MPS Scholars learn from the best: Berkeley alums

January 19, 2024

In October, Audrey Liddle joined dozens of students in Durant Hall’s bookshelf-lined atrium to listen to a group of accomplished alums share lessons from their careers. Liddle, a first-year student in astrophysics, was still processing all the opportunities available to her at UC Berkeley and beyond. Her future’s open-ended horizon could feel overwhelming at times.

“I grew up assuming that adults somehow had an ‘aha’ moment in college where they figured out what they wanted to spend the rest of their lives doing,” said Liddle. “That was really stressful and put a lot of pressure on me, so to hear stories about diverse experiences from a panel of successful alums was very comforting.”

The event was organized by MPS Scholars, a program launched in fall 2022 by the Division of Mathematical & Physical Sciences to help students flourish in their math, physics, astronomy, and earth and planetary science majors and, ultimately, in their careers.

Undergraduates take Navigating the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, an introductory course facilitated by former dean Frances Hellman and Claire-Marie Kooi. First-time graduate student instructors take Austin Hedeman’s Professional Preparation: Supervised Teaching in Math and the Physical Sciences. Faculty and staff developed the courses following deep analysis that identified students’ needs, with particular attention to students with underrepresented identities.

“I have learned so many things that I would never have found out if I did not take the course,” said Liddle, who was drawn to the idea of a dedicated mentor to answer questions and provide guidance.

“MPS Scholars is not just a program; it embodies our dedication to cultivating equitable opportunities for every undergraduate,” said Kooi, the introductory course facilitator and associate director. “To date, we've welcomed our second cohort of students, supported 25 undergraduates in groundbreaking research, connected over 400 undergraduates with diverse mentors, and organized numerous group activities. This progress represents a substantial step forward in cultivating the next generation of scientific leaders.”

Eric Englehart speaks with Payam Mirrashidi and Nasreen Chopra, who are smiling at sitting nearby on a couch. Students sit in chairs facing the panelists.

Eric Englehart talks with Payam Mirrashidi, Nasreen Chopra, and (out of frame) Filipp Brunshteyn. Photo credit: Alison Schopmeyer.

After the career panel discussion, clusters of students gathered around the alums to ask follow-up questions. The alums — Payam Mirrashidi of Apple, Nasreen Chopra of Applied Materials, Eric Englehart of the Port of Oakland, and Filipp Brunshteyn of Google — were generous with their time and advice, a rare opportunity for students to engage directly with senior-level professionals.

Future alumni events will focus on other industries, academia, and early-career opportunities. If you are an alum interested in sponsoring or attending MPS Scholars events, please contact Ryan Guasco at

I have learned so many things that I would never have found out if I did not take the course
Audrey Liddle