Global Talent for a Global University: The Curci Foundation Ph.D. Scholarship Program

October 2, 2020

Aware of the vital importance of exemplary graduate students in life sciences research, the Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation has initiated a scholarship program to provide funding for new Ph.D. students. But its efforts go far beyond simple, across-the-board scholarship support. Holding a firm belief that all qualified applicants should be included in the life sciences enterprise, the Foundation has chosen to focus on two groups that do not traditionally garner the strongest financial support -- international students and women. The Curci Foundation Ph.D. Scholarship Program creatively links these two talent pools in its efforts to help train students for the global university. 

The Foundation’s ultimate goal is to help increase the percentage of women and international students in life sciences Ph.D. programs in the United States. UC Berkeley was invited to participate in the program’s three-year pilot phase, along with UC San Diego and the University of Washington. Says Ron Rosequist, President of the Curci Foundation, "We are very pleased to kick off the pilot phase of this program with three outstanding universities and look forward to helping them to attract more of the very best students to their graduate programs."


Each of the three universities was offered $1.78 million to roll out the program on its campus. Funds will support three years of incoming cohorts of six graduate students, providing each cohort with two years of funding.

“It’s an honor for UC Berkeley to have been chosen for this program,” says Dean Michael Botchan of Berkeley’s Biological Sciences Division, “and it aligns perfectly with our goals—to ensure that our students reflect the diversity of talent out there. Successful research in the life sciences is crucial to solving many issues in today’s world, and we need every qualified person on board. I thank the Curci Foundation for helping us with resources to train international students and women destined for the professoriate.”

The Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation has supported research in the life sciences since its inception in 2007. Its mission is to advance a healthy and sustainable future for all human beings through support of basic scientific inquiry. The Foundation champions the exploration of fundamental scientific questions that, once addressed and answered, can lead to significant advances in medicine or scientific knowledge. Its primary areas of focus include neuroscience, regenerative medicine, cell biology, stem cell research, cancer, nanotechnology, and nanoscience.

The Curci Foundation Ph.D. Scholarship Program addresses a key component of successful research enterprises: graduate students. These young scientists are valuable assets, offering crucial assistance to professors in research labs and fostering dynamic learning environments in undergraduate classrooms. When graduate students join a Ph.D. program, they bring the latest training, fresh ideas, and invaluable support.

“The best graduate students in the world can draw the best professors in the world to a research university,” says Dean Botchan. “That’s one reason it’s imperative that all of the top candidates are included in the graduate student pool. And that’s why the Curci Scholarship Program’s support of women and international students is so important. As we roll out the program, we may be challenged in the first year, given the current restrictions on travel and visas, but we are moving forward with optimism.”


Work in the life sciences is at the forefront of the 21st century. In the past two decades at UC Berkeley alone, life scientists have developed high resolution fluorescence microscopy that is helping to uncover the mysteries of the brain; created the field of immuno-oncology that is smashing through barriers in cancer research; and invented CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology, which is marching rapidly toward a cure for Sickle Cell Disease, among many others. Now Berkeley’s life scientists are at the epicenter of the battle to fight COVID-19 and develop a vaccine.

Supporting diversity among graduate students will meet the needs of these urgent research endeavors in the life sciences. Says Jim Mitchell, Chair of the Curci Foundation's Science Advisory Board, "We hope that our support for U.S. universities will enable them to continue bringing highly qualified women and international students into their programs to develop the scientists our world needs to overcome current diseases and future pandemics."

Read UC San Diego's story about the program here.