What Matters to Me and Why?



Jonathan Feng works at the interface of particle physics and cosmology with the goal of exploring the deep connections between our understanding of the Universe at the smallest and largest length scales. Feng holds degrees in physics and mathematics from Harvard, Cambridge, and Stanford. He joined the UC Irvine faculty in 2002 and was appointed Professor and Chancellor’s Fellow in 2006, Chancellor’s Professor in 2020, and Distinguished Professor in 2021. He is the founding Co-Spokesperson of FASER, the Forward Search Experiment, an experiment looking for high-energy neutrinos and dark sector particles at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. At UC Irvine, Feng has mentored many undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who have done award-winning research under his supervision, and he served as President of Phi Beta Kappa at UC Irvine. Feng also co-founded “What Matters to Me and Why,” a speaker series in which faculty and staff members share their personal stories and most meaningful commitments and beliefs, with the goal of bridging the divide between students, faculty, and staff and helping to foster an atmosphere of community on campus.


Neda Moayedi is an educator, leadership coach, mentor, and advocate. Her personal mission is to encourage others to realize (and celebrate) their potential within, and to break down the barriers they may encounter on the journey to achieving their dreams. Neda has extensive experience in career coaching, teaching career courses, and facilitating professional development workshops. She leverages her strength-based leadership philosophy and blended experiences to inspire others to find fulfillment and purpose in a world obsessed with defining success for them. In addition to career services, Neda’s areas of expertise include strength-based leadership, leadership development, self-discovery and self-empowerment, mindfulness, resilience, positive psychology, and growth mindset. She is committed to training and supporting leaders in the exploration of mindfulness and authenticity, along with the fundamentals of leadership excellence. She has a long-standing mindfulness and meditation practice, which she infuses into the classroom and her coaching sessions. Neda is dedicated to empowering others to thrive by sharing a combination of wellness strategies, which include variety of resources, tools, and practices for students to create their own definition and roadmap to success. She is a proud UC Irvine alumna and the director of the SAGE Scholars Program.


Michael R. Arias served as a UCI staff member for nearly 40 years. He joined UCI in 1979, starting as support staff for the School of Physical Sciences. Two years later, he became director of the academic budget until 1990, when he was named assistant dean of the School of Social Sciences. In 1998, he was recruited to be associate executive vice chancellor and chief of staff. Mike has played many critical roles in the university, where senior leadership relied greatly on his deep knowledge and insightful advice. As one of Chancellor Gillman’s principal advisers from 2014 until his retirement in 2018, Mike played a major role in every significant initiative in recent years, including the development of the UCI strategic plan, the establishment of the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, the creation of the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, the gift of the Buck Collection of California art, the construction of two student housing complexes and the Anteater Learning Pavilion, and the planning for the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building. He also served on the UCI Foundation board of trustees and the Chief Executive Roundtable, demonstrating admirable skill in connecting with our external partners. His decades of contributions have been enormously valuable and will benefit UCI for generations to come. A proud alumnus, earning his bachelor’s degree in social sciences magna cum laude, Mike was secretary of the UCI Phi Beta Kappa chapter.


Virginia Trimble is a native southern Californian and graduate of Hollywood High School, UCLA, and Caltech, with honorary degrees from the Universities of Cambridge (an MA) and Valencia (a dott.h.c.).  When she joined UCI in fall of 1971, she was the youngest member of the physics department, and also for the next 15 years the only woman and the only astronomer there.  She is now the oldest member, with lots of lovely female and astronomical colleagues. Her research started with astronomical objects like white dwarfs, supernovae, and black holes, and has gradually evolved to history and sociology of physics and astronomy.  She has held governance positions in many professional associtions (generally reaching her level of incompetence at about the level of vice president), and half a dozen or so have awarded her fellowships and other awards in recent years.  Her favorite singer is Enrico Caruso and her favorite violinist Fritz Kreisler.  For nearly 30 years, she shared appointments at UCI and the University of Maryland with her husband, Joseph Weber, the first physicist to search for gravitational waves.

Jack Miles

Jack Miles, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Religious Studies at the University of California at Irvine and Senior Fellow for Religious Affairs with the Pacific Council on International Policy, is most recently the author of God in the Qur’an (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) and Religion As We Know It: An Origin Story (W.W. Norton, 2019). Miles is a writer whose work on religion, politics, and culture has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Commonweal, and many other publications. His book GOD: A Biography won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996. A MacArthur Fellow during the years 2003-2007, he is general editor of the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2014-2015). In 2016, during his final year before retirement, Miles won the UCI Distinguished Faculty Research Award, the first humanities professor to do so in twenty-five years.

Read his recent WMMW talk “Lessons from an Unwritten Autobiography” in The American Scholar, PBK’s literary scholar, here!

Michael Dennin

Michael Dennin is a professor of physics & astronomy in the School of Physical Sciences, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education. His research focuses on the study of the flow of foams and ice being pushed by glaciers in fjords. Throughout his career, he has been active in translating educational research to practical applications within the university. Dennin is dedicated to public outreach in the area of science and has taught a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on topics such as the AMC television program “The Walking Dead.” He has appeared on numerous television programs including “Ancient Aliens” and “Science of Superman.” Most recently, he published a science outreach book on the intersection between science and faith called Divine Science. Dennin earned an A.B. in physics from Princeton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in physics from UC Santa Barbara.

Said Shokair

Said Shokair ’90 is founding director of UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. His passion and commitment to undergraduate research has been described as entrepreneurial and very effective. Launched in 1995, UROP encourages and facilitates faculty-mentored research and creative activities by undergraduates from all schools and academic disciplines. Under his leadership, UROP engages more than 2,000 students annually, supporting their research endeavors on and off campus. In 2006, he received the Lauds & Laurels Award for exceptional staff performance. He has been elected to and served on multiple national and local boards in support of student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship.

Elizabeth Loftus

Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Loftus is renowned for her groundbreaking work on the malleability of human memory. She holds faculty positions in the schools of Social Ecology, Social Sciences and Law. Her 30 years of research have focused on the misinformation effect, eyewitness fallibility, and the creation and nature of false memories. In a list of the 20th century’s most eminent psychologists, the journal Review of General Psychology placed Loftus No. 58 – making her the top-ranked woman.

Julia Lupton

Julia Reinhard Lupton is professor of English and an award-winning teacher who has taught at UCI since 1989. She is the faculty director of Illuminations, the Chancellor’s Arts & Culture Initiative. In 2013-14, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her book project, Shakespeare Dwelling: Habitation, Hospitality, Design.  She is a dramaturg for the New Swan Shakespeare Festival and an avid supporter of arts across the curriculum. She is the founding director of Humanities Out There, which promotes service learning for humanities majors. She writes about DIY design with her twin sister, Ellen.

Russel Turner

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Russell Turner was named 2014 Big West Conference Coach of the Year and NABC District 9 Coach of the Year after leading the Anteaters to their first league regular-season title in 12 years and second consecutive 20-win season. Turner was named UCI’s head coach in 2010, after serving the previous six seasons as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, following positions at Stanford University and Wake Forest University.