Thursday, May 22, 2003
Phillip G. Torrez (510) 987-9205


The University of California Board of Regents has appointed Francisco J. Ayala of UC Irvine and Ming T. Tsuang, soon to join UC San Diego, as University Professors, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on UC faculty.

The title University Professor is reserved for scholars of international distinction who are recognized and respected as teachers of exceptional ability. The purpose of the University Professorship is to recognize throughout the university the special talents of outstanding scholars and teachers.

Prior to the appointments of Ayala and Tsuang, only 33 UC faculty had been honored with the designation as University Professor.

Ayala, in Irvine's department of ecology and evolutionary biology, is the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences. He is widely recognized as one of the most influential and distinguished scientists in evolutionary biology. In 2001, he was awarded a National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science honor.

Ayala's research focuses on population and evolutionary genetics, including the origin of species, genetic diversity of populations, the origin of malaria, the population structure of parasitic protozoa, and the molecular clock of evolution. Additionally, he has a long and distinguished career training doctoral and postdoctoral students and is known as an exceptional teacher of undergraduates.

Ayala has published more than 750 articles and is the author or editor of 18 books. He also writes about philosophical issues concerning epistemology, ethics, the philosophy of biology, and the exchange between religion and science.

Ayala has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of his accomplishments as a scholar. They include the Gold Honorary Gregor Mendel Medal, Czech Academy of Sciences (1994), the President's Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (1995), the UCI Medal, University of California (1995) and the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement, Sigma XI (2000).

Ayala earned his B.S. from the University of Madrid in 1955 and his master's and doctorate degrees from Columbia University in 1963 and 1964, respectively. In 1965, he began his career as an assistant professor at Providence University and from 1967 through 1971 was an assistant professor at Rockefeller University.

He joined the University of California in 1971 as an associate professor at the Davis campus. In 1987, he was appointed to the Irvine faculty at the rank of Distinguished Professor.

Tsuang will direct the Institute of Human Behavioral Genomics in the department of psychiatry at UCSD's School of Medicine when he moves to San Diego this summer. He is internationally renowned for his work on human genetics as applied to behavioral neuropsychiatric diseases and is one of the top genetic epidemiologists in the world. In addition, he has developed some of the world's largest samples of sibling pairs of schizophrenics for genetic research.

Studies of heredity and variation performed early in Tsuang's career confirmed the importance of genetic factors as one source of neuropsychiatric illness. His participation in a World Health Organization-sponsored cross-cultural epidemiological study of schizophrenia led him to speculate about the underlying cause of the disorder. In 1965, Tsuang postulated a theory of multiple-gene causality of schizophrenia that is widely accepted today.

Convinced that the path to determining the causes, treatment and ultimately, the prevention of schizophrenia, must be preceded by a thorough examination and documentation of clinical characteristics, Tsuang began a 40-year longitudinal outcome and family study of schizophrenia and manic depression. This work ultimately provided the first evidence of a distinction between schizophrenia and affective disorders, and further provided the clinical criteria for subtypes of schizophrenia that have been adopted with only minor changes by the American Psychiatric Association and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Tsuang's continuing research has focused on identifying and clarifying susceptibility genes for schizophrenia and defining the environmental risk factors that contribute to the disease.

Tsuang's productivity is underscored by a publication record filled with groundbreaking papers throughout his career. He has more than 350 peer review publications, 72 chapters in scholarly monographs and he has written, edited or co-edited 15 books and monographs. Tsuang is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Genetics, which is a section of the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

Tsuang is known as a charismatic teacher and lecturer, with a commitment to training and fostering the careers of young scholars in genetics and epidemiology.

Tsuang earned his M.D. in medicine from National Taiwan University's College of Medicine in 1957 and his Ph.D. in psychiatric genetics from the University of London, Maudsley Hospital, in 1965. He holds a doctorate of science in psychiatric epidemiology and genetics from the University of London (1981) and two honorary masters of science from Brown University (1983) and Harvard University (1987).

Tsuang was a professor at the University of Iowa College of Medicine from 1975 to 1982 and as professor and vice chairman at Brown University from 1982 to 1985. He joined the Harvard Medical School in 1985. From 1993 through March 2003, Tsuang was the Stanley Cobb Professor of Psychiatry at the medical school and director of the Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology in Genetics.

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