With renowned programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it’s no surprise that UC San Diego has produced graduates who go on to change the world in impactful ways. Since the university’s founding in 1960, UCSD alumni have become trailblazing scientists, billion-dollar tech entrepreneurs, Academy Award winners, and more.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Notable UC San Diego alumni include billionaire Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, genomic researcher Craig Venter, former head of GoogleBrain Andrew Ng, and Oscar-winning director Dustin Lance Black.
In this comprehensive guide, we will highlight over 25 distinguished UCSD alumni across fields like science, business, arts & entertainment, academia, and politics.
Science & Technology Leaders
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has produced a remarkable number of alumni who have made significant contributions to the fields of science and technology. These individuals have not only excelled in their respective industries but have also played a crucial role in shaping the future of innovation.
Irwin Jacobs – Qualcomm founder
Irwin Jacobs, a UCSD alumnus, is widely recognized as the co-founder of Qualcomm, a leading technology company specializing in wireless telecommunications. Under Jacobs’ leadership, Qualcomm has revolutionized the mobile industry and pioneered advancements in wireless communication.
Jacobs’ visionary approach and commitment to innovation have earned him numerous accolades, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
Andrew Viterbi – Co-founder of Qualcomm
Another notable alumnus from UCSD is Andrew Viterbi, who is also a co-founder of Qualcomm. Viterbi, an electrical engineer, is renowned for his work in digital communications and the development of the Viterbi algorithm, which has had a significant impact on error-correction coding.
His contributions have been instrumental in the advancement of wireless technology and have laid the foundation for modern communication systems.
Craig Venter – Genomics researcher
Craig Venter, a UCSD graduate, is a prominent figure in the field of genomics. He is best known for his role in the Human Genome Project, where he played a pivotal part in sequencing the human genome. Venter’s groundbreaking research has opened new doors in personalized medicine, synthetic biology, and biofuels.
His contributions have had a profound impact on our understanding of genetics and have paved the way for significant advancements in healthcare.
These UCSD alumni have not only achieved remarkable success in their respective fields but have also left a lasting impact on the world. Their groundbreaking work and innovative thinking continue to shape the future of science and technology.
Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs
Robert Tjian – Biochemist & Novartis CEO
One notable alumnus from the University of California, San Diego is Robert Tjian. Tjian is a renowned biochemist who has made significant contributions to the field of molecular biology. After completing his undergraduate studies at UC San Diego, Tjian went on to earn his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard University.
He later served as the CEO of Novartis, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Tjian’s expertise and leadership have played a crucial role in advancing medical research and development.
Peter Farrell – ResMed founder
Peter Farrell is another notable UC San Diego alumnus who has made a significant impact in the business world. He is the founder of ResMed, a global leader in sleep apnea treatment and respiratory care.
After completing his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at UC San Diego, Farrell founded ResMed in 1989. Under his leadership, the company has grown into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, helping millions of people worldwide improve their sleep and overall health.
Farrell’s entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to innovation have made him a highly respected figure in the healthcare industry.
Katerina Schneider – Ritual founder
Katerina Schneider, an alumna of UC San Diego, is a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Ritual, a popular vitamin brand. After earning her degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Schneider worked in the finance industry before venturing into the world of startups.
She founded Ritual with the goal of creating a transparent and science-backed vitamin brand for women. Today, Ritual is widely recognized for its high-quality products and commitment to transparency. Schneider’s entrepreneurial journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring business leaders, especially women, who aim to make a positive impact in the health and wellness industry.
Arts & Entertainment Figures
Mike Judge – Creator of Silicon Valley
One notable alumni from the University of California, San Diego is Mike Judge, the creator of the hit TV series Silicon Valley. Judge graduated from UCSD with a degree in physics before pursuing a career in animation and entertainment.
He is best known for creating the animated TV show Beavis and Butt-Head and the cult classic film Office Space. Judge’s work often satirizes various aspects of American culture and has garnered a large following over the years.
His success in the entertainment industry serves as an inspiration to current and future UCSD students interested in pursuing careers in arts and entertainment.
Dustin Lance Black – Oscar-winning screenwriter
Another notable UCSD alumni is Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winning screenwriter. Black graduated from UCSD with a degree in fine arts and went on to write the screenplay for the critically acclaimed film Milk, which won him an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
He has also written for TV shows such as Big Love and When We Rise. Black’s work often explores themes of LGBTQ+ rights and social justice, making him an influential figure in the entertainment industry.
His success serves as a testament to the quality of education and artistic opportunities available at UCSD.
Alex Honnold – Rock climber
UCSD is also proud to count Alex Honnold among its notable alumni. Honnold is a professional rock climber known for his daring and free-solo ascents of some of the world’s most challenging rock faces. He graduated from UCSD with a degree in engineering, but his passion for climbing eventually led him to pursue a career in the sport.
Honnold’s accomplishments include being the first person to free-solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a feat that gained widespread recognition and admiration within the climbing community. His incredible achievements highlight the importance of pursuing one’s passion and embracing the adventurous spirit that UCSD encourages.
Notable Faculty Members
Andrew Ng – AI & machine learning expert
One of the most prominent faculty members at the University of California, San Diego is Andrew Ng. He is widely recognized as an expert in the field of AI and machine learning. Ng has made significant contributions to the development of these technologies and has played a crucial role in advancing the field.
His work has not only had a profound impact on academia but has also influenced industries and organizations around the world. Ng’s expertise and dedication to the field have made him a highly sought-after figure in the tech industry.
Kun Zhang – Geneticist & virologist
Kun Zhang is a renowned geneticist and virologist who has made significant contributions to the field of biomedical research. As a faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, Zhang has conducted groundbreaking studies in genomics and epigenomics.
His research has shed light on the understanding of genetic diseases and has paved the way for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Zhang’s work has been published in prestigious scientific journals and has garnered widespread recognition within the scientific community.
Christopher McKay – NASA planetary scientist
Christopher McKay, a notable faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, is a renowned NASA planetary scientist. His research primarily focuses on the exploration of Mars and the search for extraterrestrial life.
McKay has been involved in numerous NASA missions and has played a crucial role in the analysis of data collected from these missions. His expertise in astrobiology and planetary science has contributed to our understanding of the potential for life beyond Earth.
McKay’s work has received widespread recognition and has been instrumental in shaping our understanding of the universe.
These notable faculty members at the University of California, San Diego are just a few examples of the exceptional talent and expertise found within the institution. Their contributions to their respective fields have had a lasting impact and serve as an inspiration to current and future generations of students and researchers.
With over 180,000 alumni across the globe, UC San Diego has established itself as a top-tier university producing graduates at the forefront of innovation. As the school continues to build its reputation, we can expect many more distinguished alumni to join the ranks of its groundbreaking scientists, creators, and business leaders.