Jacobs School History: Youngest of the Best

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 and research.

Engineering Focuses on Applied Sciences

Engineering on the UC San Diego campus started in 1964 and 1965 with two broad applied science departments: one in the areas of aerospace engineering, solid mechanics, bioengineering and materials; and the other in the areas of electronics, information theory and radio astronomy. The educational program and the need for a highly educated workforce was endorsed by the regional industry, which was dominated at the time by aerospace and electronics defense contractors in support of the major Naval and Marine bases in San Diego.

The early leaders felt it was critical to incorporate the latest scientific methods into the curricula, and to create an environment where distinguished faculty would cooperate without departmental boundaries, to reflect the interdisciplinary needs of advanced engineering R&D. This philosophy enabled UC San Diego to recruit some of the most visionary engineering leaders of the time. The first five years, marked a period of remarkable growth and by 1969, the engineering faculty included 26 members in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Sciences Department and 17 members in the Applied Physics and Information Science Department. Building on this foundation of distinguished experts, UC San Diego continues to attract top engineering and computer science faculty and scholars.

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 School Today

The Jacobs School currently encompasses six academic departments: Bioengineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NanoEngineering, and Structural Engineering. Our family tree documents how the school has continued to reinvent itself to take advantage of new opportunities. For example, the NanoEngineering Department, which was established in 2007, is capitalizing on a growing trend throughout public and private research-funding organizations to focus on nanoscience and nanotechnology approaches that have the potential to make valuable contributions to biology, medicine, energy, 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. Founding 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. 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. Jacobs School faculty and alumni have started up hundreds of companies, and have helped build the wireless communications, biotechnology, software and electronics hubs in San Diego.