Our History

Over the Years

The Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences has been integral to UC Irvine’s foundation since its establishment in 1965. Alongside other founding disciplines, it was envisioned by Chancellor Dan Aldrich, who appointed Edward A. Steinhaus as its pioneering dean. Departing from traditional taxonomies, Dean Steinhaus implemented an innovative structure based on shared biological processes rather than species. This forward-thinking approach, now a global standard, has facilitated groundbreaking collaborations and interdisciplinary research.

Under Steinhaus’ leadership, the school championed new methodologies and fostered a culture of innovation that set it apart from its contemporaries. Additionally, he established the world’s first academic department dedicated to brain research, with James L. McGaugh as its inaugural chair. This pioneering department has since made significant contributions to the field of neurobiology, solidifying the school’s reputation as a leader in cutting-edge biological research. The legacy of these early decisions continues to influence the school’s direction, driving its commitment to excellence and fostering an environment where scientific discovery thrives.

The Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences, since its inception in 1965, has remained at the forefront of innovation and collaboration in the field, shaping not only UC Irvine’s academic landscape but also influencing biological research worldwide.

History collage of various events


17 Founding Faculty

  • The Dunlop School (previously Biological Sciences Division) was among UCI’s original founding divisions with 17 founding faculty members


1st Faculty Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

  • Edward A. Steinhaus is the first faculty at UC Irvine to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)


1st Female Faculty Joins and Naming of Steinhaus Hall

  • – Susan V. Bryant becomes the first female faculty to join the Dunlop School
  • – Biological Sciences 1 (1965-1970) renamed after Edward A. Steinhaus’ passing


1st Female Dean

  • Elvera Ehrenfeld is appointed as dean of the Dunlop School and is the first woman to head an academic department at UC Irvine


Science Library and Qureshey Research Laboratory

  • The Science Library was built in 1994 ; Qureshey Research Laboratory built in 1997


McGaugh Hall

  • Biological Sciences II (1991-2001) renamed to honor McGaugh’s history as a founding faculty member and founding chair of Neurobiology and Behavior (previously psychobiology)

2001 - 2007

Natural Sciences I, II and Biological Sciences III

  • NS1 built in 2001 and NS2 in 2005; Biological Sciences III
    built in 2007


Schneiderman Lecture Hall

  • Renamed after Howard Schneiderman, founding chair of Developmental and Cell Biology. Previously known as Biological Sciences Lecture Hall (1994-2003); Science Lecture Hall (1965-1994)


Monumental $55 million estate gift to UC Irvine to Launch Noel Drury M.D. Depression Center

  • The committee charting the center’s future is led by Frank LaFerla, dean of the Dunlop School


The Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences

  • After $50 Million gift, the School is named after Charlie Dunlop, founder of Ambry Genetics

Leading in discovery

Dunlop School Deans

Dean Steinhaus

Edward A. Steinhaus, PhD

1963 – 1967

The founding dean of the School of Biological Sciences, Edward A. Steinhaus introduced a novel approach to teaching biology coined “the new biology.”

In 1968, Professor Steinhaus became the first UCI faculty member elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Following his death, the original Biological Sciences Building was renamed Edward A. Steinhaus Hall in his honor.

Dean McGaugh

James L. McGaugh, PhD

1967 – 1970

James L. McGaugh was recruited to UCI in 1964 to be the founding chair of the Department of Psychobiology (now, Neurobiology and Behavior). Within a few years, Professor McGaugh became the dean of the school and eventually rose to become the Executive Vice Chancellor.

He later founded the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Professor McGaugh was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989, and awarded the UCI Medal in 1992. A decade later, one of the largest science buildings on campus was renamed McGaugh Hall in his honor.

Dean Schneiderman

Howard A. Schneiderman, PhD

1970 – 1979

Howard A. Schneiderman was appointed dean 3 months after being recruited to UCI. During his tenure, he greatly increased the school’s research funding and recruited top research faculty. In 1975, Schneiderman was the second UCI professor elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2003, the Science Lecture Hall was renamed to the Schneiderman Lecture Hall in his memory.


Dean Stephens

Grover C. Stephens, PhD

1982 – 1986

An expert in the physiology of marine organisms, Professor Stephens’ work led to a better understanding of how ocean systems work. In 1982, he assumed the deanship of the school and helped build up Development and Cell Biology by recruiting key faculty members, including fellow physiologist and future school dean, Al Bennett.

Dean Smith

L. Dennis Smith, PhD

1987 – 1990

L. Dennis Smith was recruited to UCI to become the fifth dean of the School of Biological Sciences. By that time the school had grown substantially, and was the largest and most popular academic program on campus. During his tenure, Professor Smith oversaw a major physical expansion of the school, via state-funded laboratory and office space, as well as the construction of a state-of- the-art science library.

Dean Ehrenfeld

Elvera Ehrenfeld, PhD

1992 – 1996

Elvera Ehrenfeld’s appointment as dean of the School of Biological Sciences was a milestone in the university’s history. Not only was she the first female dean of Biological Sciences, but she was the first woman to head any academic school at UCI. An expert in the biochemistry of viruses, Professor Ehrenfeld worked hard to grow and strengthening the field of structural biology while dean.

Dean Shin

Shin Lin, PhD

1997 – 2000

Shin Lin was recruited as the seventh dean of the School of Biological Sciences from Johns Hopkins University. During his tenure as dean, Professor Lin extolled the value of a biology degree as a path to careers other than medicine.

Dean Bryant

Susan V. Bryant, PhD

2000 – 2006

In 1970, Susan V. Bryant became the first female faculty member of the School of Biological Sciences. Professor Bryant, an expert in the study of limb regeneration, has been the driving force for a wide range of initiatives, including advancing stem cell research. As dean, she led the efforts to secure a five-year $3.45 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to address gender inequities at UCI.

Dean Bennet

Albert F. Bennet, PhD

2007 – 2013

Professor Bennett shepherded the school through a 40% increase in demand for its undergraduate majors. Under his leadership, the school added several degree programs, including the Biology/Education major and the Human Biology major. He also spearheaded efforts to create new research opportunities and helped forge new community relationships with organizations like the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.

Headshot of Frank LaFerla

Frank M. LaFerla, PhD

2014 – Present

Frank M. LaFerla, PhD, is the current dean of the UC Irvine Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. He joined UCI in 1995 as an assistant professor and later served as chair of Neurobiology and Behavior from 2010 to 2013 and the director of the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) from 2009 – 2018.

Founded on Innovation

Founding Faculty

When UC Irvine opened its doors in October 4, 1965 the Division of Biological Sciences initially consisted of seventeen founding faculty members and four departments: Molecular and Cell Biology, Organismic Biology, Psychobiology, and Population and Environmental Biology. 

As the founding dean, Edward A. Steinhaus appointed the following chairs:

  • John J. Holland, Chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Grover C. Stephens, Chair of the Department of Organismic Biology
  • James L. McGaugh, Chair of Psychobiology
  • Arthur S. Boughey, Chair of the Department of Population and Environmental Biology

View a list of all the founding faculty members below:

Gilbert W. Bane, Jr., PhD

Arthur S. Boughey, PhD

Richard D. Campbell, PhD

Ralph W. Gerard, PhD

Leland H. Hartwell, PhD

John J. Holland, PhD


Donald R. Kaplan, PhD

Stuart M. Krassner, PhD

James L. McGaugh, PhD

Calvin S. McLaughlin, PhD

Edward A. Steinhaus, PhD

Grover C. Stephens, PhD

Norman M. Weinberger, PhD

Richard E. Whalen, PhD

Robert H. Whittaker, PhD

Clifford A. Woolfolk, PhD

Daniel L. Wulff, PhD

Note: The original four departments have since changed to Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Developmental and Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Behavior, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  View the UC Irvine 1965-1966 catalogue to learn more about the Dunlop School’s founding academic year.