Hope for the lost: UCI depression research receives massive donation


LA Times

UCI stands poised to lead the way after a donation added to its high-tech facilities, like its Facility for Imaging and Brain Research (FIBRE) dedicated towards cutting-edge MRI scans.

Kevin Sohn, THO Editor

UCI received $57 million to create a research center for depression on Feb. 7, which will be used towards bringing in faculty from around the globe and funding multiple projects across disciplines to study depression in depth. 

The money was donated posthumously through a will left by noted philanthropist and Newport Beach resident Audrey Steele Burnand. In the past, Burnand made numerous donations to various causes like the arts, education, environmental conservation, and research into neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“We only get one opportunity to build something, and we want to do it right,” dean of the UCI School of Biological Sciences Frank LaFerla said. “There’s no sense in diving into something where other universities are already way ahead of us, so we’re looking at depression across the lifespan and probably tackling it from a biological, medical and engineering point of view.”

The donated money is thought to be the largest sum given to any university towards the study of depression, aiding UCI’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior which was the very first neuroscience department to be established back in 1964. With UCI’s unique positioning within the world of neuroscience, the possibilities for what can be done seem endless.

“This is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish a world-class depression research center,” UCI Vice Chancellor for Research Pramod Khargonekar said to UCI News. “We expect this gift will multiply many times over because of the potential for funding from the National Institutes of Health, the private sector and philanthropic organizations that support research in myriad aspects of depression.”

Many students at Northwood have expressed their own interests about the potential impact that the research center may have on their lives, due to mental health issues caused by the high standards and rigorous academics characteristic of Northwood. With UCI progressing in their cutting-edge research of depression, the hope is that the university’s actions may inspire change within the city of Irvine as well.

“Predominantly, in the past there really hasn’t been much push at all locally, statewide, or even nationally, to help improve mental health in youth,” National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus High School (NCHS) junior board member Amelia Yum said. “Research like this could initiate legislation or influence our school’s approach to helping students struggling with mental health problems.”