Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences

The Francisco J. Ayala  School of Biological Sciences is a premier center of biological education and research. Multidisciplinary research and academic opportunities exist in the areas of health-related issues such as cancer and infectious diseases, developmental biology and genetics, environmental and evolutionary studies, mechanisms of gene expression, neurodegeneration including learning and memory disorders, structural biology, stem cell therapies and science education.

With 3,425 undergraduates and 270 graduate students, biological sciences is one of the largest schools at UC Irvine. Bio Sci students comprise 12.4 percent of the campus population. The school has four departments: developmental & cell biology, ecology & evolutionary biology, molecular biology & biochemistry, and neurobiology & behavior.

The school offers bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences, biochemistry & molecular biology, biology education, developmental & cell biology, ecology & evolutionary biology, genetics, human biology, microbiology & immunology, and neurobiology, as well as master’s degrees in biotechnology, biotechnology management and biological sciences and educational media design. The school also offers doctorates in ecology & evolutionary biology, cellular molecular biosciences, mathematical, computational & systems biology, neurobiology & behavior and interdepartmental neurosciences.

Dean Frank LaFerla

Frank M. LaFerla is the Hana and Francisco J. Ayala Dean of the UC Irvine Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences. Dean LaFerla, Chancellor’s Professor and former chair of the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior from 2011-2013, joined UC Irvine in 1995 as an assistant professor in the then-named Department of Psychobiology. Since that time he has served in numerous leadership roles, including as associate director and now director of UCI MIND (Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders), a research center internationally acclaimed for its work on disorders of the brain, particularly those that are age-related.

Professor LaFerla was also founding director of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, which united several neuroscience-related departments and faculty under one major programmatic initiative and has since facilitated the recruitment to UC Irvine of numerous outstanding graduate students.

Professor LaFerla received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and his B.A. from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and has research interests in the molecular biology of Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative disorders, transgenic and genetically-modified animal models, presenilins and calcium signaling, and learning and memory.

He has received several honors for his research accomplishments, including the Promising Work Award from the Metropolitan Life Foundation for Medical Research, the Ruth Salta Investigator Achievement Award from the American Health Assistance Foundation, the Zenith Fellows Award from the Alzheimer Association, the UCI Innovators Award, and the Senate Distinguished Mid-Career Faculty Research Award.

Professor LaFerla is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an elected member of the American Neurological Association, the American Society for Cell Biology, the International Society for Stem Cell Research, and the Society for Neuroscience. He is a frequent guest speaker at local, national and international venues, and is a current member of the board of directors of the Orange County Alzheimer’s Association.

Faculty Distinctions

The school has a highly distinguished faculty, as measured by many criteria. These include high National Research Council faculty productivity rankings and on-campus, national and international awards.

Among the faculty are:

  • Six fellows of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Seven fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • Two fellows of the Royal Society
  • 32 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences
  • Professor Francisco Ayala received the prestigious Templeton Prize in 2010
  • Five faculty members and the Dean hold Endowed Chairs or Professorships
  • Three faculty members are Distinguished Professors
  • Four faculty members are Chancellor’s Professors or Fellows

Over the past four years, eight members of our faculty have received Distinguished Faculty Awards from the Academic Senate, including three for research, three for university service, and two for teaching.

Additionally, at the campus’ Celebration of Teaching event over the past five years, two of our faculty have won Professor of the Year awards, two have won the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching, two have received the TA Development Mentor of the Year Award, and four of our graduate students have received the Most Promising Future Faculty Member Award.

Research Facilities

The School of Biological Sciences’ collaborates with many other units on campus to help further research in important fields.

The School of Biological Sciences’ centers include:

  • Center for Environmental Biology
  • Center for Hearing Research
  • Center for Virus Research
  • Multiple Sclerosis Research Center

Faculty members from biological sciences participate and figure importantly in campus research units, centers and institutes, including:

  • Beckman Laser Institute
  • Cancer Research Institute
  • Center for Complex Biological Systems
  • Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory
  • Developmental Biology Center
  • Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics
  • Institute for Immunology
  • Institute for Memory Impairments & Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND)
  • Network for Experimental Research on Evolution
  • Reeve-Irvine Research Center
  • Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center
  • Urban Water Research Center

On behalf of the campus, the school has taken primary responsibility for coordination and oversight of a variety of natural lands that are available for faculty and student research. These include the Natural Reserve System of the University of California, including the UCI-managed Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve and the San Joaquin Freshwater Marsh Reserve, Crystal Cove State Park and Marine Research Facility, Steele Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center in the Anza-Borrego State Park and Orange County Parks Irvine Ranch Open Space. The School of Biological Sciences also operates the UCI Greenhouse, a growth facility on the UCI campus and the UCI Arboretum and Herbarium, a botanic garden and research facility located near the San Joaquin Marsh Reserve. The school maintains our campus membership in the Organization for Tropical Studies, which permits students to participate in educational and research projects in tropical areas in Central America and South Africa.