Below: MCB faculty Gian Garriga and Elçin Ünal, along with current graduate students, participate in an MCBcDNA club event to provide advice about graduate school to undergraduates.

Faculty and graduate student panel at an undergrad club event.

Building Community through MCB Undergraduate Clubs

By Michael Barnes

As an incoming MCB undergraduate, Mary Zhou knew UC Berkeley had a reputation for gigantic lecture courses. “Coming to Cal, I was intimidated, to say the least,” she recalls. “How would I get to know other MCB students or my professors?” Zhou quickly found a solution — mcbUSA, one of the department’s sponsored undergraduate student clubs. Now, as a senior, she is co-president of the club, along with fellow senior Caroline Yu.

For MCB undergrads, the department’s student clubs are a great resource for navigating UC Berkeley and fostering both personal and professional growth. As Caroline Yu explains, “mcbUSA, short for MCB undergraduate student association, is all about building community and providing resources and opportunities for MCB undergraduates. Our events and resources are created for and open to all MCB students and to other students interested in biology.”

Professors and students at mcbUSA's Emphasis Night.
MCB mentors Henk Roelink, Elçin Ünal, Robert Beatty, and Terry Machen (left to right) meet with the mcbUSA club for Emphasis Night, where advisors from each of MCB's majors emphases give advice that helps students decide which track to pick.

The department also sponsors MCBcDNA, a similar undergraduate club. The co-presidents of this student group are senior Sanskriti Saxena and junior Kevin Yu. Says Sanskriti, “Besides developing skills, which many other clubs also help with, what makes MCBcDNA unique is the group of people you meet. Everyone has their own special story, but we are all united by our love and passion for science and sharing opportunities with others.”

A central emphasis of both clubs is sponsoring events to bring together students and to help them meet their faculty members. In addition, both groups help students explore undergrad research opportunities.

“MCBcDNA connects students with faculty members by hosting both large-scale and small-scale events that invite professors to talk about their research or career paths,” explains co-president Kevin Yu. “A few examples are Emphasis Night, where we invite advisers from each emphasis of the MCB major to give advice on which one students should pick, and Research Night, where we invite faculty and student researchers to explain the process of finding a research position.”

Students BBQ at the Berkeley Marina.
Members of the MCBcDNA club gather at the Berkeley Marina to BBQ and socialize.

Says mcbUSA co-president Caroline Yu, “In the fall, we host Futures Night, Grad Night and the Summer Opportunities Symposium. In the spring we host an Alumni Night and Speaker Night. We also host a summer undergraduate research program where we match students to summer research. Throughout the semester we have faculty luncheons where one highly requested faculty member has lunch with a small group of students.”

Although the leaders of both clubs emphasize the communication, organizational and leadership skills that can be developed from joining the clubs, it’s the friendships and personal connections for which they are the most grateful. As one of the co-presidents says, “I am so happy to be a part of such a cohesive group of people. It’s the camaraderie I love so much about this club.”

For more information about MCB's undergraduate clubs, visit them online: MCBcDNA and mcbUSA.