UC Noyce Initiative advances digital innovation

New 5-campus consortium pursues collaborative research

By Sarah Colwell | December 12, 2023

Learning more about women's brains, protecting the grid from cyberattacks, exploring the capacity of quantum computing — these are transformational research projects being pursued because of a new, five-campus, University of California consortium called The UC Noyce Initiative. 

The UC Noyce Initiative brings together researchers from five UC campuses— Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara — by building community and providing financial funding for cross-campus research projects in digital innovation. Current funding priorities for the Initiative are computational health (i.e. generative artificial intelligence applied to health and life sciences), cybersecurity and quantum computing.

“This is a tremendous opportunity not just for the five UC campuses who are involved in the UC Noyce Initiative, but also for society,” said Pramod Khargonekar, UC Noyce Initiative executive committee chair and UC Irvine vice chancellor of research. “Because of the accelerating role of digital innovation in our lives, coupled with the research prowess of these five UC campuses, the UC Noyce Initiative stands to positively impact numerous lives.”

Honoring the legacy of Robert N. Noyce

Woman wearing sunglasses and man wearing glasses smile as they ride a dirt bike
Robert Noyce and Ann Bowers ride a motorcycle. Austin, Texas. Circa 1980s.
Photo courtesy of The Robert N. Noyce Trust.

In 2020, The Robert N. Noyce Trust made a gift to the University of California system to launch the UC Noyce Initiative to honor the legacy of Robert Noyce, Ph.D. and his wife, Ann S. Bowers. Noyce was a world-renowned physicist, inventor of the microchip and co-founder of Intel. Nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley,” Noyce was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and the National Medal of Technology in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. Noyce served as a Regent of the University of California from 1982 to 1988. He died in 1990.

Vice Chancellor Khargonekar said the Initiative will pursue research projects that honor Noyce’s work, legacy and pursuit of innovation. 

“Inspiration for the work being done through the UC Noyce initiative comes not just from the great legacy of Dr. Noyce and all he accomplished during his tremendous career,” he said, “but we also aspire to pursue work that we imagine Dr. Noyce would be excited about, if he were with us today.” 

The power of 5

Michael P. Groom, trustee of the Robert N. Noyce Trust, said the gift’s focus on creating synergies and supporting collaborative research projects among the five participating UC campuses is intentional.

“Dr. Noyce believed deeply in supporting the next generation of innovation. We think one of the best ways to accomplish this is through supporting collaborative, synergistic research projects among these five UC campuses. They are among the best research universities in the world and are driving discovery around what we believe are the most pressing challenges and exciting opportunities in digital innovation of our time,” Groom said. “In short, we want to harness the power of five to advance digital innovation for the public good.”

While the public launch of the UC Noyce Initiative coincided with the late Noyce's birthday on Dec. 12, a soft launch of a pilot program for the Initiative occurred during the 2021-22 academic year. Since then, more than three dozen research projects across the five UC campuses have received funding. These awards are supporting the work of several multi-campus research teams, including postdoctoral scholars and graduate students. Learn more about current UC Noyce Initiative research collaborations.

Ann S. Bowers Women’s Brain Health Initiative

One such UC Noyce Initiative-supported project, of which all five campuses are a part, is the Ann S. Bowers Women’s Brain Health Initiative (Bowers WBHI). Launched on Nov. 16, the Bowers WBHI is driven by a radically simple idea: Progress in neuroscience will flourish when the health of men and women are valued equally. Men have been treated as the standard in science for centuries, according to Emily Jacobs, director of the Bowers WBHI and associate professor at UC Santa Barbara.  

“Less than 0.5 percent of all brain imaging articles published during the past 25 years considered health factors specific to women,” Jacobs said. “At the Bowers WBHI, we want to change that through deeply collaborative science. The initiative will shed much-needed light on how the brain responds to pregnancy, menopause, the menstrual cycle, hormonal contraception and more.”

The work of the Bowers WBHI has already spurred collaborations with researchers from other universities including Stanford University, Cornell University and UC San Diego, among others.  For example, the group is currently working on a Bowers WBHI Brain Imaging Database, pooling MRI data across UC campuses to generate the most comprehensive brain imaging database dedicated to women’s health. Through a partnership with Stanford University, the data will be integrated into a free and open platform, called OpenNeuro, for sharing data with the global science community. Learn more about the Bowers WBHI.

2023-24 UC Noyce Initiative researchers 

Additional research projects are on the horizon. In 2023-24 the UC Noyce Initiative selected the following 12 projects to receive funding:

  • “ACE: Accurate, Computationally Enhanced and Equitable Intrapartum Fetal Monitoring,” led by Soheil Ghiasi from UC Davis.
  • “AI for Cybersecurity,” led by David Wagner from UC Berkeley, Hao Chan from UC Davis and Christopher Kruegel from UC Santa Barbara.
  • “A Unified Framework to Study the Local Transmission Dynamics of Infectious Disease from Multiple Data Sources,” led by Isabel Rodriguez-Barraquer from UCSF.
  • “Computational Approaches for Understanding and Intervening Upon Misinformation About Contraception and Abortion on Social Media,” led by Anu Manchikanti Gomez and Coye Cheshire from UC Berkeley, and Katrina Kimport from UCSF.
  • “Computational Virtual Patient to Predict Perceptual Capabilities of Prosthetic Vision,” led by Miguel Eckstein from UC Santa Barbara.
  • “Cyberattack Detection for the U.S. Power Grid Using Machine Learning and AI Techniques,” led by Javad Lavaei from UC Berkeley.
  • “Development of Novel, Multimodal, Physiologically Focused Artificial Intelligence Algorithms,” led by Geoffrey Tison from UCSF.
  • “Establishing the Foundations of Emotional Intelligence of Care Companion Robots to Mitigate Agitation among High-Risk Dementia Patients via Emphatic Patient-Robot Interactions,” led by Adeline Nyamathi from UC Irvine.
  • “Information Security: Protecting Against Malicious Generative AI,” led by Hany Farid from UC Berkeley.
  • “Safeguarding Privacy of Cardiovascular Waveforms through Reinforcement Learning-Guided Generative Models,” led by Amir Rahmani from UC Irvine.
  • “ScenicMR: Personalized, Privacy-Preserving, Mixed-Reality Platform for Home-Based Patient Rehabilitation,” led by Sanjit Seshia and Bjoern Hartmann from UC Berkeley, Yasser Shoukry from UC Irvine and Cathra Halabi from UCSF.
  • “Simons Institute Research Program on Cryptography,” led by Shafi Goldwasser from UC Berkeley.
  • “Transforming the Accessibility of Bionic Prosthetic Limbs by Leveraging Modern Computational Approaches and the Emerging Standard of Amputation Surgery,” led by Jonathon Schofield from UC Davis.