Budding Scientist Gets a Helping Hand From eBay

By: eBay Inc. Staff

eBay funding helped a college student of little means travel to Japan for a prestigious conference

Verenice Bravo of San Jose, an integrative biology student at the University of California, Berkeley, recently got the opportunity of her young life: She traveled to Yokohama, Japan, in June to present her research on stem cells to an international conference of stem cell experts. And it wouldn’t have happened without eBay Inc. and the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN).

When Verenice applied to present her research at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) in Yokohama, Japan, the world's premier stem cell research event, she didn’t think she’d be accepted. So when she found out that she had been invited to present her research on “reprogramming” adult skin cells to act like stem cells, she was thrilled, but also taken aback. She had a stipend from Berkeley, but that wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of a trip to Japan.

“People who come from my background don’t normally get these opportunities,” she said. “I was telling everyone that I got accepted, but at the same time I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to afford to go.”

And that’s where eBay entered the picture. As director of Talent Acquisition, Ken Baker always has his eyes open for potential recruits, and Berkeley’s SAGE Scholar program for talented undergraduates from low-income backgrounds is “a natural talent pool that we as a company want to connect with,” he said.

Ken was in the audience at the SAGE graduation fundraiser, when Verenice spoke of the opportunity before her, and her search for funding to make it happen.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to help a brilliant young woman change the world,” Ken said. Realizing that this was also an opportunity for his group to partner with WIN, he reached out to Irena Halsey, Global Head of WIN. WIN was able to bridge the funding gap with $3,260 for Verenice’s trip.

“I am pleased and proud that WIN was able to make this trip a reality for Verenice,” Irena said. “At eBay, we aim to change the world. And if we can effect change in the life of a high-potential young woman like Verenice Bravo, we are living up to what we stand for as a company.”

The trip was amazing, Verenice said after her return. Listening to the top scientists in her field discuss their research “was very inspiring, very motivational, and it really confirmed my desire to get my Ph.D. or M.D., or both.” She also made an impression on others, and made some professional connections. “So many people were so amazed at how young I was, and they were giving me a lot of advice.”

Verenice is finishing her final credits this summer and will be spending the next year working at Symantec, living at home and applying to graduate schools.

“The one thing I know is that I love science, and I’m definitely going to go forward with my love for science,” she said.