Uri (MS ’69) and  
Paula (PhD ’71) Bernstein

Paula and Uri Bernstein support scholarships with a bequest to the place where their relationship blossomed.

When Paula Bernstein (PhD ’71) first came to Caltech from New York City in 1966, she planned to earn her PhD and return to the East Coast to be an academic chemist. Fifty-seven years later she’s still in Los Angeles, recently retired from a long career as an obstetrician-gynecologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and reinventing herself as a medical mystery writer.

Plans change—sometimes drastically—but one thing that has stayed constant from her early days at Caltech is the man by her side, Uri Bernstein (MS ’69).

“I’m grateful to Caltech for giving me the love of my life,” says Paula, who met Uri, a physics graduate student at the time, within days of arriving on campus. 


After earning a master’s degree, Uri went on to complete a PhD at UCLA. He spent his career doing applied aerospace research, building on foundational knowledge he gained at Caltech. 

"I learned the fundamentals of being presented with challenging problems and working with other people to solve them,” he says. “Those are skills and work traits that have really benefited me in my career.”

Paula went on to become a doctor after first entering the academic job market during the recession of the early 1970s. She says what she learned at Caltech translated well to her work as a physician. 

"In my practice, I applied the same thought processes that I would apply to solving a scientific research problem to figuring out what was going on with a complicated patient,” Paula says. 

Plus, her Caltech experiences provided material for her medical mystery novels, the Hannah Kline Mystery Series. “In one of my novels, I use the substance I wrote my PhD thesis on—an arsenic compound—to poison someone,” she says with a laugh. 


Now, in recognition of the place that played an outsized role in their lives, the Bernsteins have made a bequest to support scholarships as part of the Initiative for Caltech Students.

“Students are the bedrock of the institution,” Paula says. “I would not want to see talented, brilliant students unable to come to Caltech because their parents can’t afford it.”

Uri adds that, as children of immigrants, he and Paula also see scholarships as a way to help families like their own. 

“Technology and science are fields that a lot of new immigrant kids go into, and it’s a way for them to gain upward mobility in our society,” he says. “We want students from families of modest income to be able to get the benefits of a Caltech education.”

Caltech has meant so much to them that the Bernsteins chose to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at the Athenaeum in 2018. 

“Uri and I have really fond feelings toward Caltech because we had such a good time together there,” Paula says. “It left us with a great foundation for what we did academically and professionally for the rest of our lives.”