School of Physical Sciences

School of Physical Sciences

One of the founding schools established in 1965 at UC Irvine, the School of Physical Sciences has built an international reputation of distinction in scientific research while also embracing the teaching mission of a public university. The school is comprised of four departments: Chemistry, Earth System Science, Mathematics, and Physics & Astronomy. In 1995, the school gained international prominence when professors F. Sherwood Rowland (chemistry) and Frederick Reines (physics) each received the Nobel Prize, making UCI the first public university with faculty receiving Nobel prizes in two different fields in the same year.

Building on this foundation, eleven faculty members of the School have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Consistently, professors and students are singled out for prestigious awards recognizing their scientific excellence. The School also takes great pride in the recent rankings by the National Research Council (NRC) that place each of the four Departments in the top 15th percentile or better. Over the past decade, the school’s research expenditures have more than doubled. Moreover, the School has earned prestigious awards from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, NASA, W.M. Keck Foundation, Clare Boothe Luce Program and others.

Professors are not only leading the world in addressing today’s problems, they are simultaneously teaching the scientists who will be solving tomorrow’s problems. According to a recent survey, 40% of undergraduates continue to graduate school. As with undergraduate admission, the school’s graduate programs become more selective every year. In the last two years, graduate students received an unprecedented 14 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Along with traditional fields of inquiry, the school offers innovative graduate curricula, including programs in Chemical and Materials Physics; Mathematical Biology; Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology; Polymer, Materials and Nanoscience; and Atmospheric and Environmental Science.


  • 11 Physical Sciences professors have been elected members of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • 3.89 is the average GPA of incoming undergraduate students.
  • Approximately 1,208 undergraduate students and 516 graduate students are enrolled in the School of Physical Sciences. Doctoral degrees are granted from all four departments.
  • Half of the school’s undergraduate students conduct research.
  • The Department of Chemistry is one of the nation’s largest producers of graduates with B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry.
  • Earth System Science professors regularly inform policy makers on environmental issues.
  • Earth System Science is the first university department in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to understanding the scientific basis of global environmental problems.
  • U.S. News & World Report ranked Organic Chemistry 11th, Physical Chemistry 12th, and Theoretical Chemistry 18th in graduate school rankings.
  • Physicists from the School of Physical Sciences played a key role in the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The Department of Mathematics hosts first-tier research programs in pure and applied mathematics, and is strongly committed to education and community outreach.
  • The school offers state-of-the-art research facilities in molecular modeling, mass spectrometry, X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and currently has plans for a world-class electron microscopy facility.