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John Matsui, University of California, Berkeley

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. Awardees may choose to provide their latest biographical information on their profile page.

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 percent minority (African American, Hispanic, and American Indian) and 70 percent women. As well, 80 percent 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 extracurricular 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 percent) as Asian and white students. This rate is more than twice the graduation rate (24 percent) of minority students who did not participate in BSP.
• Between 2005 and 2010, 58 percent of the BSP students from disadvantaged backgrounds who earned biology degrees at Berkeley graduated with a 3.0 GPA or higher compared to 27 percent of non-BSP students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
• Between 2004 and 2011, 85 percent of Dr. Matsui’s students who applied to medical school were admitted as compared to a national admissions average of 50 percent and a UC Berkeley average of 55 percent.
• Between 2006 and 2009, 10 percent of all African-Americans enrolled in a California medical program came from Dr. Matsui’s program.

John Matsui has expanded 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.