On Friday, Feb. 8, the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) inducted four esteemed alumni into its Hall of Fame. In a joint ceremony with UCI’s Schools of Engineering and Physical Sciences and their own 2019 inductees, ICS celebrated the achievements of its newest inductees in the impressive expanse of the Tustin Hangar. Noted for being one of the largest wooden structures in the world, the immense venue — with a rotating spotlight highlighting the vast open space surrounding the vibrant central event — seemed a perfect reflection of the far-reaching accomplishments of the night’s inductees.
In introductory remarks, ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou strayed from the scheduled program a bit to highlight some of the school’s accomplishments as well. “I’m not going to tell you about the record number of applicants in ICS — it was 10,000 for fall of 2018,” he said wryly. “I’m not going to tell you about all the hiring we’ve been doing in ICS… a dozen faculty last year and another 15 this year.” He continued, “I’m not going to tell you about the record number of students — 4,200.” As the audience laughed, he quickly got the program back on track. “We don’t have time for that,” he joked, “so I’m going to stick to my script.”
His script was full of accolades for the inductees, starting with Erin Bradner, who received her M.S. in 1998 and Ph.D. in 2001, both in information and computer science. Bradner is a director and research scientist at Autodesk in San Francisco, where she founded the Generative Design initiative and now manages Autodesk’s Robotics Lab. Papaefthymiou noted her 15 years of experience as a user researcher and her novel work to amplify human creativity through intelligent and intuitive technology.
The second inductee of the night was Gerald Bortis, who received a B.S. in 2005 and his M.S. in 2007, both in ICS, followed by his Ph.D. in software engineering in 2016. Bortis is vice president of software development at NextGen Healthcare, a leading provider of healthcare technology solutions. His team developed NextGen Office, a web-based electronic health record and practice management system.
Next, Papaefthymiou introduced Jim Berney, who received his B.S. in ICS and economics, focusing on AI, in 1989. Berney is an Academy Award-nominated freelance visual effects supervisor whose portfolio of work includes Warner Brothers’ “Aquaman” and the “Minecraft” movie, as well as Legendary’s “Pacific Rim 2.” WormStyle, a visual effects company he started in 2013, was responsible for nearly 100 shots for “Divergent.” Berney also worked on the Academy Award-nominated “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” for which he was nominated for the Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Effects.
Last but not least was Justin Erenkrantz, who received his B.S. in 2002 and M.S. in 2004, both in computer science, and his Ph.D. in software engineering in 2009. As senior vice president of software engineering for Major League Baseball, Erenkrantz and his team are responsible for delivering the core technology that supports the game. Erenkrantz is also a member of the Apache Software Foundation, serving as president from 2007 until 2010 and contributing to the development of the Apache HTTP Server, Apache Portable Runtime, and Flood.
Later in the evening, an inductee from each school gave a short speech, and Berney took the stage to represent ICS. “It’s truly an honor to be inducted into this Hall of Fame,” he began. Recalling his academic struggles in high school, he thanked UCI for giving him the opportunity to turn his education around. “They had wonderful professors… what they taught us was phenomenal, but they gave us the ability to do research and actual work in AI and software engineering.” Berney credited his software engineering background for much of his success in the visual effects industry. “Opportunity favors the prepared [and] it was the ICS department that prepared me for the challenges I’d meet head on and be successful at,” said Berney. “So I’m truly grateful, and I want to thank everybody, on behalf of all the inductees, for this honor.”
Joining the four ICS alumni in the 2019 Hall of Fame are the following inductees from the Schools of Engineering and Physical Sciences, four from each, respectively:
- Denis Bilodeau, B.S. 1991 — Civil Engineering
- Jon Gribble, B.S. 1983 — Environmental Engineering
- Laura Wright Teclemariam, B.S. 2004 — Electrical Engineering
- Ravi Valleti, B.S. 2002 — Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
- Jonathan Dorfan, Ph.D. 1976 — Physics
- Steven K. Pollack, Ph.D. 1980 — Chemistry
- Maggie L. Walser, Ph.D. 2007 — Chemistry
- Lihua Zhao, Ph.D. 2006 — Organic Chemistry & Materials Science
Dean of Engineering Gregory Washington concluded the ceremony with gratitude for everyone in attendance and with enthusiastic school spirit. “We want to thank you all for engaging with us, and Zot Zot Zot!”
More photos from the event can be found online.
— Shani Murray