheric CO2 begun by Charles David Keeling in 1958 resulted in the “Keeling Curve,” which is a cornerstone of climate change research. Keeling received the National Medal of Science for his pioneering “studies on the impact of the carbon cycle to changes in climate, collecting some of the most important data in the study of global climate change.”

SIO researcher Walter Munk developed techniques of wave forecasting in support of Allied landings in North Africa and Normandy during World War II.

Claude ZoBell defined the field of marine microbiology and is considered the father of marine microbiology.

SIO developed the world’s first experimental climate forecast center; the first research diving program; the unique FLoating Instrument Platform (FLIP); the longest and most complete dataset of a marine ecosystem (CalCOFI); and the Deep Sea Drilling Project.