Cal-Bridge PhD California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
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The Cal-Bridge program has the mission of creating opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to increase their numbers in PhD programs in physics & astronomy. While underrepresented minority (URM) students constitute more than 30% of the US population, they shockingly account for less than 4% of physics & astronomy PhDs awarded in the US and only 3% of faculty members. Thus, students from these underrepresented groups interested in pursuing a degree in these fields do not see themselves represented in the faculty who teach them. 

The Cal-Bridge program addresses this shortage of URM students receiving PhDs via a California State University (CSU)-University of California partnership. Latinos comprise ~40% of the enrollment in the CSU system and make up 60% of Cal-Bridge scholars.

Program Description

Founded in 2014, the Cal-Bridge program is a partnership between 9 University of California and 16 California State University campuses, with over 160 physics & astronomy faculty from the two systems participating. Scholars are recruited from the 16 CSUs with the help of local faculty and/or staff liaisons at each campus. Community college students can transfer to a participating CSU to join the program. 

Once selected, Cal-Bridge Scholars benefit from four main pillars of support:

  1. Financial support. Scholars receive up to $10,000/year in financial aid based on demonstrated need. In exchange for receiving this aid, scholars agree to cut back their work hours to less than 10 hours/week. Excessive work hours is a well-known barrier to CSU students maintaining the GPA needed to get into a PhD program.
  2. Intensive, joint mentoring by CSU and UC faculty. Scholars meet with their two mentors at least twice a month during the last two years of college.
  3. Professional development workshops designed to help scholars prepare to apply to graduate school.
  4. Access to a wide variety of summer research opportunities, including at the participating UC campuses.


In the first three years, 95% of Cal-Bridge Scholars who graduated with a BS were accepted into top Ph.D. programs nationally in physics or astronomy.

Five of the 20 scholars have won NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and three more received an Honorable Mention.

Of the 19 scholars who were accepted to Ph.D. programs so far, 58% are Latino, including 4 (21%) Latina women. Cal-Bridge is especially proud of this last number since Latina women are underrepresented in physics and astronomy programs.

Overall, 83% of scholars were admitted to Ph.D. programs with most of the rest pursuing a Master’s on the way to a Ph.D. 

75% of Cal-Bridge Scholars are first-generation college students.