Biomedical Sciences

Our lauded biomedical sciences program packs 6.5 years of science into just four years of intensive college-preparatory study. Designed for students who want to pursue a career in the biomedical sciences, it opens the doors for a way of learning that is project based and empowering regardless of the student’s post-high school career path. This intensive program is a combination of SJND courses partnered with Project Lead the Way’s transformative learning experiences. 

Throughout their coursework, students get the opportunity to examine real world problems in a truly hands-on approach to learning. During their fourth year in the biomedical sciences program high school students are required to complete an internship or job shadowing in a company within the biomed, engineering, medical, or health sciences sectors. 

Explore what our Biomedical Graduates are Doing Now

Don Lippi

Four state championships with SJND and student-athlete success away from the basketball court mark Coach Lippi’s distinctive imprint on Bay Area high school career

Don Lippi, long-time and beloved boys basketball coach at Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, has announced his retirement. Coach Lippi’s contributions to SJND’s rich athletic history in his 23 years at the school are numerous and profound and they include four state championships.

A 2022 inductee to the California Coaches Hall of Fame with more than 900 wins by his teams at Bay Area high schools, Coach Lippi began his head coaching career at SJND in 1978. He then went on to work as an assistant coach at Stanford University before returning to high school coaching, first at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in Vallejo before moving on to Skyline High School in Oakland and St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco.

Coach Lippi returned to SJND in 2004. That year, the Pilots won the California State Division IV championship. Under Coach Lippi, the Pilots also won state championships in 2011, 2014, and 2016. In all, Coach Lippi led seven teams to state championship games, six at SJND and one at Skyline.

He attributes his success on the court to his early experience coaching with Lyle Newcomer at Skyline College who mentored Coach Lippi. “He showed me how to create a fast break, how to create intensity, but most importantly how to form a team and create a family,” Coach Lippi said.

“Coach Lippi’s impact on the lives of thousands of students is immeasurable. From the classroom to the court, he has modeled the meaning of family, commitment, faith, and love."

Despite all of the victories, Coach Lippi, 75,  considers his greatest accomplishments to include the impact he had on his players off of the court.

“My proudest moments as coach are many, including when my former players become coaches, when my players start their families and I get to visit them and share great memories and get updated on their lives,” Coach Lippi said.

“Two of my former players are helping to build low-to-moderate income housing for people in San Francisco,” he said. “Another example is a documentary being produced by three former players about the discrepancy in education in our country, A zip code should not be a major factor in a child’s success. These stories are the real championships where I find my ultimate joy.”

“I thank Coach Lippi for his many years of dedicated service and accomplishments, and I wish him well as he transitions into retirement and life’s next adventure,” said SJND Principal Julianne Guevara in an email to the SJND community announcing Coach Lippi’s retirement. “Coach Lippi’s impact on the lives of thousands of students is immeasurable. From the classroom to the court, he has modeled the meaning of family, commitment, faith, and love. It has been a blessing to know him, learn from him, and be part of the Pilot family because of him. Please join me in extending our very best SJND wishes to ‘Coach.’ We will greatly miss his presence on the SJND campus.”

Though retiring from SJND, Coach Lippi isn’t about to slow down. He plans to travel with his wife, Joanne, finish the book he’s been writing, What it is Like to Have 7,000 Children, follow the career of his son, Dominic, who is special assistant to University of California at Santa Barbara men’s basketball coach Joe Pasternack, work out, referee CYO basketball, and spend more time with family, including his brother, Michael, who has Down syndrome. His daughter, Gabriela, will be married this fall and just concluded 10 years working at SJND.

“I try to live everyday to make everyday great for some student, player, coach, parent or stranger,” Coach Lippi said. “God gave me a big heart and I want to share that with others.”

Coach Lippi has shared that heart plenty already. Just last fall he and SJND players conducted a youth basketball camp, the proceeds of which went to support Smile Train, an organization that provides surgical procedures to children with cleft lip and cleft palate.

Coach Lippi was born in San Francisco and played basketball in high school before attending San Mateo Junior College and playing basketball there. He then served in the U.S. Army for three years and started a basketball team while serving in Vietnam. Upon completion of his Army service, he attended San Francisco State and tried out for the basketball team.

“After day three of the tryout the coach (Lyle Damon) pulled me over and said, ‘You are too small for forward and too slow for guard,’ so we are not going to keep you, but you seem to have good knowledge of the game. Did you ever think about going into coaching?’

“I was not happy with that comment at the time,” Coach Lippi said, “but it was the best thing anyone has ever said to me. I never played organized ball after that, but I coached for 50 years.”

Coach Lippi graduated from San Francisco State with a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in secondary education. Though he did not make the basketball team, he embarked on a coaching path that would lead to a level of accomplishment that propelled the Pilots to four state championships.

“I have been following Coach Lippi’s success since his days at St. Ignatius Prep,” said SJND Athletic Director John Bertken. “Everywhere he has gone he has established his program as one of the best in the Bay Area. It is truly fitting that he brought his career full circle and was able to retire at Saint Joseph Notre Dame where he has made such an impact on the Pilot community. Although only briefly did I get to work with and know Don and his wife, Joanne, I feel, like so many others, privileged to have done so.” 

SJND is forming a search committee and will soon conduct a thorough search for its next coach. The school is planning a celebration of Coach Lippi’s time and impact at SJND, and expects that the event will take place sometime this June.

John Bertken

Yes, wins and losses matter, but New AD John Bertken sees many opportunities for non-athletes to participate in SJND’s storied program.

Yes, wins and losses matter, but New AD John Bertken sees many opportunities for non-athletes to participate in SJND’s storied program.

What drew you to Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School?

Having grown up in the Bay Area and my dad living in Alameda for the last 30 years, it was difficult not to notice the great traditions of Saint Joseph Notre Dame. SJND has always been respected as an outstanding program in a tight knit community. After spending the last 10 years at international schools in India and Korea, my wife and I have missed that type of environment. So, by the grace of God, the opportunity presented itself to join the SJND community when we returned, and there was no hesitation in making my decision. 

What role do you see athletics playing in the high school experience, not just for athletes but for the greater SJND community?  

It was American author James Michener who said that sport is a microcosm of society, in as much that it not only benefits the individual but the society as a whole. This cannot be more true than in a school setting where identity is so important. When the team representing a community is doing well, the entire community feels that sense of pride.

Another aspect of school image is from the time the athletes get off of the bus. People are paying attention to not just that school’s competitive nature but their character as they represent not just themselves, but their whole school community. It is important for these ambassadors to represent SJND in the community in the best possible way.

I see the athletic department‘s role as providing opportunities to students that go beyond just being a player on a team. There are valuable roles in sports in addition to that of the player. Take a look at the current sports industry and its career offerings in marketing, sports management, and sports medicine; all these aspects of sport are growing and it’s our responsibility to provide opportunities to experience these areas, as well. One of my first objectives is to create student-led teams in management, media, and athletic training as well as more participation on our athletic teams.

“One of my first objectives is to create student-led teams in management, media, and athletic training as well as more participation on our athletic teams.”

You have had experience in overseeing athletics programs on an international basis. How do you think that experience will help you at SJND?

Coaching and administering a sports program internationally posed some very unique challenges. By listening and understanding what is important in different cultures, you learn that parents from all over the world operate from the same motivation - that is their love for their child. Similarly, working with the international athletes reminded me of the basic benefits that young people get from playing sports. The level of skill and athleticism was generally not as high as we have here in the U.S., which meant that instead of managing skilled and experienced players, coaches spent more time teaching the basics. The genuine appreciation when a young person learns that they are capable of achieving something new or on a higher level generates a true enthusiasm and feeling of self-pride, and this was greatly apparent in an international school setting.

What are your goals for athletics at SJND?

SJND has so many positive aspects to its community and to have a sports program that delivers excellence during competition as well as excellence in community building will help promote what an outstanding school SJND is. Specifically, some goals are to have full participation in every sport we offer, especially for our girls’ teams. The experience of playing sports is beneficial to all students, but I have been impressed with the level of appreciation girls have with the overall experience. It’s not uncommon to see that boys often dominate the spaces on the fields or courts, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  The confidence one gains through the experience of playing sport is just as valuable to any gender. I want to see all of our girls programs as populated as the boys.

What do you see as the opportunities to make a positive impact on athletics at SJND?

The opportunity for student leadership is the first impact I’m looking to make on athletics. When students are allowed to participate in the ownership of the sports program, the entire program takes on a new level of enthusiasm. After all, this is their program so they should have some say. It’s also a great way to recruit more students to participate in sports. The participation and enthusiasm generated by the students fuels the enthusiasm for the rest of the SJND community. There is already much to celebrate, however, we should always be trying to take it to the next level, and we should be producing student leaders to show the way.

Fitness Room

A revitalized training and wellness space will benefit SJND students, faculty, and staff

Plans for SJND’s "Raising the Bar," renovation and expansion of its weight room in Kelly Gymnasium have been approved by the Oakland Diocese and the school continues to raise funds for this much anticipated project.

“Raising the Bar" will update and expand the antiquated 525-square-foot weight room by 30 percent. Floor-to-ceiling windows will replace two concrete walls to allow for natural light. The adjoining outside area will be repurposed and utilized for core and agility fitness activities, and the gymnasium stage area will be home to cardio and floor exercises. The school plans to bring in new and modern equipment to inspire more physical activity and will allow sports teams to train together. The new cohesive space will not only accommodate more students, but faculty and staff will also have access to the improved facility and equipment.

“Raising the Bar" will update and expand the antiquated 525-square-foot weight room by 30 percent.

"We can’t wait to finally break ground and give these deserving students a prideful space that will enhance our school's curricular and co-curricular programs in support of wellbeing and mental health,” said Director of Advancement Lucy Lopez.

"Raising the Bar is raising our school," says Men's Varsity Basketball Coach Don Lippi, a member of the California Coaches Association Hall of Fame. "Lives are changed in that small room. Students learn how to improve their bodies, improve their diet, and improve their vision of themselves. Comradery is infectious  if done right in that room, as each student needs a spotter who protects them from injury. Seeing improvement is the gift you get by working hard. I think we can come up with enough funds to turn this garage into a great workout room for athletes, dancers, our teachers, and our alumni."    

To support “Raising the Bar," please contact Lucy Lopez at (510) 995-9456 or, or to make a gift online visit and choose “Raising the Bar” from the pulldown menu.

The demand for jobs in the biomedical sectors is projected to increase in the next decade. An educational focus in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) realm helps insure a strong foundation for our students’ futures regardless of the careers they end up pursuing. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Scientific Management Review Board, “NIH pre-college STEM activities need a rejuvenated, integrated focus on biomedical workforce preparedness, with special considerations for underrepresented minorities.” 

Where do graduates of the biomedical sciences program end up? Simply put, wherever they want! This intensive program opens the doors for the university or career of their choice. 

What even is biomedical science? We break that down and go into what you'll learn in a biomedical high school class!

Register to Learn More!

“I loved biomed; I loved the learning structure of it and the independence and being in the cohort was a blast.”          -Emily Stehr SJND ‘17 & Dartmouth College ‘21 valedictorian

"The biomedical program was presented as a very hands-on learning experience. I love that!" - Rachel Hungerford SJND '17 & UC San Diego '21 double major 

"This [biomed program] is a fun way to really explore whether or not you like science and whether or not a certain subject really interests you and you're able to explore that on your own."
- Rebecca Rochlin SJND '17 & UC Berkeley '21 molecular and cell biology major