About Us

BSP is...

"Universities like UC Berkeley are set up in a way that best supports students from backgrounds similar to those who've been historically successful. I was looking to fill the gaps, to create the support that was missing at Berkeley in order to better serve the students that no one really expected to survive or succeed in science.  I saw a lot of talent being wasted, so, like Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics, I went looking for that "undervalued talent" - students with the potential to be scholars."

- John Matsui, Co-Founder and Director of the Biology Scholars Program



The Biology Scholars Program (BSP) at UC Berkeley is a program that challenges the "by the numbers" popular view (e.g., SATs and high school GPAs as good predictors of success) about who can and should do science.  Over the past 20 years, of the 2080 BSP graduates, 60% have been underrepresented minorities (African American, Hispanic, and American Indian), 70% women, and 80% from low-income backgrounds and/or the first in their family to attend college.



Using a written application and invited interviews, BSP looks for the following predictors of success: passion for science, resilience, persistence, authenticity, willingness to seek and give help, and ability to re-strategize and re-group in the face of failure. Shared responsibility is the key to BSP members' success. BSP provides opportunities and information and it is up to the members to take ownership and responsibility for their own success. Rather than followers who are great at taking orders and best when replicating the status quo, BSP seeks to develop leaders, innovators, and open-ended problem-solvers.



BSP recognizes that because 80% of our members come from under-resourced high schools, economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and are the first in their families to attend college, that success may mean taking courses, doing research, and graduating on a "different clock" than their classmates. BSP starts where each member is and helps them develop an individualized plan to get them to where they want to be. Examples of BSP student success include:

1) Within the first five years of the program, African-American and Hispanic students in BSP intending to major in biology graduated with a biology degree in the same percentage (60%) as non-URM students who were not in the program, and at more than twice the rate (24%) of URM students who did not participate in BSP. (Matsui et al, 2003).

2) Between 2005-2010, 58% of the BSP students from disadvantaged backgrounds who earned biology degrees at Berkeley graduated with a 3.0 or higher compared to 27% of non-BSP students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

3) From 2004-2011, 85% of BSP medical school applicants who actively and frequently participated in BSP advising and study groups were admitted as compared to a national admissions average of 50% and a UC Berkeley average of 55%.

4) From 2004-2012, 96% of the URM medical school applicants who actively and frequently participated in BSP advising and study groups were admitted as compared to 35% of URMs at Berkeley, but not in BSP.

5) Between 2006-2009, 10% of all African-Americans enrolled in a California medical program (based on AAMC data) came from BSP.


Dr. Matsui is awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring at the White House on June, 2015





 "An Outsider at the Table" Keynote speech by Dr. John Matsui at the 3rd Key Personnel Meeting of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), hosted at Boston College on 05/2015.




2014 Distinguished Award for Dr. John Matsui at SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science):