A Message from the Chancellor about Return to Learn

UC San Diego has a long history of bold innovation, academic rigor and a strong commitment to our community. We are Tritons. It is this sense of community that inspired our strategy to repopulate our campus fall. And we are ready to welcome you back. Our Return to Learn strategy was designed to help facilitate a safe return to campus for our students, staff and faculty.  We are pioneers leading the way for other universities to learn from our example. Learn more about our cutting edge approach in this video

Newton Award Lifts Cutting-Edge Work of Two UC San Diego Professors to National Level

UC San Diego's Boris Kramer and Melvin Leok

I’m often blown away by the work of our faculty at UC San Diego. So I was not surprised when I read this week that two of our professors were among only 13 recipients of the Newton Award for Transformative Ideas during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Professor of Mathematics Melvin Leok and Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Boris Kramer were selected from 548 submissions, from 184 institutions throughout 41 states and the District of Columbia. Their proposal to study and efficiently simulate complex interconnected systems for long-term analysis caught the attention of some of our nation’s leading engineers, mathematicians and scientists.

The award, named in honor of Sir Isaac Newton’s achievements in mathematics, optics, and gravitation during the Great Plague of London in 1665, sought “transformative ideas” to resolve challenges, advance frontiers, and set new paradigms in research of immense potential benefit to the U.S. Department of Defense and the nation at large during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The award committee challenged researchers to propose novel conceptual frameworks or theory-based approaches that utilized analytical reasoning, calculations, simulations, and thought experiments. The competition was open to affiliated researchers from degree-issuing institutions of higher education accredited in, and having a campus located in the U.S., its territories and possessions, as well as researchers from University Affiliated Research Centers.

Professor Leok is an expert in the structure of interconnected systems, and Professor Kramer is an expert in approximating traditionally expensive computational models with accurate but much cheaper surrogate models. In their submission, “Geometric Structure-Preserving Model Reduction for Large-Scale Interconnected Systems,” the two professors proposed collaborating to develope accurate, structure-preserving models of simpler mechanical interconnected systems, evolving on curved spaces, and extend them to larger scale engineering systems. 

The Newton Award recipients receive $50,000 over a six-month period of performance. At the end of the award period, the researchers will brief the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering leadership.

While the award is intended to support the principal investigators’ work, professors Leok and Kramer hope follow-up funding will support student involvement in their research.

This is what UC San Diego is all about. This is why we nurture and support a collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture that advances the frontiers of knowledge, shapes new fields, and disseminates discoveries that transform lives around the world. 

Congratulations, Professors Leok and Kramer. I can’t wait to see the evolution of your research and the impact your innovations will have on fellow faculty, our students, and the planet. 

Letter from the Chancellor: A Great Triton Thank You

UC San Diego Hillcrest Medical Center

As our campus community enters into week four of our virtual spring quarter, I would like to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude to everyone for navigating the extreme challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The speed and grace at which you all were able to pivot complex education, healthcare and business procedures and practices has kept our academic enterprise moving forward during uncertainty. Thank you to our faculty, researchers, staff, students, parents and everyone in our hospitals and clinics.

As chancellor of UC San Diego, I am very proud of our health system and its dedicated employees for helping to make our community healthier and stronger.

UC San Diego Health is one of the nation’s most respected health systems because of what the health care workers do consistently each and every shift. They care. They care for patients, care for their families and advocates, and even care for one another as coworkers and teammates.

UC San Diego Health shines even brighter during times of public health crises. In the case of COVID-19, they have risen to new challenges that required more from them—more focus, more learning, more patience, and more effort. It does not go unnoticed. 

They are on the front lines of care and the front lines of community. Thank you for your critical part in preparing our hospitals and clinics and providing excellent quality of care for patients during this time of uncertainty. And thank you for your careful leadership in educating our greater community about this public health concerns associated with COVID-19.

Information Technology Services

One area of effort that we may not see until there are problems is information technology. I am also very proud of the exemplary performance from our Information Technology Services (ITS) department during this crisis.

Teaching technology at UC San Diego

The ITS team led three extreme transitions simultaneously on and off campus to ensure academic and enterprise continuity of our institution. The helpdesk call center moved from on-premise to online, quickly and efficiently re-training staff to perform seamlessly from remote locations. At the same time, they moved more than 100 software titles traditionally accessed by students at computer labs and staff at workstations across campus to the cloud in less than two weeks. They also trained faculty and faculty support staff on Canvas (our learning management platform) and helped transition hundreds of courses to remote learning delivery.

Any one of these projects requires expert planning, coordination and execution. Combine the three, and you see the complexity expand. These technology functions are foundationally critical to our success, and they have been handled adeptly by our amazing team of professional IT staff. Thank you for all you do, seen and unseen. I am grateful for your dedication, resilience and hard work.

Going Virtual

I have also been extremely impressed with the quick and seamless movement of content traditionally delivered in person to remote formats. Two efforts in particular have wowed me and many viewers: Virtual Triton Day and The Playground.

Each year we bring thousands of admitted students and their families to campus for Triton Day, where they meet current students, faculty, and a variety of student service coordinators. They attend a series of workshops and events and get the feel for life on campus at UC San Diego.

This year, we were not able to bring people to campus. So, a collaborative team made of staff from Enrollment Management, Creative Services and our advertising agency, Vitro, created Virtual Triton Day and fast-tracked development to meet the deadline. A mixture of pre-recorded video from programs and services across campus to live interactive webinars helped admitted students find answers to their important questions and—at the same time—experience the ingenuity of Tritons and the excitement of campus without stepping foot outside of their homes.

Virtual Triton Day

This content was well curated, well packaged, well promoted—thanks to our outstanding social media managers across campus—and well received by nearly 12,000 visits to the website. The virtual event was a tremendous success and sets the stage for Virtual Transfer Triton Day coming up next month. I’m very proud of our teams for their creativity and innovation during this stressful situation. Well done!

Another remarkable effort in the virtual realm came from UC San Diego’s Recreation department. Their updated landing page, rebranded “The Playground,” is a space where students and the UC San Diego community can get active, creative, meditative and stay fit through online classes, informative articles and virtual recreation programming. Users can explore and engage at their own pace with recorded content (Recreation Online) or join live classes via Zoom throughout the day (Recreation Live).

Users can also sign up for email delivery of content and text reminders to help keep their activity schedules on track. Since we’re working and studying remotely, the “Get Up Tritons” feature is particularly helpful. If you sign up, you will receive texts throughout the day to remind you to get up, stretch and move. There are even short videos to show you how. 

Screen shot of Get Up Tritons video found on The Playground

This helpful and inspiring content is popular. Overall website interactions and engagement has increased by 54 percent, and the number of first-time visits increased 43 percent. Email subscriptions are up and social media followers have increased as well. More than 11,000 new people have interacted with content on the Playground.

I am very impressed by the creative efforts and quick development by staff and student content creators. This collaborative effort is helping our entire campus community stay active, manage stress, and learn more about nutrition and overall health. Thank you for helping meet our physical needs and providing safe exercise guidance during the COVID-19 crisis.

Triton Strong

Collaborative learning and teamwork across disciplines is at the heart of UC San Diego’s academic, research and clinical success. As a team, we gather our individual strengths to accomplish more than we can do alone.

I am proud and grateful to see the strong spirit of our Triton community emerge in the face of such historic change. Though our friends and colleagues may appear only on a screen, and though our memories of a lively campus—the bustle of Library Walk on a sunny afternoon or the feeling of accomplishment leaving the gym at RIMAC—we are nevertheless keeping our sense of UC San Diego alive remotely.

From the birth of our experimental campus, UC San Diego faculty, researchers, staff and students made a commitment to collaborate with one another, to look deeper at the world around us in order to solve pressing issues. This poignant moment in history provides a true test of that commitment. As you can see, we are meeting that challenge. We are finding new ways to learn and exploring new opportunities for personal enrichment in our virtual Triton realm.

I extend a great Triton thank you to everyone for making this possible.

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