Spotlight: Lisa Magargal

Lisa Magargal is the Program Coordinator for the UCSF Biomedical Science (BMS) Graduate Program, which is one of the largest PhD programs at UCSF. 

Lisa Magargal

Magargal is typically the first person that prospective students meet when they come to UCSF.  She and her team support the students through their tenure at UCSF, as well as coordinate courses and seminars, assist with training grants, and provide trainee-related support for faculty mentors.

When and why did you come to work at UCSF?

I grew up in Dallas, Texas and went to the University of Texas at Austin. I had always wanted to move to one of the coasts, however, and in May 2000, I moved to the Bay Area. I originally planned to live and work in Berkeley, but the lure of San Francisco was strong and I was also excited by the possibility of starting a career at UCSF. I first started as program assistant in the Neuroscience Graduate Program, where I became immersed in the UCSF scientific community, and learned so much about graduate education. In 2002, I became the program coordinator of the Pharmaceutical Sciences & Pharmacogenomics Graduate Program, which was another amazing experience that exposed to me different research at UCSF and helped broaden my perspectives. In 2003, I became the program coordinator of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and I have been here ever since.

What do you do at UCSF and how is it connected to the UCSF mission?

BMS trains students studying for the PhD degree, concentrating on the application of molecular, cellular, genetic and biochemical techniques to the investigation of how cells, tissues, and organs function in health and disease. BMS is an umbrella program with about 170 students as of Fall 2011 and more than 240 member labs that cover research in a highly diverse range of fields – cancer biology, developmental & stem cell biology, genetics, immunology, neurobiology, tissue/organ biology and endocrinology, vascular and cardiac biology, and virology and microbial pathogenesis. My job duties are diverse and range from managing the program’s budget to overseeing admissions and recruitment of new students and managing our extensive curriculum and curricular activities.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?

I am extremely proud of all BMS has become and has accomplished in the last ten years. I am even prouder of our students, who in addition to being amazing and wonderful people, are among the very best and most sought after young scientists in the country. I feel very good going home at night knowing that my efforts hopefully make it easier for our students to concentrate on what they do best, which is making the biomedical discoveries that are going to improve and save lives. I also find it highly rewarding to interact with my colleagues on campus on various projects, knowing that our efforts will make a difference both administratively at UCSF and ultimately for the good of our students.

If you chose another career path outside UCSF what would it be? 

I might have been a writer. Anyone who gets my emails on a regular basis knows I love to write and have a tendency to go into way too much detail.

What's something that members of the UCSF community would be surprised to know about you?

I am fascinated by sharks and marine life and would love to learn to sail. Unfortunately, I don’t go out on the water that much because I get seasick!

What are your favorite things to do with your free time?

I love to travel. I frequently take trips with my teenage nephew and can’t wait until my two nieces and younger nephew are old enough to come along. In the last few years, we have taken a road trip to Seattle and Vancouver Island, BC, wandered through the Arizona and New Mexico deserts (where we stopped for an exciting visit to the Roswell UFO Museum), and memorably once flew to Chicago to visit the Art Institute and the Field Museum. I enjoy astronomy and history shows, and I always have my Kindle handy and read extensively, ranging from classics to young adult to the occasional trashy novel.