A New University of California Campus is Established

Since its founding in 1960, the University of California San Diego -- one of the campuses in the world-renowned University of California system -- has rapidly achieved the status as one of the top institutions in the nation for higher education and research. Nestled along the Pacific Ocean on 1,200 acres of beautiful coastal city-granted property in La Jolla , CA , UC San Diego is a powerful magnet for those seeking a fresh, next-generation approach to education, research, healthcare, and service.



Naming of the School

In 1982, UC San Diego decided to create a more cohesive engineering education program and brought the two engineering departments under the umbrella of a Division of Engineering led by the first dean, Lea Rudee. About a decade later, the division was renamed the School of Engineering to reflect the national prominence of the faculty. Robert Conn, an expert in plasma physics and semiconductors was recruited from UCLA in 1994 to lead the new School. And in 1997, the School went through a final name change when QUALCOMM founder and former UC San Diego engineering professor Irwin Jacobs and his wife Joan Jacobs provided a $15 million endowment for the School, leading to the current name in their honor. The couple later added to the endowment in 2003 with a $110 million gift for scholarships, fellowships, and faculty support.



The Jacobs Legacy

Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs is Founding Chairman and CEO Emeritus of QUALCOMM Incorporated, pioneer and world leader of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) digital wireless technology. Dr. Jacobs has led the commercialization of CDMA technology and its success as the world's fastest-growing, most-advanced voice and data wireless communications technology. Dr. Jacobs was a founding faculty member of UCSD, and served as a professor from 1966 to 1972. He began in UCSD's Department of Applied Electrophysics, which was renamed the Department of Applied Physics and Information Science in 1968. Today's departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) grew out of this Department of Applied Physics and Information Science. In 1997, he and his wife Joan Jacobs provided a generous endowment gift to UCSD, when the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering was named in their honor. In 2023, the UC San Diego community celebrated the 25th anniversary of the naming of the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, in recognition of Irwin and Joan Jacobs’ transformative vision and philanthropy.


Irwin M. Jacobs Video Biography prepared on the occasion of his 70th birthday (2003)




A Ten-Year History:
from Good to Great

Robert “Bob” Conn, dean emeritus of the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, has written a history of the rise of engineering at UC San Diego into the world-class powerhouse that it is today. The historical document – “From a Good Base to a Better Place” – recounts the decade-long effort at UC San Diego that Conn, as engineering dean, led. This effort transformed the Division of Engineering at UC San Diego into the world-class Jacobs School of Engineering. 

In 2023, Conn was selected to receive one of the oldest and most prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE) awards, the Simon Ramo Founders Award for 2023. Conn was recognized for shaping national science and technology policy through leadership in academia, business, and philanthropy, and for seminal contributions to fusion engineering.



The Jacobs School Today

The UC San Diego Jacobs School encompasses six academic departments: Bioengineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NanoEngineering, and Structural Engineering.

Our Jacobs School of Engineering family tree outlines how the School reinvents itself to take advantage of new opportunities.

Founding UC San Diego faculty member Y.C. Fung established the first biomedical engineering program in the nation, and to this day is considered the father of biomechanics. The Jacobs School's top-ranked bioengineering department, formed in 1994, continues to serve as an international model for biomedical engineering education. In 2022, the bioengineering department was renamed the Shu Chien-Gene Lay Department of Bioengineering.

The NanoEngineering Department was established in 2007 to capitalize on the growing trend throughout public and private research-funding organizations to focus on nanoscience and nanotechnology approaches to address pressing challenges in medicine, sustainable energy, biology and much more.

Although the School is relatively young, its influence is felt well beyond the campus walls. The UCSD Pascal programming language and operating system developed in the 1970s and early 1980s, made microprocessors accessible to the masses and led to the PC revolution. UCSD Pascal established UC San Diego early on as an innovator in information technology and computer science, and the Jacobs School continues to lead this field.

The Structural Engineering Department, founded as the first department of its kind in 1999, has become the world's leading program for large-scale structural testing and earthquake safety engineering. In 2022, the UC San Diego earthquake simulator underwent a significant upgrade.

Jacobs School faculty and alumni have started up hundreds of companies, and have helped build wireless communications, biotechnology, software, electronics, and AI hubs in San Diego.