Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Courtesy of the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative

UC San Diego Announced Tuesday that it will share in a $6.9 million in grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to increase diversity in the sciences.

The initiative, created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will enable UC San Diego and UC Berkeley help underrepresented students succeed in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The UC San Diego program, called PATHways to STEM, was created by Biological Sciences Professor Gentry Patrick and modeled on the successful Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which is collaborating with the two California universities.

“The key to accelerating discoveries in science or the next tech breakthrough will be dependent on our ability to bring fresh perspectives to STEM fields,” said Chan. “California’s openness to new ways of thinking is what has made this state an innovation engine for the world, and the University of California has played a crucial role in that as one of the largest and most diverse public research universities in the country.”

“With these new grants, we hope to help bring even more diversity of perspective and experience to our state — and to Silicon Valley,” she added.

The Meyerhoff program is recognized as one of the most effective models in the country to help inspire, recruit, and retain underrepresented students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM fields. Program participants have earned 300 Ph.D. degrees, 130 M.D. degrees, 54 M.D./Ph.D. degrees, and 253 master’s degrees, not counting current enrollment numbers.

“UC San Diego’s new partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a welcomed addition to our existing efforts to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “This new collaboration will enhance our PATHS STEM scholarship program launched in 2017 by Professor Gentry Patrick, which created a new model of success for our students who come from underserved communities.”

The grant will allow UC San Diego and UC Berkeley to apply many of the elements successfully used at University of Maryland, including outreach to high-achieving underrepresented high school students, research experiences, team learning, peer counseling, advising, preparation in the summer before matriculation and engagement with students’ families.

“This partnership marks the beginning of a bold new strategy and commitment to support our underserved students in STEM,” said Patrick. “If successful, it has the potential to transform the UC system at large.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.