UCI has two nobel laureates among its faculty members -- F. Sherwood Rowland and Frederick Reines. It administers a medical school and a public teaching hospital, located some ten miles away in Orange, California (a regular shuttle bus ties the campuses together).
UCI is also one of the very few academic organizations to offer degrees in Social Ecology.
UCI's engineering program is well-regarded, and supported by the local industry. Orange County includes world-famous biomedical, software, and aerospace companies, many of whom recruit from UCI's student body.
UCI also offers liberal arts programs, albeit on a smaller scale than the other fields. Besides top-10 programs in Philosophy, Classics and Literature, the university maintains undergraduate and graduate programs in Dance, Painting, Sculpture, Music, Creative Writing, and Theatre, often with prominent artists-in-residence. Many professors in the performing arts are directly connected to, and active in the nearby entertainment industry (Hollywood).
Irvine's sports teams are called the Anteaters. (The mascot was chosen by student vote, in the spirit of nonviolence that was popular in the school's early years.) They participate in the NCAA's Division I-AA, and in the Big West Conference and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Popular legend holds that the campus was designed in an era of student protest, and this circular design was considered ideally suited to eliminate any geographical central point of contact where large numbers of students would collide with each other and exchange opinions and ideas. Students would drive into a building's parking lot, walk into class, then an hour later walk back out to their car, and drive home; and most of these commuting students' social contact would be with others studying in the same major. The geography of the school therefore is supposed to provide no nucleus for protests or rioting, or even to deny a prospective sniper of a convenient vantagepoint. Adding to this legend is the existence of underground tunnels linking the buildings, supposedly there to evacuate faculty and administrators and facillitate the movement of police. In truth the tunnels simply contain steam and utillity lines. More than likely the design of the campus is simply representative of mid-60s urban design, favoring large open spaces and decentrallized facillities over the dense layout of older campuses.
The local climate is a mild maritime Mediterranean climate, with more than 200 days of sunlight per year. Temperatures vary from a low of 50 F (15C) to a high of over 90 F (30C), with 2% to 20% humidity, and less than ten inches (25 cm) of precipitation. Local (2 hour one-way) mountains provide winter sports from September to May. Local (30 minute one-way) beaches provide surfing and water sports from April to September, including the world surfing competition at Huntington Beach, California. Death Valley, Mount Whitney, Yosemite National Park, the Sierra Nevada and several coastal mountain ranges are less than a day away by car. Los Angeles, Disneyland and Hollywood are an hour or two away by car. The campus has active sports clubs and outings.
Irvine itself is one of the largest planned communities in the United States. Local residents are stereotyped as upper-income, conservative professionals, who stay at home and raise families.
Locally, the housing market is regarded to be extremely expensive. On campus there is residence hall space for about 3,200 undergraduates, as well as some on-campus apartment housing. There are also several trailer parks that permit students to live in small travel trailers. The local economy is vibrant, and provides jobs in all ranges of skills and earnings, from unskilled service work to skilled professions. Although Christian denominations predominate, religious organizations of all types exist on-campus, in Irvine and nearby communities.
Public transit consists of hourly bus services. Most students need a car, and university parking is difficult, despite large parking structures. Traffic jams on the local freeways are commonplace. Since the climate is warm, many students find a motorcycle or motorscooter convenient, even though California prohibits 2-cycle engines.