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Founding Dean Named for UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences

November 21, 2000
Media Contact: Kim McDonald (858) 534-7572

Photo Credit: Peter Freed

Eduardo Macagno

Eduardo Macagno

Professor Eduardo R. Macagno, Associate Vice-President of Arts and Sciences for Research and Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University, has been appointed as the Founding Dean of the University of California, San Diego's Division of Biology. Macagno, a professor of biological sciences who has served in his current administrative posts since 1993 and on the Columbia faculty since 1973, will begin his tenure at UCSD on February 1, 2001.

"I'm so excited about the possibilities for the future at UCSD that I'm leaving a place I've loved for 37 years," says Macagno, who began his Ph.D. in physics at Columbia in 1963 and never left. "But it's a golden opportunity to take advantage of the prospects for growth at UCSD and to think about how biology ought to be done in the coming decades."

Marsha Chandler, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UCSD, states that "this is an inspired and wonderful appointment. Professor Macagno's leadership will make a real difference in Biology, as well as contributing to the future success of the campus as a whole."

The Division of Biology, formerly a department at UCSD, was created in July, when UCSD's Division of Natural Sciences split into two divisions, Biology and Physical Sciences, each with its own dean. Mark H. Thiemens, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who was the interim dean of the Division of Natural Sciences, is the Founding Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences.

"UCSD is among the top research universities in biology in the United States," says Macagno "And in time, I think it could be the best place to do biological research in the country. There are tremendous opportunities for growing in conjunction with the other science units on campus-the Division of Physical Sciences, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the School of Medicine and the Jacobs School of Engineering-in ways that will create a unique scientific enterprise, without peer." According to Macagno, the Biology Division plans to increase its faculty from about 60 to more than 100 in the next ten years.

A developmental neurobiologist, Professor Macagno has remained active in research throughout his administrative stints and also serves currently as co-editor of the Journal of Neurobiology, a position he has held since 1986. Like many scientists at Columbia and UCSD, he has a true appreciation of the value of interdisciplinary research, having received his initial training in physics.

After immigrating with his family from Argentina in 1956, Macagno became a U.S. citizen in 1961 and received his bachelor's degree in physics in 1963 at the University of Iowa. At Iowa, he worked with James Van Allen's team on the early exploration of the Earth's radiation belts, then began graduate work in astrophysics at Columbia under a NASA fellowship. During the course of his doctoral work, he switched to a project involving the use of muonic X-rays to study nuclear structure and, after receiving his doctorate in physics in 1968, became interested in neurobiology. He carried out his postdoctoral studies in Columbia's Department of Biological Sciences, working on the development of computer-based systems for the three-dimensional reconstruction of neuronal assemblies and beginning a series of studies of the structure, function and development of a crustacean visual system. His laboratory now employs a range of molecular, cellular, anatomical and physiological techniques to investigate cell-cell interactions and how individual neurons find and innervate their correct targets in the developing nervous system of the medicinal leech.

As Dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Macagno oversaw a major improvement in graduate student financial aid, a near doubling of the annual fund from alumni gifts, and the raising of new endowment for graduate fellowships within Columbia University's about-to-be-completed $2.2 billion capital campaign. He also initiated the development and implementation of several very successful interdepartmental masters degree programs and created new programs that have significantly enhanced the involvement of graduate alumni with the graduate school.