Social Sciences Unveils Cutting-Edge MRI Facility

By Ashley Duong

UCI’s School of Social Sciences introduced its brand new MRI scanning facility, FIBRE, on Sept. 25. Located on the bottom floor of Social Sciences Gateway, FIBRE’s opening ceremony allowed professors, donors and community members who helped contribute to the facility’s opening to celebrate with a small gathering and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Deans Bill Maurer (social sciences) and Frank LaFerla (biological sciences) gave speeches as well as the new director of the facility, Craig Stark. Maurer, touching on the never-ending importance of studying of the brain, especially in the wake of the recent Las Vegas shootings, said in his opening remarks, “Development of neuroscience… [can lead to] prevention strategies… that may stop needless loss.”

The opening of the facility was a “broad based collaborative effort,” with support from seven deans across the university as well as major support and funding from Janet Napolitano’s Office of the President.

“A lot of the funding actually came from the Office of the President,” said Greg Hickock, a professor of cognitive science and early contributor to the development of the facility. “Essentially, her office gave us a large loan, which allowed us to buy the necessary equipment and open the facility.”

The loan is expected to be paid back progressively through research done at the facility as well as contributions from donors.

While funding and specific planning for the facility started just a year ago, plans for a scanning facility were included in the original construction of the Social Sciences Gateway nearly a decade ago, a stipulation ensured by former School of Social Sciences dean, Barbara Dosher.

The facility, geared mostly toward research study done by professors and graduate students, includes the most recent scanning technology, a machine that can take up to “16 [images] simultaneously,” according to Stark, the director of the new facility, whose main focus of study deals with aging and dementia. The older facility on the university’s campus sits in a bungalow at the medical school with a machine that can only produce four images per scan.

Stark expects that the new equipment will not only keep UCI at the “cutting edge of research,” but also attract new faculty and research scientists, personnel needed to make proper use of the facility and to staff it.

While undergraduates will not often be working directly in the facility, through research projects and internships, they may have opportunities to contribute to the ground level processes of research done at FIBRE.

“It takes a village to get something like this done,” Maurer said in his closing remarks. “The effort that made [the facility possible was] by an interdisciplinary group from all across the campus.”