News in Brief, Week Zero
UCI Takes Third in Sierra Magazine’s Annual “Cool Schools” Ranking
UC Irvine was named the third most sustainable university in the nation in Sierra Magazine’s annual “Cool Schools” ranking released on Sept. 6, due to UCI’s “green energy and eco-friendly transportation programs, sustainability research, and related academic and co-curricular student activities.” UCI is the highest ranking UC campus on the list, and is currently the only university to score in the top 10 for seven consecutive years.
Sierra Magazine commended UCI for its reduction of total energy consumption through green building techniques and retrofitting older areas on campus. Other strengths cited were the amount of sustainability-related courses offered (110) and the more than 200 faculty members dedicated to studying climate change and sustainability.
Sierra Magazine noted that the rankings are meant to spur students and administrators to raise environmental standards through friendly competition and that “many universities are making amiable progress.”
UCI Researchers Publish Study Connecting Selfies with Happiness
Computer scientists from the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences published a study in July suggesting a link between taking selfies and happiness. The study, published in Psychology of Well-Being on July 4, gauged users’ psychological and emotional states as they performed exercises on smartphones.
Researchers focused on “self-perception, in which people manipulated positive facial expressions; self-efficacy, in which they did things to make themselves happy; and pro-social, in which people did things to make others happy.” In practical terms, subjects took three photos per day: one selfie, one photo of an object that made the subject happy, and one photo that might make another person happy. Researchers found that all groups experienced increased positivity in their moods, with the highest results from the selfie group.
Peter the Anteater Painted on UCI Water Tower
A fresh portrait of Peter the Anteater was painted onto UCI’s water tower on Peltason Drive across from the Bren Center early last month. The design harkens back to the anteater character from Johnny Hart’s “B.C.” comic strip, which served as the original model for UCI’s mascot.
Telepresence Robots Aid Chronically Ill Children in Maintaining School Life
Education researchers at UCI published an exploratory study on Sept. 3 which suggests that ill, homebound children benefit socially and academically from having robotic surrogates in the classroom. The study was conducted by UCI PhD candidate Veronica Newhart, alongside Dr. Mark Warshauer, Professor of Education and Informatics, and Dr. Leonard Sender, Clinical Professor of Medicine.
In the study’s conclusion, researchers wrote, “While no general conclusion can be drawn beyond the experiences of these [study participants], the impact of remaining connected to their school communities is undeniable… children with chronic illness and their classmates are strongly affected by physical segregation and social isolation and, until recently, there has not been a way to provide them with inclusive academic and social experiences.”
Wheeled robot “surrogates” are essentially a two-way streaming video between the classroom and the student’s home, allowing students to participate in class, engage with peers and even take field trips.
Telepresence technology will be available to UCI students this academic year as a gift from the class of 2016.