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Premier Physicist to Create World-Class Renewable EnergyProgram at UC Merced

April 22, 2003

MERCED, CA — With erratic fluctuations in world oil prices, and continued concern about global warming, viable alternatives to fossil fuels are increasingly desirable.

At UC Merced, the recent appointment of professor Roland Winston, Ph.D. - a pioneer of solar energy utilization research - ensures that renewable energy alternatives will be a research focus. UC Merced is the newest campus of the University of California system, and is the first major research university to be built in the 21st century.

“We are delighted that Roland Winston will lead UC Merced's effort in renewable energy,” said Maria Pallavicini, Dean of Natural Sciences. “His inventions and patents have been widely recognized nationally and internationally, and his expertise will help the University provide unprecedented opportunities in the San Joaquin Valley and California for renewable energy studies.”

As a distinguished physicist and one of the country's leading solar power experts, Winston, who holds the title of Professor in the Division of Natural Sciences, comes to UC Merced from the University of Chicago, where he has taught and conducted research for the past 39 years. For six years he chaired the Department of Physics.

“Renewable energy – more specifically solar power – is experiencing a resurgence as the need for alternative energy sources is once again brought to national attention,” said Winston. “There were several solar-energy based power plants constructed in the 1980s, but for a number of reasons they were not actively pursued. Now, state and federal requirements mandating a certain percentage of renewable energy sources is reviving interest in these alternatives.”

Winston's research interests include elementary particle physics, where he and his colleagues have carried out the definitive investigation of hyperon beta decay, a cornerstone of the standard model of elementary particles, and a new discipline of optics he helped invent called nonimaging optics. Nonimaging solar collectors that don't need to track the sun have revolutionized solar energy utilization.

In joining the founding faculty at UC Merced, Winston says he has a goal of helping establish an “absolutely world-class academic program” in renewable energy.

“Given UC Merced's emphasis on a multi- and cross-disciplinary approach to teaching and research, I think the new campus will provide a wonderful setting for training students and eventual leaders in all aspects of renewable energy,” said Winston, the University's first physics professor. “In order to fully grasp the many sub-fields of renewable energy, students will need balanced backgrounds in areas such as the physical sciences, engineering, computer sciences and applied mathematics. UC Merced is committed to providing this curricular balance.”

As a founding faculty member at the prestigious University of California system's 10th campus, Winston's responsibilities will extend beyond teaching and research. Once he begins work in July 2003, he will help the Divisional Deans plan academic programs and recruit the initial complement of faculty, emphasizing the creation of interdisciplinary research teams.

UC Merced will welcome its first 1,000 students in fall of 2004, with an eventual student capacity of 25,000. Initial undergraduate degree programs will include computer science and engineering, environmental engineering, biological sciences, earth systems sciences, world cultures and history, and social and behavioral sciences. Masters and doctoral degrees will be offered in computer and information systems, environmental systems, systems biology, world cultures, and social and behavioral sciences.

UC Merced, the 10th campus of the University of California system, is the first major research university to be built in the United States in the 21st century. Currently employing approximately more than 120 educators and professionals, the University has a special mission to serve the educational needs of the San Joaquin Valley. The University's main campus in Merced is scheduled to open in 2004 to serve 1,000 students. Over the coming decades, the campus is expected to grow to a student population of 25,000. UC Merced will serve students in three ways that complement the changing needs of today's society: 1) a residential campus serving 25,000 students when complete; 2) educational centers throughout the San Joaquin Valley; and 3) cooperative agreements with the California Community College system.