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From sub-atomic to astronomical scales, we are working on the frontiers of science. Founded by Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences, our departments have all played a central role in UC San Diego’s rapid rise to national and international prominence.

A tradition of bridging boundaries long before interdisciplinary research became fashionable has allowed us to probe fundamental questions at the intersections different branches of science and mathematics and to create new fields of study. Because mathematics and the physical sciences are fundamental to many pursuits, including engineering, medicine and biology, we contribute to the education of most undergraduate students at UC San Diego.

News from the Physical Sciences

Progress in building a diverse faculty

Our Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry ranked second in the nation in a new survey of professorships held by underrepresented minorities, reflecting the progress we’ve made in building a diverse faculty, Chemistry and Engineering News reports. More to come.

Patrick Sanan, who studied mathematics at UC San Diego, combined geometry, physics, and the tiger model from the movie "Life of Pi" to work on a computer graphics problem.

African starling - Photo by Liliana D'AlbaPhoto by Liliana D'Alba

Nanoparticles play with light to create color

Inspired by the way iridescent bird feathers play with light, scientists have created thin films of material in a wide range of pure colors with hues determined by physical structure rather than pigments. More.

tagged proteins anchored to a vesicle membrane

Active matter

Jérémie Palacci and colleagues have created microbe-sized beads that utilize energy in their environment to self-propel to upstream by purely physical means. Their creation is a step toward the realization of biomimetic microsystems with the ability to actively respond to environmental changes.

"Living systems change their behavior according to their environment," said Palacci, a professor of physics who joined the faculty this year. "So the question was, can we design a particle that can sense its environment with no neural system or biological parts. This is a basic feature of living systems, and the idea was to implement that in a synthetic one." More

Brandon Bonilla producing polyols from algal oilPolyols from algae to ply ocean waves

Brandon Bonilla, an undergraduate student who is part of the Biofuels Awareness and Action Network, works the chemistry to create polyols, from oils produced by algae.

Mixed with a catalyst and silicates in the right proportions, the polyols expand to form polyurethane foam. 

Bonilla and fellow students Nick Hartel and Josh Ramos, working with Michael Burkart and Skip Pomeroy, helped to make the first algae-based foam cores for surfboards.

One of the boards will travel to premieres of the National Geographic program World's Smart Cities: San Diego.


More news


Dean's Office

Faculty Honors

Ivan Schuller, professor of physics, will receive the 2015 Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award.

David Kleinfeld, professor of physics, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Student awards

Chelsey DorowChelsey Dorow has been awarded an NSF graduate fellowship to design and fabricate new excitonic devices to study excitonic circuits and the fundamental physics of cold bosons.

Daniella Bardalez Gagliuffi and Erika JohannessenGraduate student Daniella Bardalez Gagliuffi (left) and undergraduate physics and biophysics major Erika Johannessen (right) each received $1000 scholarships from the Association of Women in Science's San Diego chapter.

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