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The Domino Effect

A photo of Professor Leticia Marquez-Magaña with Armando Lemus

Professor Leiticia Marquez-Magaña with Armando Lemus.

Professor Leticia Marquez-Magaña went from being SF State's first -- and still the only female -- faculty member to receive the National Science Foundation CAREER award, to becoming one of the nation's most celebrated Hispanic mentors. And while Marquez-Magaña, who says the 1996 CAREER grant was pivotal in her career, has enjoyed success as both a scientific scholar and teacher, she finds the greatest satisfaction in seeing her students thrive as a result of it.

Take Armando Lemus, for example. As a young immigrant from El Salvador, his dream was to become a doctor, but high school counselors suggested he consider military service instead. A Step to College program officer intervened, helping Lemus fill out an application to SF State. He spent the next several years studying cell and molecular biology, flourishing under Marquez-Magaña's tutelage. He spent summers doing research at Harvard and Stanford, and mentored an African-American high school student as part of Marquez-Magaña's CAREER grant. Before graduating as Hood Recipient for the College of Science and Engineering, he was notified that he'd been accepted into U.C. San Francisco's highly competitive M.D./Ph.D. program (which offers only 12 slots each year). Lemus, for his part, says he owes much to Marquez-Magaña for his current success.

"The first day I stepped into her laboratory I hardly knew anything about microbiology, but her encouragement and instruction played a huge role in getting me where I am today."

And as for the high school student he mentored, the one who's now pursuing a microbiology degree?

"Oh, Jamila Pugh?" he asks. "I had a lot of fun working with her; she's a very bright student. It was great to teach someone how cool science is." Marquez-Magaña couldn't agree more.

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