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News Release

Coming Home: Alumni Faculty Share Why They Came Back to Campus

San Diego, CA, December 1, 2016 -- It’s no secret that UC San Diego’s reputation as a top-ranked university is a major draw for prospective students—but it’s also pulling many graduates back to campus to serve as members of the faculty. In classrooms and labs across the university, UC San Diego alumni are leading new directions in research and helping to train the next generation of innovators.

“We’re proud to have so many talented graduates who return to campus as faculty members, bringing with them fresh thinking that enriches our academic community,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “UC San Diego is ranked the 15th best university in the world, a testament to our faculty and students.”

For a story in This Week @ UC San Diego, Kristin Schafgans talked with several current alumni faculty members about what drives their research and how their UC San Diego education prepared them for success. The paths they took after graduation are as diverse as their academic interests. 

As for what brings them back, it’s the caliber of our students and faculty, an experimental culture that supports out-of-the-box thinking, and a willingness to break the traditional boundaries between various fields of study.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professor Olivia Graeve ('95 Structural Engineering) is one such individual. 


Olivia Graeve ’95
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Jacobs School of Engineering
Director, CaliBaja Center for Resilient Materials & Systems

How do you make a stronger metal? Olivia Graeve is working on developing materials that can withstand extreme impacts and are faster and more cost-effective to manufacture. Earlier this year, her lab developed a record-breaking steel alloy—a material that could be used for everything from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casing for satellites.

Graeve is a professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering and a proud native of the San Diego-Tijuana region. She grew up in Tijuana and attended Southwestern Community College before transferring to UC San Diego to study structural engineering. As an undergraduate, she worked in the lab of Professor Joanna McKittrick and saw first-hand what it takes to run a research laboratory.

“The experience put me on an excellent path toward the professoriate,” she said.

Graeve held faculty positions at the University of Nevada, Reno and Alfred University in New York before joining the UC San Diego faculty. Reflecting on how the campus has changed since she was a student, Graeve says that UC San Diego is bigger and better, with more opportunities for students, staff and faculty.

Today, she’s doing her part to ensure the university continues on its upward trajectory. Graeve leads a number of outreach programs for underrepresented students on both sides of the border. She also serves as director of the CaliBaja Center for Resilient Materials & Systems, which brings together researchers across the San Diego-Tijuana region.

“The opportunity to serve my alma mater and the region in which I grew up is something that is very important to me,” said Graeve. “Coming back to UC San Diego was coming home. Who would not want to be home?”

Read the full This Week@UC San Diego story. 

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering

Kristin J. Schafgans
University Communications