Dr. Matsui is the co-founder and director of the nationally renowned Biology Scholars Program (BSP) at the University of California, Berkeley. He has spent over two decades making science more accessible to all individuals. BSP is an undergraduate diversity program in Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology. Funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and, most recently, the National Institutes of Health, its goal has been to enlarge and diversify the pool of Berkeley students who succeed in biology majors and related careers.
There have been 2,080 BSP graduates over the past 20 years, and Dr. Matsui has personally mentored 1,183 of them. BSP students are diverse; 60% minority (African American, Hispanic, and American Indian) and 70% women. As well, 80% of BSP students come from low-income backgrounds and/or are the first in their family to attend college.
Dr. Matsui’s mentoring model includes customary activities such as tutoring, advising, paid research, and community building. However, he and his staff go beyond the usual model by:
• Requiring his students to take ownership and responsibility for their activities and develop their own extra- curricular experiences;
• Assigning older students to mentor younger students about science, and university culture; and
• Creating customized plans to help them develop individualized plans for success.
Over the past 20 years, there has been notable success in Matsui’s BSP program. For example:
• African-American and Hispanic students in Dr. Matsui’s program graduated with a degree in the same percentage (60%) as Asian and white students. This rate is more than twice the graduation rate (24%) of minority students who did not participate in BSP.
• Between 2005 and 2010, 58% of the BSP students from disadvantaged backgrounds who earned biology degrees at Berkeley graduated with a 3.0 GPA or higher compared to 27% of non-BSP students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
• From 2004 to 2011, 85% of Dr. Matsui’s students who applied to medical school were admitted as compared to a national admissions average of 50% and a UC Berkeley average of 55%.
• Between 2006 and 2009, 10% of all African-Americans enrolled in a California medical program came from Dr. Matsui’s program.
John Matsui has expandied his influence across the Berkeley campus through his leadership as Chair of the Coalition for Excellence and Diversity in Mathematics, Science and Engineering. The Coalition is developing a campus-wide effort involving five STEM fields (in four colleges) to recruit and retain low income, first generation, and underrepresented ethnic minority students. In addition, Dr. Matsui has disseminated his BSP model statewide and nationally, and has helped to establish similar mentoring programs at 11 colleges and universities in eight states, including three other University of California campuses.