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Director of UC Berkeley’s Biology Scholars Program Addresses SMU Faculty

Dr. Matsui

On Thursday, January 17, Dr. John Matsui, co-founder and director of the Biology Scholars Program (BSP) in UC Berkeley's Department of Integrative Biology, spoke to a group of SMU faculty members about the successes and challenges of diversifying science.

Dr. Matsui’s presentation was part of the SMU Researcher Rounds series, a program initiated by the Research Committee to assist faculty in moving forward with their own research.

Over the last 20 years, Dr. Matsui said he has worked with over 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the BSP program, which aims to enlarge and diversify the pool of students who succeed in biology majors and careers. Students are accepted into the program based on two main criteria: an interest in biology and a dedication to service. 

The goal of the program is to create a more diverse workforce, especially in healthcare.

“We educate students about how to succeed without giving up who they are,” said Matsui. “We are not trying to fix students; they are not broken. We create the right environment where information is made available in an engaging way.”

There are 500 students currently in the Biology Scholars Program, comprised of 60% under-represented minorities, 70% women, and 80% low-income/first generation college students. Of the 350-400 applications received each year, 100 new students are accepted.

On average, BSP students enter UC Berkeley with lower high school grade-point averages (GPAs) and SAT scores compared to non-BSP students, but graduate with significantly higher GPAs.

Photo of Dr. Matsui from newscenter.berkeley.edu