Maribel Patino ’14 once spent summers placing stickers on watermelons to help support her farmworker family in Lamont, California. Today she is headed to UC San Diego to pursue joint M.D. and Ph.D. degrees — and credits the Bergeron Scholars Program for empowering her to chase that dream.
“Being a female, particularly a Latina female, sometimes I felt I was the only person who looked like me.”
Launched at Berkeley in 2012, the program aims to help more women flourish in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by pairing promising students with professional women at the top of their fields to serve as mentors. So far, 20 students with financial need have benefited from its scholarship, academic, and career resources.
“I got to meet a network of women who are successful in STEM, which was very reassuring,” says Patino, who discovered a passion for neuroscience at Berkeley. “Being a female, particularly a Latina female, sometimes I felt I was the only person who looked like me.”
The Bergeron program supported Patino’s award-winning research on traumatic brain injury and her travel to present it at conferences nationwide.
Mentors such as Genentech Vice President Wendy Young applaud the program. “I think it’s important that young women have female role models,” says Young, whose mentee, Nichole Johnston ’14, is seeking her Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale.
The program’s founders, Silicon Valley executives and former Cal parents Sandra and Douglas Bergeron P ’13, are seeing their vision come to life.
“Being a Bergeron scholar does more than help high-achieving students pay for an education. It cultivates the know-how and confidence a young woman will need to excel in her desired field,” Sandra says.