Structural and systemic barriers can put careers in science and medicine out of reach for many of the best and brightest minds most needed in STEM careers. Oftentimes, success in college — and the ability to continue on to postgraduate studies — is interrupted by financial hardships such as access to adequate housing and transportation . That’s why the Genentech Foundation is committed tosupporting underrepresented and historically excluded students in STEM by helping to remove barriers to their academic advancement.
If we are to advance health equity and transform society, we need today’s students to grow into the scientists and leaders that will shape our future. Kindergarten to Careers is our investment to remove barriers and create equitable pathways into STEM.
- Joanna Tong, Senior Diversity & Inclusion Business Partner
Starting from a $170,000 Genentech Foundation grant to San Francisco State University (SFSU) in 2008, Genentech's investment has blossomed into the largest grant initiative in the foundation’s history. Since then, Genentech has invested almost $14 million in students from historically underrepresented groups to remove financial and other barriers to achieving careers in science and medicine. This investment includes a landmark, five-year, $10.5 million grant launched in 2019 that continues to fund more than one hundred undergraduate and masters-degree-level students per year at SFSU.
That funding provides more than financial support, such as tuition and stipends, for participants in the Genentech Foundation Scholars program: It also connects the students to important research opportunities to bolster their academic studies and offers holistic support such as academic mentoring and skills training to help students adapt to the college or postgraduate environment.
I was basically sitting right next to all of the people that I eventually wanted to be.
- Jasmine Sims, Genentech Foundation Scholar
Through programs aimed at undergraduates and master’s degree candidates, the Genentech Foundation Scholars program has already made an impact:
- 58 out of 61 Genentech Scholars have gone on to Ph.D. programs — including Harvard, Stanford, the University of California, San Francisco and other leading academic research institutions
- More than 85% complete undergraduate education in four years, compared to less than 25% for peers facing similar inequities
- Genentech Foundation Scholars boast higher GPAs and higher Ph.D. program acceptance rates than their peers
- Academic scholarships are paired with holistic, wraparound services such as academic mentoring and skills training
Genentech Foundation Scholarship Allows Scholars to Focus on a Future in STEM
During college at San Francisco State University, Jasmine Sims worked outside jobs as a nanny and in retail selling cellphones, clothing and even doughnuts — all while managing a full course load. “Even the semester when I was taking seven classes, I was still working two jobs,” she says. “I just remember being very tired.”
As a cell and molecular biology and biochemistry double major at SFSU, that relentless schedule made it more difficult for Sims to completely immerse herself in her academic passions. She knew that kind of schedule wouldn’t work if she continued into a master’s degree program. That’s when she spoke with Dr. Frank Bayliss, a professor emeritus of biology at SFSU who helped design the Genentech Foundation Scholars program. He helped Sims explore scholarship options to help fund her master’s program. “Dr. Bayliss pushed me in the right direction,” she says.
A Genentech Foundation scholarship allowed Sims to dedicate herself fully to her studies and learn crucial new lab protocols that helped advance her research. Her dedication and hard work paid off, enabling her to secure an internship with the Genentech Research and Early Development team, which bolstered her research experience and gave her a closer view of what a career in science might look like. “I was basically sitting right next to all of the people that I eventually wanted to be,” she says.
Finally, the Genentech Foundation scholarship helped pave the way toward the next step in her scientific journey: a doctoral program in biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco.