SF State receives $10.5M grant from the Genentech Foundation for life sciences student training program

Student wearing lab coat and gloves pipetting samples behind a glass partition

Genentech Foundation Dissertation Scholar Wilmer Amaya-Mejia, an SF State student pursuing an M.S. in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology 

Program will support more than 100 students each year for the next five years

San Francisco State University announced today a historic grant from the Genentech Foundation of $10.5 million over the next five years, building upon a program in the University’s College of Science & Engineering that has shown tremendous success in supporting students as they prepare for careers in the life sciences. The grant is the largest ever awarded by the Genentech Foundation and also counts among the largest received by the University.

“This is a landmark grant for both the Genentech Foundation and San Francisco State, and we appreciate their generosity in investing in our students,” said SF State President Lynn Mahoney. “The grant demonstrates recognition of SF State’s outstanding track record in preparing our students to become productive members and leaders of the Bay Area workforce of the future.”

The Genentech Foundation has funded scholarships for master’s students in SF State’s College of Science & Engineering for more than 10 years. In that time, 46 of the 50 student participants entered Ph.D. programs, including many top-tier research universities like Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco. Based on that proven history of success, the Genentech Foundation grant will now expand those programs, allowing SF State to provide financial resources, academic counseling and mentoring services to more students — most of whom are from underrepresented groups.

“San Francisco State University has a talented and diverse faculty and student body as well as a long history of creating programs that help these students succeed,” said Carla Boragno, Genentech Foundation board chair and senior vice president and global head of Engineering and Facilities, Pharma Technical Operations. “We are very proud to expand our partnership with San Francisco State to impact even more students earlier in their academic journey.”

Previous science scholarships at SF State supported by the Genentech Foundation and others focused on preparing students for doctoral degrees. Through the new grant, more students interested in the fields of science and medicine will receive support, from freshman year through graduate school, through programs targeted at the different stages of their education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Importantly, the funding will also be available to support students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, who are ineligible for scholarships and aid that require U.S. citizenship.

Along with financial support that will allow students to focus on their studies, the programs will provide structured mentorship, professional development opportunities and summer classes that will allow freshmen to get a head start on graduation. Upper division students will also participate in research with professors working in their discipline.

After working to support his family since high school, Frederick Santana, a former Genentech Foundation Dissertation Scholar at SF State, says the scholarship allowed him to concentrate solely on his classes and research. “It was the first time I was financially secure enough that I was able to quit this other job that wasn’t relevant to my work,” he explained. Santana is now in a Ph.D. program in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco and hopes to go into academia.

The new funding will support more than 100 students like Santana each year for the next five years as they pursue their degrees and prepare to enter postgraduate programs or the workforce.

“SF State is an engine of educational equity and upward mobility in the Bay Area, and thanks to the Genentech Foundation this grant will allow us to expand that work even more,” President Mahoney said.