Academic Departments and Programs


Research in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSB is organized into several areas. Biochemistry research centers on the themes of bio-organic and bio-inorganic reaction mechanisms, protein-nucleic acid recognition, nucleic acid structure and dynamics, and membrane transport. Areas of emphasis within the Inorganic/Analytical Division include chemical and biochemical catalysis, photochemical phenomena, nano-technology, and materials chemistry. Materials chemists focus on the synthesis and properties of new multi-molecule arrays such as plastics, films and surfaces. Ongoing organic chemistry research spans all the major areas and encompasses topics such as enzymatic processes, synthesis of biologically important natural products, new asymmetric methods, novel organometallic catalyst development, and much more. Emphasis in experimental physical chemistry includes the energetics, chemical kinetics, reaction dynamics, structure, and nonlinear optical properties of neutral as well as ionic molecules in the gas and condensed phases. The theoretical chemistry group is active in fields ranging from the electronic structure of small molecules and polymers, to developing methods for simulating quantum and statistical dynamics, to surface science, and to biochemistry at both the molecular and cellular level. Additionally, faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry participate in UCSB interdisciplinary research organizations.

The department offers the BA in chemistry, a BS in chemistry or biochemistry, and the MA, MS, and PhD degrees in chemistry. The department offers diverse experiences for students at all levels. From undergraduate courses where students build their own NMR instruments to graduate programs that offer research visits to China; the department excels at novel educational opportunities. Research faculty investigate many fascinating aspects of modern chemistry including research in solar energy conversion using plastics and applications of nanoscience to catalysis.

encapsulated gold nanoparticles are excellent catalysts


Earth is a dynamically evolving planet. Unraveling the 4560 million years of its history and predicting the course of its future are central objectives of Earth Science. The diverse fields of study within Earth Science takes UCSB scientists from the highest mountains to the depths of the oceans, from life's beginning to the great extinctions of the past, from modern global warming to climates of the past, from erupting volcanoes to earthquake hazards, from the scale of individual atoms in a crystal to giant tectonic plates-all across an ever-changing landscape that reflects the continuing interaction among tectonics, climate and humans.

Research into the deep Earth and deep time is the framework for understanding the past and predicting the future. Earth Science provides a perspective that allows students to address such fundamental societal issues as natural hazards, global change, and mineral, petroleum and water resources.

Like all disciplines within MLPS, Earth Science students have a basic foundation in math, physics, chemistry and biology. From there the student branches into one of the various emphases within the major that that best suits his or her talents and interests: a BS in Geological Sciences or Geophysics; a BS with an emphasis in Earth System Science, Geohydrology, Paleobiology, or Earth and Planetary Science; or a BA in Geological Sciences; or a BA with an emphasis in Science Education. For the exceptional student, a five-year BS/MS degree is available. The PhD and MS programs in Earth Science cover all areas of research by the faculty from geology to geophysics. The Department plays a key role in the education of MS and PhD students through the Marine Science Graduate Program.

Leading the Earth Science program is a distinguished faculty known for its dedication to research and teaching. Among the active faculty, two have received the UCSB Academic Senate Awards for Outstanding Teaching, another received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research and another received the UCSB's Academic Senate Outstanding Graduate Mentoring Award. The research level is high among all faculty; about 75% have received distinguished awards within their discipline. For example, four are members of the National Academy of Science, six are fellows of the American Geophysical Union and 12 are Fellows of the Geological Society of America.

field work in the Himalaya - J. Cottle


The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB), comprised of approximately 30 faculty research groups, is strongly committed to excellence in both education and research. EEMB researchers use their scientific understanding to address some of the world's most pressing environmental issues, including consequences of global warming and ocean acidification, invasive and endangered species, impacts of environmental change, biological control of introduced pests and parasites, biodiversity, pollution, harmful algal blooms, design of marine protected areas, and acid rain. As evidence of high faculty quality, UCSB has been ranked first in the nation in research impact in the area of Ecology/Environment, and fifth in the nation in Plant and Animal Science (the area that includes marine biology - Science Watch, November 2006).

Located in an incomparably beautiful setting directly on the California coast, faculty and student researchers have easy access to a myriad of unique environments including the oceanic Pacific, deep coastal basins, estuarine, subtidal and intertidal marine coastal ecosystems near major faunal boundaries, and mountain, chaparral, oak woodland, desert, island, and coastal terrestrial and freshwater habitats. EEMB research studies are also underway across the globe, including such regions as the South Pacific, the Sargasso Sea, Central and South America, the Arctic, and Antarctica.

EEMB offers MA and Ph D. degrees and four undergraduate majors (Aquatic Biology, Ecology and Evolution, Physiology, and Zoology), and jointly oversees a general Biological Sciences major with the MCDB department. Undergraduate participation in original field and laboratory research with faculty is strongly encouraged.


Geography is the study of the Earth as the home of humanity. As such, it involves analyses of the spatial and temporal phenomena that make up the human and natural environment of Earth, from multiple disciplinary perspectives. The Department of Geography at UCSB is on the cutting edge of geographic research, technologies, and interdisciplinary studies.

UCSB Geography is internationally recognized as one of the largest and highest ranked Departments of Geography in the world, and our faculty routinely win the most prestigious awards in their fields. Diamond-Graham ranked Geography number one for the number of citations/awards for a given department or program divided by the number of program faculty in 1995; in its last rankings, the National Research Council placed us number four in the nation, based upon reputation by peer review-the highest NRC ranking of any department at UCSB; in 2008, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked us number two in the nation on its "Top Research Universities Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index"; and currently ranks us the number one "large, prestigious program" among Departments of Geography in the USA.

Geography faculty hold a dazzling array of academic awards and honors, including Michael Goodchild's 2007 Prix Vautrin Lud, considered the "Nobel Prize" for Geography. "The First Law of Geography" is named after our Emeritus Professor Waldo Tobler, who is also known as the father of Analytical Cartography; Reginald Golledge is famous for pioneering the field of Behavioral Geography and, more recently, the field of Disabilities Geography; and Michael Goodchild is known as the father of Geographic Information Science. The Department also has five AAAS Fellows, and three AGU Fellows.

The Department offers two undergraduate and two graduate degrees: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geography, Bachelor of Science (BS) in Physical Geography, Master of Arts (MA) in Geography and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Geography. In addition, a Bachelor of Arts with an Emphasis in Geographic Information Science is offered for undergraduates pursuing a deeper study of the science behind spatial information technologies. There are also three minors offered for undergraduates; Focus in Spatial Thinking; Focus in Spatial Science; and a Focus in Space and Place. Graduate students pursuing a PhD may petition to add an emphasis in Cognitive Science, Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences, Transportation, or Environment and Society.


The Department of Mathematics offers BA, BS, MA and PhD degrees. Faculty research interests include low-dimensional topology, differential geometry, partial differential equations, analysis, algebra, number theory and computational science.

The Applied Mathematics group maintains active collaborative research projects with faculty in Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, Materials Science, and the Materials Research Laboratory.  We are also partners of an industrial consortium, the Complex Fluids Design Consortium. The Applied group members are also core faculty of the Computational Science and Engineering graduate program with an IGERT grant and are currently participating in the creation of a new interdisciplinary program on Computational Soft Materials.  

Our String Theory group represents a new interdisciplinary direction for the department.  David Morrison belong to the Algebra group with a joint appointment in Physics, Sergei Gukov belongs to Geometry/Topology with a joint appointment in Physics.  These recent hires, the synergies offered by the presence of KITP, and our recent national prominence in algebraic geometry make this an exciting opportunity for growth.  

Understanding of the fundamental processes of the natural word is based to a large extent on partial differential equations (PDE). For example, the Einstein equations describe the geometry of space-time and its interaction with matter. The dynamics of fluids and elastic solids are governed by partial differential equations that go back to Euler and Cauchy. Electro-magnetic waves including the propagation of light in various media are modeled by Maxwell's equations.  

Geometry/Topology: The department's strength in low dimensional topology is recognized both nationally and internationally. One of the most exciting recent events in geometry is Perelman's work on the Poincare conjecture using Hamilton's Ricci flow. It combines geometric insights and techniques with analytic machineries to solve long standing topological problems.  

The Algebra group is active across a broad spectrum such as representation theory applied to Lie groups, Poisson geometry, integrable systems, finite dimensional algebras, number theory, quadratic forms, and quantum groups. Particularly exciting are recent stunning breakthroughs in complex algebraic geometry.


Research in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) ranges from the structure and function of biological macromolecules to the fundamental processes used in cellular functions and the integration of these processes during microbial, plant, and animal development. Areas of particular focus include molecular microbiology, molecular neurobiology, developmental and cellular genetics, plant molecular biology, marine molecular biology, and stem cell biology. MCDB researchers have affiliations with the Neuroscience Research Institute, the Marine Science Institute, the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, and the Materials Research Laboratory.

MCDB offers two general biology degrees (a BA and BS in Biology) in concert with the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, plus four specialized BS degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Pharmacology. The MCDB Graduate Program provides rigorous, individualized graduate training that emphasizes innovative research, and offers MA and PhD degrees. MCDB also participates in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Biomolecular Science and Engineering and in the Interdepartmental Marine Science graduate program.


The Department of Physics maintains cutting-edge research programs in theoretical and experimental aspects of a diverse array of disciplines, including astrophysics and cosmology, biophysics, condensed-matter and materials physics, high energy physics and elementary particles, gravity and general relativity, and mathematical physics.  There are close ties and cross-disciplinary efforts with several other Departments and Research Organizations on Campus, including the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, the California NanoSystems Institute, the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids, the Institute for Terahertz Science and Technology, Los Cumbres Observatory, and others.  Research is done both on Campus and at a wide range of national and international facilities, such as the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea and the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva.

The Department offers the BA and BS in Physics, Minors in Physics and in Astronomy and Planetary Science, and the MA and the PhD in Physics. A wide range of research opportunities is available to students at all levels.

Psychological and Brain Sciences

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences is committed to excellence in research and education. The 28 faculty, 70 graduate students, and many of the approximately 2000 undergraduate majors carry out leading edge research in these four areas: cognition, perception, and cognitive neuroscience (CPCN), developmental and evolutionary psychology (DEVO), neuroscience and behavior (N&B), and social psychology (Social).  The associated Brain Imaging Center, Center for Evolutionary Psychology, Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior, and Sage Center for the Study of the Mind contribute to the stimulating intellectual environment of the Department.

The department offers community and campus members the opportunity to contribute to cutting edge on-going research as research participants.  Click here to participate in the Psychology subject pool for course credit or PAY.

Highlighted below is research representing the four areas in the department. 

In the CPCN area, Barry Giesbrecht's research is aimed at understanding the brain mechanisms underlying attention. In current work he and his colleagues are using computational algorithms applied to measures of neural activity to predict the successes and failures of attention when, and even before, they occur.

In the DEVO area, Jim Roney investigates the role of sex hormones in human mating psychology. One line of research has demonstrated that men exhibit rapid elevations in testosterone and cortisol concentrations after social interactions with young women, which is the same basic pattern exhibited by most nonhuman vertebrate males after exposure to potential mates.

In the N&B area, Karen Szumlinski's research focuses on the neurobiological bases of mental disease, including drug/alcohol addiction, psychosis and affective disorders.  Current studies employ a combination of neurochemical, genetic, and pharmacological approaches to determine the role that excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate plays in regulating brain function and behavior in animal models of mental disease.

In the Social area, Heejung Kim studies how people from different cultures (e.g. European and Asian) vary in the ways in which they express and communicate their thoughts, feelings and needs and, in turn, how individuals' psychological processes are affected by engaging in various acts of expression. 

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences offers BA degrees in Psychology and BS degrees in Bio-Psychology, as well as Ph.D. degrees in Psychology.




The major research areas in the Department of Statistics and Applied Probability include statistical theory and methodology, applied statistics, biostatistics, applied probability, actuarial science and financial mathematics. Our faculty members each bring a unique perspective to the department, and have wide range of interests, specialties, and expertise. Those research interests include asymptotic statistical inference, Bayesian inference, Bayesian networks, data mining, directional data analysis, environmental statistics, financial mathematics, functional data analysis, linear models and generalized linear models, Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods, microarray data analysis, nonparametric curve fitting, nonparametric inference, resampling methods, smoothing spline methods, spatial data analysis, statistical computation, stochastic processes, stochastic control, stochastic differential equations, stochastic partial differential equations, and time series. The statistical needs of science, technology, business and government are huge and growing rapidly. Our faculty members and graduate/undergraduate students participate in interdisciplinary research programs. They have collaborations with other departments at UCSB in the research areas such as Biological science, Economics, Education, Engineering, Finance, Geography, Mathematics, and Psychology.

The Department of Statistics and Applied Probability offers a general B.A. in Statistics and a B.S. in two specialized subfields: Applied Statistics and Probability and Statistics. A Minor in Statistical Science is also offered, for those who are majoring in other substantive disciplines such as biology, economics and computer science. Other degrees offered by the Department include a B.S. in Actuarial Science and a B.S. in Financial Mathematics and Statistics; the latter offered jointly with the Department of Mathematics. Such an advanced undergraduate Actuarial program is the only one in California and one of only two such programs on the entire West Coast of US. The joint program in Financial program is unique to California. The department also offers a Master's degree in Statistics, a five-year combined B.S. and M.S. in Actuarial Science and a Ph.D. in Statistics and Applied Probability, with optional emphasis in Financial Mathematics and Statistics, and optional emphasis in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences. The department is the home to the Center for Financial Mathematics and Actuarial Research.


Interdepartmental Programs

The interdepartmental graduate program in Biomolecular Science and Engineering epitomizes the highly interdisciplinary approach to research and education that is the hallmark of UC Santa Barbara. In this context, BMSE offers a unique mix for graduate training and research at the frontiers of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biophysics, and Biomolecular Materials.

 BMSE’s enriching graduate training program is driven by many renowned research centers at UCSB and draws its faculty from experts in eight departments and two colleges. Many faculty have close reciprocal relationships with biotechnology and bioengineering companies that provide exceptional training and future employment opportunities for graduate students.

BMSE trains graduate students for leadership positions in the exploding fields represented by two curricular emphases: one in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the other in Biophysics and Bioengineering.

Dynamical Neuroscience

The UCSB Interdepartmental Graduate Degree Program in Dynamical Neuroscience (DYNS) provides strong teaching and state?of?the?art research in computational methods that have the goal of understanding brain-mind interactions across all levels of architecture, from single neurons to complex networks. The program recognizes that mathematical and computational methods are revolutionizing neuroscience. The complexity and volume of neurophysiological data, from single synapses to whole brains, begs for formal approaches that can rigorously test theories, uncover subtle relationships, and extract meaning in the presence of high levels of noise. Within this broad field, different disciplines have emerged. Building on the Nobel Prize winning efforts of Hodgkin and Huxley, computational neuroscience builds biophysically detailed models of single neurons or small networks of neurons. A much newer approach, called computational cognitive neuroscience uses simplified Hodgkin and Huxley models to model large?scale neural networks and to formally test cognitive neuroscience theories of behavior. Network and complexity analyses use results from graph theory, complexity theory, and nonlinear dynamics to uncover fundamental principles of brain organization and function. Finally, signal processing and machine learning approaches use sophisticated algorithms from engineering and computer science to extract signal from noisy neuroscience data. The UCSB DYNS program provides students with a formal approach that unifies these different subfields. Areas of specialization include complex neural networks and computational vision.

The program brings together faculty located in the following seven departments on campus: 1) Chemical Engineering, 2) Computer Science, 3) Electrical and Computer Engineering, 4) Mechanical Engineering, 5) Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, 6) Physics, and 7) Psychological & Brain Sciences.

Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program where teaching and research focus on the interactions between human and natural systems.  Founded in 1970, the UCSB Environmental Studies Program is one of the oldest, largest, and most interdisciplinary environmental programs in the United States.  Our program’s goal is to conduct pioneering research while training the environmental leaders of the future. This requires engaging in all areas of scholarship from the natural sciences to the social sciences, arts and humanities.  Our interdisciplinary approach is critical to developing sustainable solutions to today’s pressing challenges of climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity and habitat loss, and toxic pollution.

The UCSB Environmental Studies Program offers a diverse curriculum that trains students to analyze the complex human-natural systems that drive environmental change and to propose and justify actions to address environmental issues.  The curriculum centers on a series of core interdisciplinary courses, complemented by disciplinary training in the biophysical sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  We offer both BA and BS degrees but with a common core to ensure that students have solid interdisciplinary training coupled to focused expertise.  We also offer a BS in Hydrological Sciences & Policy.  The curriculum mixes courses taught by leading scholars with those taught by working environmental professionals.  The program also cross-lists courses with over a dozen departments.  We have very active local alumni who speak to our students about careers in Environmental areas and most of our graduates work in areas related to the environment, with jobs in academia, local, regional and national government, business, and various types of non-governmental organizations.  

Faculty in the Environmental Studies Program pursue active graduate research programs in Environmental Studies or through their joint or affiliated home departments. The program also houses the Interdepartmental PhD Emphasis on Environment and Society.


B.S. in Financial Mathematics and Statistics

Financial Mathematics and Statistics focuses on the pricing and hedging of financial assets, portfolio management and the evaluation of financial risks, insurance applications. The tools of modern financial analysis rely on a thorough understanding of economic theory, mathematics, probability and statistics.

The BS major in Financial Mathematics and Statistics (FMS) at UCSB is unique to California and one of the very few such programs in the nation. The major was opened in Winter 2004 as a joint major between the Department of Statistics and Applied Probability and the Department of Mathematics, with the cooperation of the Department of Economics. The major is already a remarkable success: in Fall 2014, 322 students were pursuing FMS pre-major.

This challenging and highly rewarding degree prepares students for careers in diverse areas of the financial industry or for graduate school. Past program graduates were hired by Merrill Lynch, Fisher Investments, etc, while others continued into graduate school. In fact, the Department of Statistics and Applied Probability recently introduced the PhD Emphasis in Financial Mathematics and Statistics, focusing on research.

Some of the strongest undergraduates in the FMS major are supported by The Robert and Barbara Lowes Scholarships. There are opportunities for FMS undergraduates to pursue summer internships or directed studies with faculty at the Center for Research in Financial Mathematics and Statistics (CRFMS). (link to ).


The Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science (IGPMS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara is a multidisciplinary program bringing together faculty from across UCSB departments to provide graduate training leading to the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Marine Science. The diversity of research interests, perspectives, and expertise within the program promotes the development of a broad foundation in marine science and appreciation for interdisciplinary approaches to research and education while allowing students to develop depth in specific subdisciplines within the field.

Marine Science faculty, professional researchers, graduate students, post docs, and undergraduates study a broad range of research topics related to the world's oceans including climate change, ocean circulation, marine ecology, marine geology, microbiology, marine natural products, biomolecular materials, marine biochemistry, ocean remote sensing, paleoceanography, marine conservation, ocean policy, and marine resources.   The Program provides students with opportunities to conduct marine science research around the world's oceans from the Arctic to tropics to the Antarctic.  Students are encouraged to work across a range of disciplines in marine science as they pursue their degrees.  Research laboratories of IGPMS faculty offer graduate and undergraduate students numerous opportunities to learn about marine science and to work on a variety of research projects.  Many students have participated in field expeditions and oceanographic research cruises.

Faculty participating in the program come from nine departments on campus including the Departments of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, Earth Science, Geography, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and Anthropology. All faculty maintain strong marine-oriented research programs which accommodate students from both the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science and their own departmental graduate programs.