$75M gift kicks off $2B UCSD fundraising campaign


Rain that flows upward. Robots that take selfies. 3D printing that saves lives. These are just a sampling of the innovations showcased at an invitation-only celebration of the technology developed at UC San Diego, March 25 at RIMAC Arena. The event launched the Campaign for UC San Diego, a $2 billion fundraising effort “to transform the student experience, our campus and the world.”

Computer science alumnus Taner Halicioglu kicked off the Campaign with $75 million gift. He said his undergraduate experience, along with a desire to help students while also promoting the field of data science, is what led him to make the largest alumni gift the campus has ever received to establish the Halicioglu Institute for Data Science at UCSD.

“Data science touches so many areas — biology, physics, chemistry, medicine, computer science, math,” said Halicioglu. He cites personalized medicine as an example of what could be accomplished with data science. By examining an individual’s genetic makeup and other factors, a course of treatment could be developed targeted specifically for that individual. If a drug works on one person with an illness, will it work on another person with the same illness? It may depend on factors such as a person’s metabolism or other traits.

“This is all a data problem, ultimately. Gathering and storing all this information, analyzing it, finding correlations and causes to determine how things are related and what that reveals, this is what data science can do,” he said.

Halicioglu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1996. He went on to work for Loudcloud and eBay before landing at Facebook in October 2004, less than a year after the company was founded. Halicioglu was Facebook’s first full-time hire. As a software and operations engineer, he was instrumental in developing hardware infrastructure that enabled the social network’s explosive growth. The company now has about 1.8 billion active users worldwide.

He left Facebook in 2009 and served as a reliability engineer at Blizzard Entertainment before returning to UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering in 2013 as a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering. Halicioglu remains active in industry sectors as an advisor and investor in San Diego area start-ups.

The campaign began with a silent phase in July, 2012. Since then more than $1.2 billion has been raised. Honorary chairs include Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Ernest Rady and Denny Sanford. Chair of the Campaign’s international leadership committee is alumnus Ken Kroner. —Learn more at