The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the University to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you make the most of your time at the University as you learn more about the study of biology. We are excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Rebecca Tarvin

Berkeley Connect in Biology is launching in Fall 2020, and we are especially welcoming transfer students this year. Come join us for a semester of activities that will enhance your experience at Cal. Together, we will create community through one-on-one and small-group mentoring, networking with peers and professors, and fun interactive activities that will build your skills and confidence in your academic abilities.

Berkeley Connect in Biology is hosted by the Department of Integrative Biology. IB is all about exploring our world and connecting ideas, bringing people from many parts of the biological sciences together. If you are interested in medicine and related health sciences, ecology and environmental sciences, or whole‐organism biology, including the study of genetic, cellular, and morphological processes in animals and plants, then you are interested in Integrative Biology!

Curious about the diversity of life on earth? Ever thought about what happens behind the scenes in a natural history museum? Wondering what evolution has to do with human health? Interested in meeting other students who are curious about these things too? Then Berkeley Connect in Biology is for you!

I warmly invite you to join us and find your community through Berkeley Connect.

Rebecca Tarvin
Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in Biology
Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with an experienced mentor in Integrative Biology. The mentor leads small groups of students (not more than 20) in regular meetings and also meets with students one-on-one to provide guidance and advice. Berkeley Connect is offered as a one-credit, pass-not pass course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills related to Integrative Biology as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.

The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Biology is that you have an interest in this field of study. Berkeley Connect Biology is currently being offered as an upper-division program; junior transfer students are particularly encouraged to participate.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students. They include:

  • small-group meetings facilitated by your mentor;
  • one-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentor is an advanced graduate student in Integrative Biology, chosen both for demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for scholarly achievement. The mentor is dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and one-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of the small groups of participants in Biology. Your small group sessions will be facilitated by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within biology as well as key skills you need to succeed in the biological sciences. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, to talk about anything you choose related to your academic life—questions you have, challenges you are facing, resources you are seeking, goals you are seeking to achieve. Your mentor also has open mentoring hours throughout the semester, during which you are free to show up and continue these conversations, or just check in.


Rebecca TarvinRebecca (Becca) Tarvin is an Assistant Professor in Integrative Biology and an Assistant Curator of Herpetology (study of amphibians and reptiles) in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. She is intrigued by the evolutionary mechanisms underlying adaptation and diversification. Her interests in research are grounded in an appreciation for natural history, especially (but not limited to) frogs. Research in her lab employs diverse techniques in the lab and field that pull from molecular biology, phylogenetics, neurobiology, genomics, and physiology. Current projects investigate origins of acquired chemical defenses in frogs, flies, nudibranchs, and snakes.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Sara KahanamokuSara Kahanamoku is a PhD candidate in Integrative Biology.

Where did you grow up?

Haleʻiwa, Hawaiʻi

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Yale University; Geology & Geophysics (Paleontology)

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I study how industrialization and modern climate change has affected seafloor ecosystems off of California over the last 150 years. I also study how settler colonialism impacts science at all levels, from research to results.

Jaemin LeeJaemin Lee is a PhD candidate in Integrative Biology.

Where did you grow up?

Jinju, South Korea

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Yonsei University, Systems Biology

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I study ecology and evolution of plants, insects, and plant-animal interactions during the late Mesozoic (a.k.a. the age of dinosaurs). Our planet was much warmer and important biotic events, such as the rise and diversification of the flowering plants, took place, and I am broadly interested in understanding biotic responses during this important time interval in Earth’s history.

Semester Activities

During a semester in Berkeley Connect in Biology, you will participate in one-on-one conversations with your mentor, small-group discussions, special events and field trips.

Recent discussion topics have included:

  • Evolution and biodiversity
  • Skill-building: how to make the most of your time at Berkeley

Berkeley Connect discussion sessions are informal and interactive, with time allowed for students to check in, talk about their experiences on campus, and reflect on current events that create the context for their academic studies.

Recent special events and field trips have included:

  • Get to Know Biology Professors
  • Guided tour of Berkeley Art Museum

How to Sign Up

To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  To participate in Berkeley Connect in Biology, you enroll in a section of Integrative Biology 98BC (primarily for freshmen and sophomores) or 198BC (primarily for juniors and seniors). Both are offered for one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.

You may enroll in Berkeley Connect more than once (some students choose to participate for a full year by enrolling in both the fall and spring semesters), and you may enroll through more than one department. You may NOT enroll in more than two sections of Berkeley Connect in one semester, or enroll in more than one section in the same department in the same semester.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Biology, please contact:

Becca Tarvin, Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in Biology, at

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office at

Links & Resources